14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Havana, 8 October 2022 — Almost twenty years ago, Cuban society looked the other way when numerous heavyweights of the national culture signed a letter justifying the execution of three young people who hijacked a boat to reach the United States. The letter also supported the imprisonment of 75 dissidents in March 2003. Before that shameful text, silence, complicity or indifference were the most widespread responses of those who lived on the Island.
Is what is happening now is that a new “letter of ignominy,” which this time is on the side of the repression against popular protests, is causing such a different reaction here on the island? The first contrast lies in the signatories themselves. If among those who signed phrases such as “Cuba has been forced to take energetic measures that it naturally did not want” true intellectual and artistic wonders stood out, the list of the current signatories seems more like the list of members of a Committee for the Defense of the Revolution or of a Rapid Response Brigade than of figures from the cultural parnassus of this nation.
The absences are also more noticeable and speak for themselves. Each renowned troubadour, plastic artist or writer whose signature is missing at the bottom of this new letter weighs much more than fifty official spokespeople, watchdogs of the word and ideologues of Castroism that abound so much among those who support it. Although there are also surprising presences, one can imagine the threads of pressure that some of those signatories must have suffered. However, no threat, possible fall from grace, or loss of privileges can justify not having had the greatness of a “I do not sign” declared clearly and directly.
The document published this week, and to which new supporters are added every day, also distances itself from that other one, which circulated a few weeks after the Black Spring, in that it has no intention of convincing or changing the minds of foreign intellectuals who have spoken out against the repression unleashed on July 11, 2021 and the most recent in El Vedado in Havana. Rather, this text seeks to involve the largest possible number of figures within the Island — in the blow and the threat – in a visible and categorical way. It wants hundreds or thousands of arms to appear in the action of pulling the rope that surrounds the neck of the Cuban people.
In a desperate act, the Communist Party is trying to drag with it in its fall and mud anyone who, out of indifference, opportunism or fear, wants to join it in its final blows. More than support, the regime is looking for accomplices to be in the family photo of its inevitable funeral, and to do so as also responsible for the arbitrary arrests, the beatings of protesters, and the police terror. It is not a letter, it is a trap to catch names among whom to share the responsibility for the civil conflict that is brewing in this country.
Saying that “I didn’t know what I was signing,” “they didn’t even show me the final text,” or “I was traveling and they put my name without consulting me,” will no longer serve to distance oneself from this infamous letter. Those who signed each of its words will have to carry, for the rest of their lives and careers, the heavy burden of having taken sides with the gag on society and with an authoritarian power that has deprived Cubans for decades of exhibiting their differences, expressing themselves without masks, and voicing their opinions out loud. A signature, irresponsible or conscious, has sealed the fate of these people.
They will not be able to say that “nobody knows the past that awaits them” and they did not foresee the personal and social cost of supporting the letter written by a dying totalitarianism. Almost twenty years after that unfortunate text that so many signatories have repented of, while others have remained cowardly silent, there is no longer any possible justification that appeals to ignorance or fear. Cuban society, beyond intellectuals and artists, will not be exempt from looking the other way again. The times of apathy are over.
— 14ymedio (@14ymedio) October 2, 2022
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