The Ladies In White Are Not The Real Enemy

I have good friends who completely support Castro’s revolution. I respect their opinions, as they respect mine. And there’s no problem. We have shared interests. We like soccer and baseball, white rum, and we love our children. We were born in Havana, which we love.  And each of us, from where we stand,  want the best for our country.

What separates us are the political opinions. I am convinced that of course individual rights are shamelessly violated in Cuba.  The government acts chaotically when the island is put on public trial.  But it isn’t a CIA campaign, or that the large media corporations have been cruelly baited with regard to the shortsighted policies of the Castro brothers.

No. It’s simply the actions of the system which provokes worldwide condemnation and the newspaper headlines. Following the death of the opponent Orlando Zapata Tamayo, the media, democratic governments, and social networks have aimed their cannons at the aged olive green government.

This death, the result of a hunger strike of one person, who the friends of the revolutions want to see as delinquent, who was at that moment serving a prison term for his politics, whose demands were purely political, was something that could have been avoided.

The system is very sensitive to internal or external criticism. It always sees an imperialist conspiracy. These are blows to the chest, and for them, no country has the moral right to criticize Cuba when it comes to human rights

And so it defends itself by going on attack. Personal rights are violated in almost the entire world, and this is   denounced by civil society groups. The same thing happens on the island. But it is the Cuban government that represses those who think differently.

It has not gotten to the point of extrajudicial deaths. Nor is there any need for that. They control the three basic powers of society, and if you go to a hearing on an alleged political crime, you are condemned in advance.

Not recognizing the opposition is the root cause of all the problems. All of my friends who support Castro in one way or another, live in societies where it is not a crime to be an opponent. It is not believable that an entire population supports a regime. Nor is it true that all who oppose it are a band of mercenaries at the service of the United States.

In Cuba there are many things that do not work. The Castros do not want nor do they permit other people to form a different political party with their own opinions. And then unfortunate events occur, like that of March 17 with the Ladies in White.

You can have whatever opinion you want about this group of women. But there is a truth which is like a fist: if their husbands, sons or other family members were not in jail, the Ladies in White would not exist.

Just as, if thousands of Argentinian children had not disappeared, during the military dictatorship of the 70’s, there would have been no reason for the Grandmothers of the Plaza de Mayo.  The Castro government is anti-democratic, and repressive at the time when it should accept different political opinions.

But it takes advantage of the freedoms of the democratic societies. For the crime of espionage, five agents are jailed in the United States and they spend the people’s money, which is very scarce, on travel around the world for their family members to defend the cause.

In the ‘monstrous’ country that is the United States, friends of the revolution have paid 50 thousand dollars so that a “poisoned” media would publish propaganda in favor of freedom for the spies. The Castro politicians, on their world travel, unite with opponents of governments elected by their people, and with revolutionary groups.

And nothing happens. I haven’t read any articles about Frei Beto or Lucius Walker, fervent Castro admirers, delineating how they have been whipped by the intelligence services of their countries. Maybe they are more subtle than the Cubans. Or it might be, as I believe, that these things are entirely permitted in free countries.

In the events of March 17, in the poor neighborhood of Parraga, in Arroyo Naranjo, the poorest part of the city, which has the greatest number of prisoners per capita in the entire country, there was physical violence and manipulation.

I don’t offer any categorical opinion despite what I have read or heard about the Ladies in White. I saw photos and videos in which you can see them badly treated by the soldiers, who arrested and almost strangled one of the women in the group.

As an independent journalist, I have been present at a few public demonstrations, including these Ladies in White, and not only have verbal lynchings occurred, but punches, kicks, karate blows.

Furthermore, simply trying to impede a demonstration is counter to the freedom of self-expression. And it is a lie, that the government amplifies, that the “people spontaneously” insult and slander the demonstrators.

Those who have lived in Cuba know this is not true. Since 1980 when these “acts of repudiation” appeared, against people who decided to leave their country, where they were beaten and insulted, it has become an habitual practice and strategy of the political police.

The authorities summoned these people in advance to denigrate the marchers as “mercenaries.” In Havana it is known that more than a few times in the work centers, in order to give the appearance of the “revolutionary masses,” workers were given a day off, so they could go and shout insults at the Ladies in White or others in opposition who decided to demonstrate in the streets.

In Cuba, on their own, nobody would bother another person for peacefully demonstrating. Even less for this spent revolution, where the support for the Castro project diminishes every day.

The government, with these events, is creating a thick smoke screen. There are strong rumors, with much credibility, that people at the highest levels are involved in scandals, bribery, corruption, and this is a giant headache for the government of the brothers from Biran.

It is not the opponents, the independent journalists, the bloggers or the Ladies in White who are creating the final political crisis of this regime. It is and will be the generals who have now become businessmen, who have grabbed the greenbacks with such pleasure.

The dissidents demand change, but in a peaceful way. You can insult them or beat them, but it is the participants in the “dance of the millions,”* living well and sawing out the ground from beneath the government, that really threatens the people at the top.

The real enemy who could overthrow everything are rubbing shoulders with power.   These are the dangerous ones. The others are just dust and straw.

Ivan Garcia

*Translator’s note: “The dance of the millions” refers to the period in Cuban history when immense wealth was created in the sometimes speculative development of the sugar industry.

Translated by ricote