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Carolina Barrero: “Presidents who support tyrants portray themselves”

Carolina Barrero was walking down a street in Havana when two police officers took her by surprise and forced her into a patrol car. They interrogated her for hours, threatened her, took her cell phone and used information from her that she was there to extort money from her. It happened to her again and again and again… there were more than twenty throughout 2021. In the middle of it, she was sentenced to 6 months of house arrest.

She was accused of incitement to commit a crime and contempt for participating and calling demonstrations to demand freedom of expression. She also for the curious crime of “hidden printing”, having distributed two thousand copies of a drawing by José Martí along with some verses by the Cuban poet on the anniversary of her birth. It didn’t matter that there were no insults or anything offensive in there. “That is subversive enough for a totalitarian state like Cuba, something that the international left should recognize at some point and put an end to that romanticism with a state that has not had anything socialist for a long time, if it ever had one,” she explains after the meeting of leaders of civil society organizations with the Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, in one of the parallel events to the summit of heads of state of the Americas that takes place in this city.

Carolina, 35, an art historian and human rights activist, was a curator at the Havana Art Biennial, brought international exhibitions to Cuba, but never got a teaching position at the university because of her criticism of the regime. He joined the 27N group of artists and intellectuals who began to demand freedom of expression and artistic creation after the last repressive escalation in 2020 and which spread the following year to massive demonstrations calling for democracy like never before seen in the Castro era.

Carolina endured personal harassment and intimidation for months, but on January 31, when she met in front of a court with a group of activists and mothers of political prisoners to support young people and minors arrested during the massive protests of 11 July that they were being tried, was violently detained for the last time. At the police station, they ordered her to leave the country in 48 hours or they would prosecute twelve of the mothers who had been in the demonstration and even one of them would end up in prison for a previous cause. Faced with this extortion, Carolina decided to leave the island and settle in Spain.

“This has been the summit of civil society. The dictatorships were not invited in a decision in accordance with the principles of the democratic charter of the Americas that could avoid blackmail. Not giving in and standing firm with the principles of democracy above economic and political interests is the most consistent thing to do at a time of rising global authoritarianism”, she affirms. “No one excluded Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela,” she insists, “they have excluded themselves from the leaders’ summit because of their behavior.”

-What differences are appreciated in daily life for Cubans between the times of Fidel and Raúl Castro and this one of Díaz-Canel?

-Although it was a myth, Fidel and Raúl had built their own epic. Although from the beginning the revolution betrayed its promises and thousands of dissidents were shot without trial in the 1960s, they always exported a fiction that makes totalitarian propaganda even more sinister. But the Cuban revolution had an aura for having overthrown another dictatorship, that of Fulgencio Batista. But Díaz-Canel, appointed by Raúl without anyone voting for him, has only made one bad decision after another, both economically or in handling the pandemic and in increasing repression, beginning with decree 349 of 2018 that It curtailed freedom of expression and artistic creation and ended up having the opposite effect. He united the artistic community and that union in the claim ended up detonating in the civil protests of 2021. Díaz-Canel does not have any kind of legitimacy, there are mocking posters everywhere in Cuba, memes on social networks, there is a total disconnection between the decisions of the regime and what happens in the streets of Cuba.

-What do you think of the decision of some leaders of the Americas to absent themselves or raise their voices in protest because the United States has not invited Díaz-Canel, Maduro and Ortega?

I think they portray themselves. The support, the complacency with dictatorships that criminalize their citizens is unjustifiable. Latin American democracies may have many problems, but they cannot be equated with dictatorships. In Cuba there is no room for dissent. the one i knowe stops peacefully on the street with a sign that says “I think they portray themselves. The support, the complacency with dictatorships that criminalize their citizens is unjustifiable. Latin American democracies may have many problems, but they cannot be equated with dictatorships. In Cuba there is no room for dissent. The one who stands peacefully in the street with a sign that says “Freedom”, he ends up in jail. Not firmly condemning this, the only thing he does is give the tyrants impunity so that they continue committing their atrocities.

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

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