Cuba: The Perfect Storm Of July 11

On July 11, people took to the streets en masse in various parts of the world. From Argentina, where it was the most logical, even in Bangladesh. The joy for the triumph of the team led by Lionel Messi in the Copa América was the common denominator.

In Cuba, despite the passion for soccer unleashed in recent years and the fact that half of the island supports the Albiceleste team (the other, of course, Brazil), it was not to be expected that something like this would spontaneously happen. crowds on public roads are only intended for dates and times set by the government bodies.

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Yet it happened. But not in celebration of a sporting event, but letting out the irritation, a current of discomfort that has been forged by the worsening of living conditions. And it also exploded in the most unusual place: San Antonio de los Baños, a town to the southwest of Havana, today belonging to the province of Artemisa, where Silvio Rodríguez, an iconic singer of the Cuban revolution, was born and who is called the ‘ Villa del Humor ‘, for being the headquarters since 1979 of an International Biennial of Graphic Humor and housing a museum dedicated to humor.

This town is also the birthplace of Eduardo Abela and René de la Nuez, the creators, respectively, of El Bobo and El Loquito, characters of political humor who were incarnations of the people in opposition to Gerardo Machado and Fulgencio Batista, two presidents-tyrants of Cuba before 1959.

The protesters asked for food and medicine and chanted “homeland and life,” in response to the slogan “homeland or death” coined by Fidel Castro. However, Cuban television maintained routine Sunday programming and its informative spaces were not taken for granted.

But the rumor and then the images disseminated by social networks, from direct on Facebook by the participants and their immediate replication by the opposition media, spread the heat to other parts of the east, center and west of the country —have A sign was circulated identifying about 30 places. Until the fire reached the capital, first to municipalities on the periphery and then to main arteries such as Galiano Street and Paseo del Prado.

A small group of artists, of whom last November had raised themselves before the Ministry of Culture, stood in front of the ICRT (Cuban Institute of Radio and Television) building. But already Black Wasps and Red Berets – special police troops – were taking away arrested people and beginning to take control everywhere, assisted by plainclothes officers.

The clamor that was heard of “We are not afraid” was appeased by the violence (in some places more harsh than in others) of the forces of order, unusual for a Cuban people not used to living it but only watching it on television in foreign patios. The image of an AP photographer hit on the head while covering the event spread around the world. A poster circulated online with the names of more than a hundred detainees.

The internet was cut off by the sole and state-owned company that offers this service and turned off the shouts launched by the Cuban emigrant community, with greater fury from those in Miami, wanting to stoke the fire. They drew a scene of mass murder – excessive actually; the next day an official note affirmed the death of a single citizen — as if to magnify the tragedy to a sufficient level to justify, before the president of the United States and the international community, the need for an intervention in Cuba.

Meanwhile, at 4:00 p.m., state television woke up to reality, with the live presentation of Miguel Díaz Canel, the president-elect by the National Assembly in 2018. He, also appointed in 2021 as first secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, came from take a tour of San Antonio de los Baños, where he had obtained “the support of the true revolutionaries” to stop what he considered “provocations orchestrated by counterrevolutionary elements and financed from the United States with destabilizing purposes.”

According to Díaz Canel, the rebels were “confused” people and he condemned the manipulative use of social networks to instigate a population that is suffering from the deficiencies caused by the economic, financial and commercial asphyxia caused by the North American blockade, expanded with some 240 new measures during the Trump era, and by the worsening of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Budgets for what the United States calls “promoting democracy in Cuba” are used to finance disgruntled figures and alternative media, which denigrate any government initiative. The plans of this “media war” have been unmasked for some time in the state media … The economic harassment of the North against the island is such an irrefutable event that the international community fully recognizes it and sanctions it at the UN year after year. Diaz Canel’s speech on July 11 remains the moment when he remarked: “The order to fight is given, the revolutionaries to the streets,” as the most controversial.

The evening news showed partisan militants and government allies coming out with flags and cheering for the Revolution and broadcast acts and statements of support from official institutions, including Uneac (Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba). But to whom does the street belong: all Cubans or just all the president’s men?

Both for the most opposed sectors and for the moderate ones, what should have touched at that moment was an invitation to dialogue and a show of interest in the content of the inhabitants’ complaints. Instead of the urgent call for harmony, and to place oneself above differences in terms of coping with an epidemiological situation, the government position was an invitation to maintain the street controversy and increase the risk of contamination.

