Reflection on the Student Protest in Havana / Jeovany Jimenez Vega

Cuban police repressing Congolese Medical Students protesting the failure to pay their stipends.

Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 17 April 2019 — He would allow me to call him ‘brother’ even though he doesn’t know me. It would be enough to know that I am a Cuban doctor who graduated in 1994 in Havana, three facts about myself that made me feel moved by the events that took place some day ago for him and the rest of the Congolese students in the Student Residence of the Salvador Allende School of Medicine.

During my years at G and 25th streets, studying on a scholarship at the Calixto García Faculty in the early 90s, I met more than a few African students, among them some Congolese, and I remember them as good students, generally focused and calm, educated and affable , good companions and friends.

That is why the protests now being carried out by this generation convinced me, from their very first moments, that there must be very good reasons for the mood to get so heated. Then I learned that for months to students had been appealing to whatever authority they could to try to solve something clearly unfair, receiving only evasive responses; the reasons began to emerge.

Then we saw how the official Cuban press, with its usual cynicism, spoke in terms of “delay,” when in fact it is about the blatant non-payment of 27 months of the stipends of hundreds of students! Students who know that this money should have arrived monthly in their hands by virtue of a clearagreement. They also infer — which is even more outrageous — that this money was perhaps diverted, with a very high degree of certainty, into the pockets of some other corrupt official.

No one is surprised to hear such an offensive euphemism from the official Cuban press, because it is already part of the usual shamelessness of this monster controlled by the same despots of the Plaza of the Revolution who, by that time, had sent their repressive elite troops against defenseless students, totally screwed in the already extinct autonomous university.

Nothing makes a dictatorship more nervous than a public protest, whatever its size. But when those squads of special troops deployed threateningly in front of the school, it was not really against these young Congolese that the message was directed; these students, despite their many reasons, were protesting peacefully. That message of intimidation was targeted directly against the subconscious of the Cuban people, and was launched by a dictatorship expert in exercising all kinds of physical and psychological violence.

It was a diaphanously clear message: do not be sympathetic, public protests are strictly forbidden in Castro’s Cuba, on pain of receiving the most devastating beating. A clear warning was thus issued to all the Cuban people, now that the Castro regime is going through one of its deepest economic and political crises, while Caracas is faltering and Havana’s credibility is at rock bottom, and they are fearfull the protests will become widespread due to the unjustifiable poverty accumulated after six decades of opportunism and neglect.

The Cuban dictatorship is too cunning to not realize that it is sitting on a powder keg, it knows very well that my people hate it to the core, and like the fear this people town exhibits, gratuitously and whenever the opportunity presents, it unleashed all its repressive brutality.

In that tense moment the merits of the demands didn’t matter to Havana’s repressors. None of the reasons given would move them at all: sixty years of turning a deaf ear to the needs of millions of Cubansmust have trained them to ignore any such complaint. Once again it was a matter of repressing simply to repress, because that is a cardinal question of principles for any good dictatorship.

And, for the cherry on top, ultimately we heard that someone, on behalf of several students, by message on social networks. immediately magnified by the government press, apologized to the Cuban people.

Although the demands were very clear and were directed exclusively and unequivocally to the government of the Congo, the puppet press in Havana did not wait and expanded on baseless accusations, launching gratuitous accusations about an alleged “political manipulation” of the facts by the “enemies of the Revolution,” something that in no way corresponded to the truth.

I already imagine the pressures to which they would be subjected, and in this respect all fear is justified. Let’s not forget that the university in Cuba does not belong to the people, but to the “revolutionaries.”  We recall the recent expulsions of several university students for political reasons, and that the infamous “Rapid Response Brigades” were once again activated in each of these central universities.

And all this does not happen in 1965, but in 2019, which establishes an uninterrupted line of terror that covers the entire Castro regime, and there are the facts to prove it before history.

But what is said, is said, and I would answer: brother, this good people that welcomes you today does not need your apologies. Rather thank you to remember them with your gallantry in times past, when the university staircase was a sacred site; that there was once a University Student Federation (FEU) founded by that brave Julio Antonio Mella murdered for his ideas, and then guided by an José Antonio Echavarría to star in the most reckless gesture of that Revolution, so authentic and necessary and then later betrayed by the great demagogue, Fidel Castro.

There is nothing left of that FEU, only its mute complicity, hidden in its mousetrap while the riot police repressed its own students — because most of those students must have active membership in the FEU — it’s worth remembering that more than half a century ago that FEU, like the rest of the organizations of its kind in Cuba, was castrated and reduced to rubble, to its sad role today under direct control of and in the exclusive service of the Communist Party.

The repression now suffered by these young Africans is the same long suffered for six decades by the Cuban people, who have exhausted the hope of justice and have only received, like them, unfulfilled promises, vain verbiage thrown to the wind by a caste of neo-bourgeois whose presence at the head of my country is their greatest shame. This clan of decrepit old people, despoilers of the public treasury of the Cuban nation, who eternally announce bad times, today invite us to be sated with jutía skin and ostrich tripe from the opulence of their table.

But I know that deep down they no longer deceive they, because with the beating came the disenchantment, confessed or unconfessed, it hardly matters anymore. I only hope that when, once graduated and wherever he is, when my friend remembers Cuba he knows how to distinguish clearly between the dictatorship and my people that I know would allow me to call him brother, even if he does not know me. And may he never forget that this time life put us in the same ring on the side of the offended.