The protests in Cuba are not the right ‘time’. But a change has occurred

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“The order of combat is given, to the streets the revolutionaries …”. With this parole, Miguel Mario Diaz-Canel Bermúdez, president of Cuba, as well as “primer secretary” of the Communist Party, concluded “en vivo y en directo” in full “prime time” on Sunday 11 July, his very solemnly announced speech-appeal to the Nation.

In the streets, the echo of a protest still resounded which, started quietly in that of San Antonio de los Baños, about thirty kilometers west of the capital, it had spread rapidly, like the famous one iskrá, spark, of Leninian memory, at every ravine of the prairie. Cuba was on fire. Or rather: it was swept by a wave of protests which had never been seen along the sixty and more years of a revolution that continues to be called this despite being – for a very long time now – but the defense of an authoritarian status quo and of the myth of itself.

In the name of this revolution Diaz-Canel had spoken. And it really could not have been, in his address, any more martially dramatic and, at the same time, more flatly traditional. Martially dramatic because precisely this – a very martial appeal to combat, or civil war – was unequivocally his speech. And flatly traditional because his words did not deviate an inch from the basic idea that has always marked the relationship between the revolutionary government and any form of dissent.

Basically: those who protest – and whatever the reasons for the protest – is a enemy of the fatherland, a puppet manipulated by imperialism or, at best, an asocial, a criminal. And anyway, he’s a mercenary, a hired tool of the “bloqueo criminal”, of the embargo with which imperialism is, recently “growing”, trying to strangle Cuba. There is nothing to see or understand (if not, precisely, the evidence of a heterodirect counter-revolutionary plot) in what is happening. There is no voice to listen to, or any need to attend to. There is only to hit. And it is with this aim, to strike, that “los revolucionarios” – that is to say: the so-called “Black berets” of the special forces, plus the complex of the capillary social organizations of Castroism, plus the enormous mass of state employees – more or less spontaneously went down “a la calle” to regain the lost square.

Have they succeeded? Difficult to answer. In the avalanche of images that are circulating on the net – in that network which, as underlined in a previous post, was the real multiplying force of the protest – it is very often difficult to distinguish between the true and the false. There are pro-government demonstrations mistaken for protests and vice versa. There are solidarity marches that run through the streets of Miami, presented as demonstrations in Cuban locations. As always there is, on the net, everything and more. A “more” that, often, is a little, or a lot, less than the truth. But two things, it seems to me, can already be said.

The first is that, however widespread (tamed or not) the protests of these days have been and are, we are not – to use an expression dear to the Doc anti-Castroists, those who, for many decades, on the other side of the Strait of Florida, every midnight on December 31st they toast with an “el proximo año a la Havana” – in front of the “right time”. Or at least not yet. The two pillars of the regime – the single party and the armed forces – still remain solidly standing. And – if, as always, it is not easy to calculate the real consensus enjoyed by the regime – it certainly remains standing the entire apparatus of repression. All with an addition: it is precisely the spontaneity of the manifestations of these hours, without a recognizable leadership, the element that, paradoxically, best guarantees the continuity of the government that accuses them of being the fruit of a diabolical, well foraged and well organized conspiracy.

The second thing – diametrically opposed – is that, although it is not yet “the right time” (or the bad time), and however much the shock force of the protest may have faded, the riots of 11 July have definitively changed one of the most tested paradigms of Cuban politics. Repression has always had a nature throughout the sixty years of the revolution “Preventive”, the purpose of which was, precisely, to avoid the descent into the streets of the protest or the need for recourse to violence. Or, if you prefer, repression was a recourse to violence practiced in a fragmented and widespread form, widespread, anticipated, precautionary and precautionary.

The shame of Umap – military production support units, in fact forced labor camps – was born, in the 1960s, on the basis of these principles. It was on the basis of these principles that dissidents, homosexuals, practicing Catholics or, simply, young people refractory to the rhetoric of the regime ended up in the Umap. And it was on this basis that, later, a law was promulgated, still fully in force, known as the “ley de peligrosidad predelictiva” which allows convict for crimes which are supposed to be committed by the “offender” in the future. Starting from what, “is it supposed”? Starting, of course, from the system of mutual spying installed in every corner of social life. In the workplace, in the family, through an infiltration system revealed over the years – someone remembers the very sad process of “Black spring” in 2003? – very petty, but extraordinary effectiveness.

This is what the protests that shake Cuba tell us. People are in the streets. The times of “prevention” and fear are over and a new era has begun against the backdrop of a pandemic, a very deep economic crisis and of the obsolescent, inconsistent and unjust, but permanent presence of the embargo. All themes that, due to their importance, deserve a separate post.

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