Cubanet, Rafael Alcides, Havana, 13 May 2015 – Extremely worried, doctoral candidate in physics Antonio Rodiles and his wife the actress and political activist Ailer Gonzalez, in their home, related to me two events that I have prayed over, that those events that started with the blood of Moncada wouldn’t end up being a circular story. Ailer and Antonio spoke of the increased police repression after December 17, most particularly of the brutality with which the oppressors are being dispatched.
On Sunday the 26th of last month, with their trucks crammed with martial arts experts at the end of the usual parade of the Ladies in White, Carlitos, the son of Jesus Menendez, an elderly diabetic with heart problems, was grabbed, dragged and thrown in the back of the truck like a sack of potatoes. Yury, Blas Roca’s grandson, was put in plastic handcuffs so tightly that his hands turned black and they didn’t cut them off. Up Calabazar, the truck with the prisoners inside was left in the sun to bake them a little. They grabbed Antonio among the many present and pushed him with blows to the back before throwing him headfirst into the truck. An endless number of books could be written about the mistreatment and repression of the Ladies in White, apparently excluded from government’s media campaign to end violence against women.
There has been no lack of repression since 1959. Nor cruelty. In the Canary Islands, during a tribute to the poet Manuel Díaz Martínez, Raúl Rivero talked to me about a blind dissident attorney on the outskirts of Ciego Avila who for a time took lottery bets from the area’s cops. They detained him and when night came they left him in the boondocks. The cop won a bet on what time the blind guy would be seen groping his way into the village using a stalk of sugar cane or a bare branch.
Amazed at not having seen him for a long time, at the Cuban Writers and Artists Union (UNEAC) I met the Galician Regueral, now in his 60s, a Spanish journalist who has lived in Cuba since the 40s. “I was imprisoned for a year in Villa Marista,” he told me. “Why?” “I asked them that when they let me go. ‘Get out of here you Galician, go! Go!’ was the response. They never interrogated me.”
But it couldn’t be pinned on the political police. Kidnapped, homes invaded at midnight and turned upside down, and struggling, taking down the opponent by force, but it can’t be pinned on them. Or not exposed. For this they use the supposed “outraged people,” a mob disguised by its sheer numbers.
On the other hand, this is the least likely moment to make a show of brutality. They’re expecting investors in the Port of Mariel project (although those in the know say with so little bait they’re not going to catch big fish) There are also the American government authorities frequently visiting the Island, and behind them, or in front or them, are those who come to check out the part where they would like to stay, the government and entrepreneurs are expecting four million American tourists who speak of the myth. And in September Pope Francis will come. It is, I insist, the least likely moment to step up the heat.
After the first years of the Revolution, there were no more firecrackers going off, no place for sabotage, or attacks or an uprising to happen. Those methods of fighting, traditional on the Island in and those that in the 26th of July Movement were considered excellent, disappeared. The dissidence, in that regard, has been more peaceful than plaster saints. But violence often engenders violence.
I remember a boy from those times of Aguirre Park who didn’t want to get involved in anything. Seeing him appear, the group changed the subject. “Hush,” they said. It scared him. “I’m getting cold,” he complained. One night he came close to tears, but was determined. “Gentlemen, count me in on whatever,” he said. A cop whose girlfriend he’d offended had punched him. Then, from what I learned after 1959, he became the best at planting bombs.
A man without a job in dangerous, but a man with a policeman’s hand over him could be the beginning of civil war. I understand Army General Raul Castro. If he allows the demonstrations of the Ladies in White, he would have to allow others and all the rest, but if he doesn’t allow them, he will have to continue to use brutality and then he has crossed the line than can’t be crossed. He’s caught in a lose-lose situation. All that’s left is to open the game. Inaugurate democracy. His time has run out.