An Assault on Freedom of Expression in Cuba

October 26, 2013 | Print Print |

Luis Miguel del Bahia

Photo: Caridad

Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — Two weeks ago, I saw something I’d never seen before: around eight men in Havana’s Parque Central, yelling “freedom” and “down with the dictatorship” while holding up cardboard signs bearing their demands.

A large crowd of Cubans and foreigners (some holding cameras) silently followed the “show”, while a man in civilian clothing tried to snatch the signs from them and yelled “Long live Fidel! Long live the revolution!”

One of the protesters yelled something I didn’t like (though it is clear to me that he should have the right to yell whatever he pleases): “Long live the president of the United States!”

In addition to being a bit unintelligent (as it plays into the hands of Cuba’s State Security agents), Obama is no standard-bearer of democracy and civic freedoms (we’re all well aware of the Snowden and Assange cases, the tapped telephone lines, and other such fiascos).

He couldn’t exactly be called unpatriotic, either, for, then, we would have to do the same thing with one fellow in the “audience”, who was yelling “Long live Chavez!” I don’t know why Obama and Chavez have to be thrown into the mix. I get the impression that we’re always looking for help from a “big brother.”

A short time later, the police arrived and put an end to the commotion. Cuffed, with the authorities behind them, the protesters could do nothing save something intelligent: to not resist arrest, and deny the powerful a reason to make use of force.

It’s easier to see the mistakes of others than one’s own. Neither the news nor the official newspapers reported on this incident, which is the opposite of what took place with the repression of the 15M movement in Madrid, the Occupy Wall Street Movement and others. This shameful moment was, however, captured by the eyes and lenses that witnessed it that day.


What's your opinion?

  • Moses Patterson

    It is worth noting that to a Cuban blogger, it is reasonable to compare the organized and sponsored protests of the OWS movement in the US and the 15M in Madrid to the likely impromptu disturbance of a handful of discontents in Havana. The fairer comparison would be the Ladies in White protests. BTW, it is worth debating the actual threat to democracy posed by the NSA surveillance activities. First, they were done legally. Second, it remains to be proven if the information culled was used to deny basic rights or to protect them. Castro spies on Cubans to suppress dissent. Obama spies on foreigners to fight terrorism.

    • Aussieguy

      Moses, the US government has been responsible for installing and supporting some of the most ruthless dictatorships ever imposed on the planet. Some have since fallen in the face of massive public rebellion (for example, in Chile in Egypt), while others continue to thrive with US backing (such as in Saudi Arabia).

      For the last 50 years, Cuba has had to defend itself from constant aggression – and yes, terrorism – originating from and funded by the United States. Bombs in aircraft, picture theatres and ships; the introduction of diseases designed to wipe out humans and agriculture; the list goes on. As you will know from the US response to 9/11, human freedoms take a back seat to protecting entire populations from terrorist attacks; and no country has to defend itself for so long as so hard as has Cuba.

      Incidentally, it took far more than a ramshackle band of protesters with signs to bring down the dictatorships in Chile and Egypt. If the Cuban opposition can muster an army of just eight people, the government of that country must surely rate as one as one of the most highly respected in the world.

      • Moses Patterson

        Don’t confuse the respect of the people with crushing and brutal repression. I can not explain the cowardice of the Cuban people in the face of a weak and poorly-armed dictatorship but the lack of real and effective protests should not be assumed to mean that the people support this regime.

      • Informed Consent

        Highly respected countries don’t have their citizens risking their lives to flee.

        • Okasis

          I assume you haven’t heard of Snowden and the absurd attacks on any, and all, dissenters…

    • John Goodrich

      The United States is an oligarchy and not a democracy.
      Each of the two candidates for the presidency and most of the members of Congress are first vetted by their corporate sponsors and after they have them in their pocket the corporate sponsors let the leaders of the twin parties of capita;ism know tht only these candidates will receive their very necessary funding , without which no candidate has a chance. of winning.
      You live in a fantasy world as befits a pimp for imperilism and the State Department .
      The Bush-Obama so-called War onTerror is , in fact, a War of Terror.

      • Moses Patterson

        While the US is far from perfect, the fact remains that the opportunity for growth and change remains greatest in our democracy. A black President is testimony to this. If you choose to believe that Tea Party activists and Democracy Now democrats are really pretty much the same, then you are beyond convincing. Your support of a totalitarian regime is your world view. I support democracy and freedom. If that makes me a “pimp”, so be it.

    • Unwelcome_Truth

      “NSA surveillance activities [on foreigners] … were done legally.”