They waited, too, for a little mea culpa, in that in addition to the responsibilities of the external enemy, they came out their own. Well, according to the perception of experts, the Cuban State’s solution proposals to the current deep crisis are slow, insufficient, centralized and do not take advantage of the advantages of a greater deployment of the productive forces. Meanwhile, there is a human mass suffering the little success of the Ordering Task announced in January, which brought a rise in wages but did not reduce the endless lines to get food and led to exorbitant prices in the informal market.

Meanwhile, the stores in national currency remain empty and some have appeared in MLC (Freely Convertible Currency) only affordable for those who receive remittances from abroad.

We must add the energy blackouts – a sign of apocalypse for all Cubans who lived through the crisis of the 1990s -, more frequent in the capital’s periphery and in the interior provinces. Above, there are the signs that the light of freedom of expression is dying, due to the censorship established against any attempt of criticism and the heavy hand displayed against Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and the San Isidro Movement and other dissident voices. Not in vain, on Sunday cries of “freedom”, “down with the dictatorship” and offensive phrases against the president were also heard.

After the torment of the previous week by the passage of Elsa, in the end a weak meteorological phenomenon that only left a little rain, it seems clear that a series of circumstances had been adding enough fuel to unleash the perfect storm of July 11 . And it should be mentioned that that same morning, the report on the health situation showed record figures of 6,923 new cases of COVID-19 and 47 deaths.

The admirable creation of two possible Cuban vaccines, Soberana and Abdala, whose creators claim to be more than 90% effective, and the beginning of their use in an emergency health intervention, had shone as a source of hope. But in recent days, in contrast, the public sensation of loss of government control over the pandemic has grown, because the disproportionate increase in the number of patients is complicated by the shortage of medicines, medical personnel and hospital capacity.

The critical case of Matanzas and Cárdenas, cities near the tourist hub of Varadero, became very popular in the networks and the need to establish a “humanitarian corridor” was raised, which the Cuban government put a brake on. On July 9, from his Twitter account, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla had refuted this argument, which he presented as a “campaign of discrediting against Cuba” and announced that “the island is open to solidarity and has the mechanisms for the entry of donations “.

On the morning of July 12, it seemed calm to have returned to the island, although with a strong police presence on public roads. Díaz Canel returned to television, this time escorted by other members of his cabinet. He tried to qualify his previous words as a call to “defend the Revolution”, but denied that the demonstrations were spontaneous and peaceful. “They exhibited vulgar, indecent and delinquent behavior,” he said, claiming that they “vandalized shops, overturned police cars.” Then, representatives of the Health and energy sector offered hope that the situation of their respective branches would improve in the coming days.

Still without access to the internet, only the echo of an isolated event arrived and it was beginning to be known of the release of some detainees. While the international media repeated the videos of the previous day as a loop and they unleashed the perception that the protests continued, the national media reported the opposite and, this time, they were more right.

The impetus that prevailed in Miami in favor of interference in Cuba was replicated by representatives of the citizens themselves, among them several valuable artists such as Chucho Valdés, Los Van Van, Leo Brower, Adalberto Álvarez and X Alfonso, who raised a “no to repression “, but also a” no to intervention “. Even Yunior García Aguilera, one of the artists arrested on July 11, made a statement in that direction.

A July 12 statement from the Episcopal Conference warned that violence breeds violence and its call to “exercise mutual listening,” and that “concrete and tangible steps be taken that contribute, with the contribution of all Cubans without exclusion, to building the homeland ‘with everyone and for the good of all “, was obviously addressed to the island’s authorities.

On the afternoon of Tuesday the 13th, Foreign Minister Rodríguez Parrilla appeared before the accredited press in Cuba, arguing that he “had evidence of Twitter’s participation” in what would be an intelligence operation implemented from abroad. He also asserted that the full weight of legality would be applied to preserve peace in Cuba.

In a post calling itself leftist, The Young Cuba, appeared on Wednesday the 13th an article entitled “Peace and political management of the conflict”, which stated the following: “The responsibility of the State with citizen peace and the political management of conflicts are crucial. When they are hidden, misrepresented or undervalued disputes [desacuerdos] internal and the government’s negotiating capacity is limited, the socio-political situation sooner or later leads to chaos. This is what is happening today in Cuba, an expression of the announced governance crisis. In previous texts, I drew attention to the danger of political extremism, violence and the urgency of national dialogue. “

So far an attempt at a detailed account, and as dispassionate as possible, of the last hectic days on the island. The instant this is written, tranquility has returned. But it is a strange peace, because the causes that disturbed it still exist. The solution, if nobody interferes, would have to be found by the Cubans.

* The author signs with a pseudonym

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