State Violence and the Sin of Complicity

Yaira Jiménez Roig / Karla Pérez González (Photo: Twitter)

Miriam Celaya, Havana Cuba, 31 March 2021 ─ The case of young Karla Pérez González, who had to complete her studies as a journalist in Costa Rica after being expelled from a Cuban university for political reasons is the most recent example of selective exile applied by the Cuban dictatorial regime against one of our compatriots. The Cuban authorities denied her re-entry into the country when she was already in the flight’s technical stopover phase at Panama’s Tocumen Airport to continue to Havana.

The rest of the episode is well known: the solidarity with Karla reflected profusely on social networks, the presence of several colleagues at the headquarters of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs demanding explanations and the ambiguous press statement of the spokeswoman for said ministry justifying the “no reinsertion” of the journalist in her own country.

Apart from the absurd legal considerations -which are not “legitimate”- established in the highly controversial Migration Law, by virtue of which those born in Cuba lose all rights at the end of the two years from the date they leave the country, the truth is that Karla’s case is far from being an exception.

The right of admission and the exit permit for Cubans is one of the regime’s oldest and most widely used instruments of political control and blackmail, despite the apparent “flexibility” introduced by the 2013 immigration reform, which merely consisted of an extension of the “permit” to stay abroad, from 11 months and 29 days to two years. What was formerly known as the “white card” (or exit permit), was not eliminated in practice but instead mutated and remained latent under the rhetorical figure of “regulation,” which maintains, at the government’s discretion, the permit or denial of departure from the country.

This is how, against all rights, the character of a prison fiefdom has been maintained by the will of the dictatorial elite. Today, it constitutes one of the most abusive measures applied against Cubans, both inside and outside the Island, which is why it is doubly surprising that there are still those who try to justify this other form of state violence, especially when the incident comes from an independent press site that can be accessed from inside Cuba.

To some extent, accrediting this and other habitual outrages of the Castro regime, by placing responsibility for the outrage on the victim, and arguing a supposed “lack of citizen training” to confront the State in these “critical episodes” is incomprehensible nonsense, to say the least.

According to Maykel González Vivero, author of this nonsense, Karla herself sealed her fate by “accepting the function of victim” and returning to Costa Rica with refugee status. The naive journalist believes that Karla – mired in legal limbo and completely defenseless at the Panamanian airport – should have said “I have no country other than Cuba.” Instead, he reproaches her for having declared, since her return to San José, “Costa Rica is my new homeland,” thus resolving what he believes would otherwise have been a “diplomatic crisis” that would have allowed her entry in Cuba.

Definitely, some people tend to reverie. Over the years, examples abound about Cubans adrift around many of the world’s airports without a diplomatic crisis arising from it. The article in question does not provide us with elements to suppose that, in Karla’s case, the question would be different.

Nevertheless, up to that point, only a sin of naivety or absentmindedness, typical of an impulse of goodwill could be attributed to the Tremenda Nota article that, involuntarily, twisted the way. If it were not for some inexplicable reason, the author took the opportunity to mix in the same text the hunger strike carried out by a group of young people from the San Isidro Movement (MSI) and the failed and most recent attempt at dialogue by 27N [27 November] with the cultural authorities. In all cases, he accuses the protagonists of having aided “the justification for violence.”

“This predisposition to feel defenseless, to justify our defeat in the face of an arbitrary government, is one of the attitudes that make any claim of the citizenry fail.”

Maykel makes mention of “citizenship” as if more than 60 years of totalitarian dictatorship had not torn apart the entire civic fabric of Cuba, as if there existed in Cuba rights of expression and free association, as if we had legal mechanisms to defend ourselves and as if the frequent arrests, beatings, and jail sentences against dissidents were merely timid excesses and not the violence of a colossal state against a society whose glimpses at citizenship have barely begun to sprout.

In the case of the San Isidro Movement, González Vivero understands that the group “was politically discredited” for starting a hunger strike that “they were not willing to sustain,” while the 27N “justified” the violence of the police and institutional officials by refusing to enter to the Ministry of Culture for dialogue.

Thus, the note conveniently omits events as significant as that the raid on the MSI headquarters occurred when some of its members were still on hunger strike, and that police violence against 27N had preceded the attempt at dialogue with a strong operation, closing of streets, mobilization of the repudiating militias and several arbitrary and brutal arrests against activists which prevented them from reaching the place.

Such a trap – which González Vivero does not ignore – could not be the propitious framework for dialogue, hence the reluctance of the activists to enter the Ministry’s headquarters. Attributing to them, in addition, some of the responsibility for the violence unleashed against them is not only false and harmful, but represents an accomplice wink to the dictatorial regime, whether or not that is the author’s intention.

Furthermore, seeking justifications for the violence that the State has been exercising against Cubans for decades is to tarnish the memory of all those who, over four generations, have suffered firing squads, jail, torture, family fracture, hunger, poverty, blackmail and numerous other forms of violence that the Castro regime has committed and continues to carry out.

To some extent, all we Cubans have been victims of the dictatorship, although some of us rebelled against it and others, like González Vivero, are not even aware of it. May their sins be limited to that.

Translated by Norma Whiting