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Dariela Aquique: I remember my years as a high school student, especially that teacher who would interrupt the reading of works and who with surprising histrionics spoke of the real possibilities of knowing more about the truth of a country through its writers than through historical chronicles. From there came my passion for writing and literature. I had excellent teachers (sure, those were not the days of the Fast-track Teachers) and extemporization and the non-mastery of subjects was not tolerated. With humble pretenses, I want to contribute to revealing the truth about my country, where reality always overcomes fiction, but where a novel style shrouds its existence.

How Would the Cuban Government React to Mass Protests?

October 3, 2013 | Print Print |

Dariela Aquique

¿Cuál sería la reacción del gobierno cubano antes una manifestación como esta en Colombia? Foto: cubadebate.cu

¿Cuál sería la reacción del gobierno cubano ante una manifestación como ésta en Colombia? Foto: cubadebate.cu

HAVANA TIMES — All Cuban news reports about demonstrations, strikes, rallies and other types of civil protests in different countries always make a point of emphasizing the police or military repression that these movements invariably encounter.

It is true that these types of protests are commonly repressed – the institutions in power will always seek to contain the masses in one form or another.

The fact of the matter is that those in power don’t like protests, criticisms or any kind of declaration they haven’t called for or sponsored (and this holds for the entire world, even for countries which call themselves democratic).

In Cuba, save for occasional and isolated protests organized by the Ladies in White or this or that minor commotion kicked up by the opposition (demonstrations that, incidentally, are always repressed by supposed “civilians”), such events are next to inexistent.

We hear no news about some form of organized social initiative in protest or against something (outside of State-sanctioned circles, that is).

I’ve always asked myself: how would Cuban authorities react to a massive event of this nature?

I wonder if it would involve the use of riot squads, tear gas, pepper spray, rubber bullets and other instruments which our media invoke to strongly criticize the governments that repress their civilian populations during such demonstrations.

Will such methods be used against Cuban citizens one day? Who’d have thought it, as people say. I believe that, if they felt threatened in a major way, they would strike back at civilians in the same way other governments do.

Early this morning, a friend told me that, in a number of schools and mainly the University of Oriente, a group of individuals distributed a number of CDs and DVDs with subversive content.

All employees at these institutions were immediately alerted in order to prevent these materials from being viewed on the computers and to tackle any other subversive activity within the schools.

Again, I wonder:

What measures could they take against a student or worker who has received these materials?

Will they go to every student and employee to take the disks away from them?

Will those who watch these materials in a computer at school be expelled? If they were to protest, would they be met with repression? What kind?


What's your opinion?

  • Griffin

    There is the example of the Maleconazo, a large protest which began spontaneously in Havana on August 5th, 1994. The regime sent in goons armed with bars and clubs to break it up, then bringing up the regime’s most fearsome weapon, Fidel came down and delivered a prolonged harangue.

    The repression of the Ladies in White is not occasional. They protest every Sunday and are attacked by police and rapid response brigades of militant citizens every time. The regime manages to keep these events isolated from the people by controlling the media which never reports on them.

    The Cuban Committee for Human Rights and National Reconciliation reports that there were 708 short-term arrests of dissidents in September, the 3rd highest monthly number in several years. These arrests are routinely accompanied by by increases in beatings, mob “acts of repudiation” and other forms of harassments of dissidents. A new trick the police employ is to forcibly take the dissidents away in cars or trucks and leave them in remote locations.

    FOr your enjoyment, here’s a video by the Cuban band, Porno Para Ricardo performing “El Maleconazo”. The lead singer, Gorki Aguirre, was arrested on Sunday, September 29th. I have not heard if he has been released.

  • Moses Patterson

    This is the wrong question. Yesterday, in Mexico, schoolteachers, in protesting a list of proposed national education reforms, shut down the airport and several main thoroughfares. Recently, college students in Chile, Indigenous peoples in Bolivia, and Brazilian citizens seeking affordable medical services have all taken to the streets to air their grievances. It continues to amaze me how fearful and intimidated the Cuban people are in Cuba. As soon as Cuban emigrants arrive in Miami or Madrid (or anywhere else for that matter), they quickly shed their timidity and become first in line to cry out in defense of their rights. I marvel at how ill-equipped the PNR or National Police are with their faded blue uniforms, old shoes and rusty sidearms. Yet they manage to instill immeasurable fear in the people. The whole world remembers how a lone Chinese man, barely out of his teens stared down a huge Chinese tank. I have recently seen on TV how Palestinian boys armed with rocks take on a group of well-armed elite Israeli military. All the while in Cuba, Cubans cower behind closed curtains at the fear that a ‘guajiro’ cop with missing teeth may knock on their door. I worry that when the day comes that Cubans finally grow the ‘cojones’ to demand their God-given freedoms, they will explode and the result will be bloody and out of control. So the question is not what will the government do? The question is what will the Cuban people do?

  • Griffin

    How very interesting. Twice I attempted to post a link to the video of Porno Para Ricardo performing their song “el Maleconazo” … yet for some reason it was not published. One would think a Cuban musician singing about a Cuban issue which the topic of this thread, would be welcome, on this blog about Cuba

    I guess not. You will have to go google it up yourself. But only if you can trust yourself with such knowledge. Otherwise, if you fear it would be dangerous to watch it, please exercise self-censorship.

