It seems quite possible that everything that has happened in Cuba since last Sunday 11 July has been encouraged by a greater or lesser number of people opposed to the system. Some of them even paid, with the intention of destabilising the country and provoking a situation of chaos and insecurity. It is also true that afterward, as usually happens in these events, opportunistic and regrettable acts of vandalism took place. But I think that neither one nor the other fact detracts one iota of reason from the scream we have heard. A cry that is also the result of the desperation of a society going through not only a long economic crisis and a temporary health crisis, but also a crisis of confidence and a loss of expectations.
The Cuban authorities should not respond to this desperate demand with the usual slogans, repeated over the years, and producing the answers they want to hear. Not even with explanations, however convincing and necessary they may be. What is needed are the solutions that many citizens expect or demand. Some demonstrate in the streets, others express their opinions on social networks and express their disenchantment or dissatisfaction. Many count the few devalued pesos they have in their impoverished pockets and many, many more, queue in resigned silence for several hours under the sun or in the rain during this pandemic. They queue in the markets to buy food, queue in the pharmacies to buy medicine, queue to get our daily bread and for everything imaginable and necessary.
I believe that no one with a minimum sense of belonging, with a sense of sovereignty, with civic responsibility can want (or even believe) that the solution to these problems comes from any kind of foreign intervention, much less of a military nature, as some have come to demand.
I believe that no one with a minimum sense of belonging, with a sense of sovereignty, with civic responsibility can want (or even believe) that the solution to these problems comes from any kind of foreign intervention, much less of a military nature, as some have come to demand. It is also true that it represents a threat and is still a possible scenario.
I also believe that any Cuban inside or outside the island knows that the US blockade or trade and financial embargo, whatever you want to call it, is real and has become internationalised and intensified in recent years. It is a burden that is too heavy for the Cuban economy (as it would be for any other economy). Those who live outside the island and today want to help their relatives in the midst of a critical situation, have been able to see that it exists and how much it exists when they find it practically impossible to send a remittance to their loved ones, to cite just one situation that affects many. This is an old policy which, by the way (sometimes forgotten by some) has been condemned by practically everyone for many years at successive United Nations assemblies.
And I don’t think anyone can deny that a media campaign has also been unleashed in which, in the crudest of ways, false information has been launched that initially and ultimately only serves to undermine the credibility of these media.
But I believe, along with all of the above, that Cubans need to recover hope and have a possible image of their future. If hope is lost, the meaning of any humanist social project is lost. And hope is not recovered by force. It is rescued and nourished with those solutions and the changes and social dialogues But because this has not happened there has been devastating effects, including the desire of so many Cubans to migrate. It has now provoked the cry of despair of people among whom there were surely paid people and opportunistic criminals. Although I refuse to believe that in my country, at this point, there could be so many people, so many people born and educated among us, who sell themselves or commit crimes. Indeed if there were, it would be the result of the society that has fostered them.
The spontaneous manner, without being tied to any leadership, without receiving anything in return or stealing anything along the way, with which a notable number of people have also demonstrated in the streets and on the networks, should be a warning. I think it is an alarming sign of the distances that have opened up between the leading political spheres and the street (and this has even been acknowledged by Cuban leaders). This is the only way to explain why what has happened has happened, especially in a country where almost everything is known when it wants to be known, as we all know.
To convince and calm these desperate people, the method cannot be the solutions of force and obscurity, such as imposing the digital blackout that has cut off communications for days. Blocking the internet has not, however, prevented those who want to say something, for or against, from making connections. Much less can the violent response, especially against non-violent people, be used as a convincing argument. And it is well known that violence can be more than just physical.
Many things seem to be at stake today. Perhaps after the storm calm will return. Perhaps the extremists and fundamentalists will not succeed in imposing their extremist and fundamentalist solutions, and a dangerous state of hatred that has been growing in recent years will not take root.
But, in any case, it is necessary for solutions to arrive, answers that should not only be of a material nature but also of a political nature, so that an inclusive and better Cuba can address the reasons for this cry of despair and loss of hope. Silently but forcefully, since before 11 July, many of our compatriots have been crying out. Their cries went unheard and from those tears, this mud has arisen.
As a Cuban who lives in Cuba and works and believes in Cuba, I assume that it is my right to think and express my opinion about the country I believe in, where I live and work. I know that in times like these and for trying to express an opinion, it usually happens that “You are always reactionary for someone and red for someone else”, as Claudio Sánchez Albornoz once said. I also take that risk, as a man who pretends to be free, who hopes to be freer and freer.
Leonardo Padura Fuentes is a Cuban writer, journalist, and screenwriter. He won the Cuban National Literature Award and the Princess of Asturias Award for Literature in Spain.
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