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Cubans in the streets push back the police of the dictatorship

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Cuba in the street: What the Castro dictatorship doesn’t want the world to see

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Cubans do not recognize any legitimacy towards a leadership that did not elect or represent it

Exactly one year ago, the whole world set its sights on Cuba, on its people, took an interest in their living conditions, while at the same time assuring the arrival – now yes – of a “change”, as a result of the social outbreak that occurred on July 11, 2021. Those predictions were logical. Although from 1959 to date Cuban society had not remained immobile, the political and massive demonstrations, until “the events of 11/J”, had been controlled, repressed, but above all, they had remained behind closed doors. With few exceptions, they had never occupied the prime time of international television networks, much less had they been broadcast simultaneously. This time it had been different.

Although some of the forecasts took time to materialize, the truth is that a few hours after the streets and squares of the country’s main cities and towns were filled with diverse generations shouting “Freedom!”, “We are not afraid !”, “Patria y Vida!”, the Cuban dictatorship – through the declarations of several of its main officials, including the finger-pointed president – endorsed that distance between the speech of the political leadership and reality that the ordinary Cuban lived. How could it, or perhaps in the only way that a people who have historically been denied being a real part of the construction of a country can do, quoting José Martí, “with everyone and for the good of all”, the truth is that the act of taking to the streets and demonstrating peacefully was perceived as a “soft blow”, as the most complete expression of the manipulation that the “enemy” (the United States) was achieving.

Thus, far from listening, the criminalization of the protest based on the use of disqualifications for its protagonists as “criminals”, “stateless” or “criminals”, was the only alternative that the government found to react to what happened. In addition to demonstrating their weakness, these statements evidenced the failure of Cuban politics, which had gone through a reality parallel to that of the society they supposedly represented.

However, anyone would assume that, both for the ruling class and for society, after 11-J nothing would be the same as before. As for the dictatorship, everyone bet that the protest would impose a new government agenda that would force them to rethink, whether they want to admit it or not, the non-existent democratic system, recognize new social actors who had already begun to dispute political space, and the that current generations identify as peers for sharing feelings, concerns, a history of precariousness and limitations, and especially, the same language and new spaces of expression: social networks and cyberspace. For the social sectors, 11-J demonstrated the real scope of any legitimate civic action, such as protest and taking to the streets. Likewise, he recognized and incorporated technology – the cell phone and the Internet – as the only accurate weapon against the historical media siege, in addition to enhancing the hopes of a true political and economic change.

Today…

Precisely, after a year none of that has happened, neither for the regime nor for society. The reality is that “post 11-J” Cuba contemplates a range of realities that have nothing to do with what was expected. If from the beginning the regime was erratic in not acknowledging the message of the people in the streets, the truth is that from that date to the present the mechanisms of social and political control have been reinforced, which has brought with it, according to the organizations Cuban human rights organizations and Human Rights Watch, a considerable increase in arbitrary arrests, exemplary trials -including minors-, in order to prevent people from demonstrating again and punish those who do so to generate fear. That is, no democratic opening.

Coupled with this, the economic situation of the Cuban people is getting worse and worse. From the misnamed “Ordering Task” and the dollarization of almost all the spaces where society accessed basic products, daily life has been reduced to desperate searches, and often without positive results, for basic products that, now and it seems that forever, they are in the hands of the incipient private sector where prices are conditioned by “supply and demand”. Likewise, those areas that were really impregnable bastions of the revolutionary process, such as education and health, today show visible deficiencies, such as the lack of inputs, discontent among the workers and, above all, that disastrous process for any economy that marked the 1990s, where the doctor preferred to drive a taxi rather than attend to a patient, or a teacher to be behind a counter in a cafeteria rather than teach, because although it is vulgar and pornographic to say so, for example, today the salary from a specialist doctor is considerably less than the cost of a pork leg. That is to say, the hopes of a change vanished.

Without a doubt, the protests that took place a year ago in Cuba constitute a turning point, not only for society but also for the political leadership. As was expressed at the time, The only possible solution cannot be to silence, in any way, the freedom of expression of a people that needs to be heard, that disapproves of the historical autocratic methods in terms of governance and, above all, that does not recognize any legitimacy towards a leadership that did not elect or represent it. Nor can the way out be emigration and/or exile, that practice that has become the escape route -almost the only one, I would dare to say-, for all those who in one way or another want a “normal” life, In the same way, the US embargo cannot be the eternal pretext for the analysis of Cuba. It should be noted that the problem is the ineffectiveness of an increasingly evident and unsustainable authoritarianism.

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José Martí
José Martí
Nacionalista cubano, poeta, filósofo, ensayista, periodista, traductor, profesor y editor.

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