    • Moses Patterson

      Griffin, I believe that Cubans are so full of latent hate and frustration that a revolt would not manifest itself in a street protest with political signs and chanting. On the contrary, I believe there would be looting and the setting of fires and wanton lawlessness. Against this kind of revolt, tanks and crowd-suppression tactics are useless. People move in small packs breaking out store windows and setting abandoned buildings on fire. After the Rodney King verdict in Los Angeles, the US saw this kind of lawlessness and law enforcement was essentially powerless to stop it. Then again, it could just be that my mind has been corrupted having viewed the Porno Para Ricardo video you have tried to attach to this thread.

  • CUBAQUS

    It already has shown how it does: repression by police and “rapid action brigades” armed with iron bars and tanks ready on the outskirts of Havana as happened during the Maleconazo.

    For some pictures see:

    http://maleconazo.cubaverdad.net/

    • Dan

      Wait a minute… I know that corner. That’s the Hotel Deauville. And I remember what happened there. The “freedom fighters” of the “Maleconazo” smashed the hotel’s plate glass window. I remember. I had just left Cuba 2 weeks before. Plus I have a friend who lives on San Lazaro, 2 blocks away. A European donated $1500 to fix it. Now could it be that this single photograph that the Cuba haters can come up with, to show so graphically the monstrous brutality of the Castro repressive machine ( just look at the length of that piece of rebar !) shows nothing more in reality than the hotel workers trying to keep their workplace from being smashed up ? I wonder what Cubaqus, Moses and Griffin had to say about the anti-globalization protesters in Seattle who smashed up store windows – and then were beaten by the cops.

      • Moses Patterson

        Apples and oranges. Protesters in the US who destroy public and private property largely do so to gain media attention to their cause. There is usually scant or no connection between the actual owners of the destroyed property and the cause being protested. In the case of the Maleconazo, the Cuban protesters saw a direct connection between the regime and state property. Police brutality is wrong no matter where it takes place. When cops overstep their authority in the US, the victims have tort recourse. When the Castros order their hired thugs to beat the Ladies in White, there is nothing the Cuban public can do.

        • Dan

          Oh, a 1983 action ? Sounds good, unless you’re a lawyer and know the justice system from the inside, or a family member of a victim of police brutality. BTW, the Seattle anti-globalization protesters were targeting multi-nationals like Citi and McDonald’s , not Mom’s Dinner. Have you no end to your inventory of excuses to condemn Cuba for the same actions when done by your government?

      • CUBAQUS

        During the Maleconazo the kitchen of the Deauville hotel was indeed plundered. The anger of the hungry people exploded against the apartheid system that Castro’s tourist industry was. No tourists were harmed.
        You are the “Cuba hater” here as you support the repression of the Cuban people by the repressive regime. On the site linked and lots of others there are lots of images of the Meleconazo and the ensuing repression by Rapid Action Brigades and police.
        The picture you refer to here actually shows the police firing at protesters, a fact the regime has always denied.
        You are just another shameless Castro apologist,

        • Dan

          Cubaqus, I’ve got to meet w/ an asylum applicant from Colombia tomorrow. You know, Colombia SA, America’s loyal “democratic” ally ? He’s here because the paramilitaries chopped his friend into pieces. Literally, pieces. With a chain saw. Then they came after him when he didn’t want to be an informer. Want to come along and tell him how lucky his is not to come from a “totalitarian dictatorship” ?

  • Dan

    The bigger question is, why haven’t there been protests in Cuba. Repression ? Wasn’t the Shah’s SAVAK the epitome of brutality? Wasn’t Ceausescu’s Securitate omni present ? You mean to tell me that un acto de repudio is supposed to equal and surpass those repressive tools ?
    Here’s a quizz for you experts on the “Octogenarian Thugs” who rule Cuba. Pick the country that has NOT fired live rounds into crowds of its protesting citizens.
    A USA B Switzerland C Mexico D Revolutionary Cuba. I’ll assume, maybe wrongly, that you’ll know enough history to discount A. I lived in Switzerland. Some people still remember when the Swiss government shot over 100 leftists in Geneva in the 1930′s. C , Mexico City, 1968 – 300 dead. So the winner is — Cuba.
    Well, you do have a picture of the “famous” Maleconazo” (not to be confused w/ the much more trivial Caracazo or Bogatazo) . A rusty 22 pistol and a piece of rebar ? (Oddly, no picture of the tanks on standby). You see more arms at any Tea party rally.

    • Moses Patterson

      There has been ample repression and, in fact, neighborhood level protests do occur far more often than you might expect. It is just that there are no CNN cameras allowed to record these small events. Thanks to smartphones, more and more of these spontaneous uprisings are recorded and uploaded to YouTube. Still, I remain amazed at the timidity and sheep-like response Cuban people present in the face of the repression.

    • Griffin

      How about the Tugboat Massacre? The Cuban coastguard did not fire live rounds, but they did ram the small boat, flood it with fire hoses and made sure 39 Cuban men, women & children drowned.

      True, you will see more arms at a Tea Party rally, but the rallies are the epitome of law abiding citizenship. There has not been one crime committed at a Tea Party rally, unlike the #Occupy protests were assaults, murders, rapes, and destruction of private & public property were common. Also unlike the #Occupy scum who wallowed in their own filth, the Tea Party bring their own porta-potties and clean up their trash when they are done.