      NSA spying on foreigners outside the US is always illegal. No country makes it legal for the US regime’s National Security Agency to spy on its citizens, with the partial exception of the US itself.

      For example, when (as your apologetic imbecility would have it) the NSA “fought terrorism” by spying on the phone conversations of that notorious terrorist, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, that was a violation of German law, which in case you hadn’t noticed, Moses, is the operative law in Germany. And the point is: you haven’t noticed, have you? Your imperialist delusional syndrome is so extreme that in your mind US law trumps German law in Germany.

      It’s this deranged chauvinist arrogance, so deeply ingrained that it’s often invisible to the chauvinist himself, that typifies the ideology of Americanism, the US empire’s official religion of its wealth, its hyper-militarism and its supposed cultural superiority. Americanism is US-supremacism worked up as an obligatory religious cult, and the apotheosis of that repugnantly racist cult is the dogma that the US is sovereign over the entire territory of Planet Earth.

      Within the narrow spectrum of US conformist opinion the false dogma of US imperial omni-sovereignty is not often challenged, but increasingly the empire’s spurious pretension to rule the entire world is coming into conflict with the undeniable fact of resistance from other countries to the heavy-handed diktat of the US regime and to its notorious career of international crime.

      Cuba is an especially egregious example of this. The resistance of insubordinately socialist and independent Cuba to the attempted political impositions of its former colonial overlord triggers a severe cognitive dissonance within the minds of US-worshipping imperialist bigots. (How can the evil leaders of pipsqueak Cuba dare to persistently refuse clear orders given by the US, the planetary overlord and exemplar?) That mental discomfort, caused by reality conflicting with their deeply felt prejudices, produces the creepily bitter and obsessive hatred felt by Americanist true believers for Cuba’s government and social system.

      • Moses Patterson

        Your obviously anti-American perspective has clouded your judgement. US policy regarding Cuba is purely political. There is nothing to be gained by improving relations with the current dictatorship and everything to be gained by pacifying the still-powerful anti-Castro lobby. Vietnam was just as defiant, if not more so, and we are happy to do business with them. Russia’s Putin is former KGB and yet we negotiate with him over Syria. Anti-Castro policy is simply good politics.

        • Informed Consent

          “Anti American” perspective indeed! His puerile, personal attacks are ample evidence of that. The truth is all nations spy on each other. As a recent french politician was quoted as saying (I’m paraphrasing here) “everyone is spying on everyone else. We may be a bit jealous that the Americans capabilities, but it’s no surprise.” It does however make for good political fodder back home.
          To think the Russians, Chinese, even our own allies don’t spy, or try to spy on us is naive at best.

        • John Goodrich

          You’re being disingenuous here.
          The only reason forthe U.S. embargo is the 100 year U.S. foreign policy of preventing or destroying any democratic threat to totalitarian (the only kind there is)capitalism.
          Why this love for such a killer totalitarian economic form ?
          There is no more deadly and immiserating form of totalitarianism than capitalism under which around 8 million people in capitalist countries die of starvation and have for decades for the lack of the US$2.00 per day it takes to survive..
          In the world today, there is enough of everything necessary for a decent life for every man, woman and child on the planet and it is only because they live under capitalism that those goods and services are not distributed in a humane way rather than for profit.

          • Moses Patterson

            Ojala if the answer to pain and suffering in the world was socialism. Unfortunately, as history has shown, socialism produces far MORE pain and suffering than the lesser of evils, the dreaded capitalism. You’re idealism is admirable and wholly ignorant of reality.

  • emagicmtman

    If any defenders of the Cuban Revolution attempted to hold a demonstraton in Miami, of course, they’d be similarly crushed. During the 1970′s and 1980′s some Cuban expatriates in Miami who merely suggested a rappreprochement with the Cuban Government paid for expressing their views with their lives. Of course the “rapid response brigades” are not the best ways of dealing with those who would bring “freedom,” Yankee style, to Cuba; in fact such methods are probably counter-productive and politically primitive. Instead, perhaps the Cuban Government should take a lesson from the Imperialist, and just ignore these “dissidents” (unless, of course, they become too much of a threat, like the “Occupy Wall Street” folks a few years back, and were subsequently crushed). On the other hand, U.S. Imperialism has been an implacable enemy of the Revolution for more than a half century, and such responses by the Revolution mirrors a siege mentality. With major mass media up here controlled by the corporations, (probably even more than the Party controls the Cuban media!), the U.S. Government has little to fear. At least during the 1970′s and early 1980′s the U.S. Government was able to coopt many of their more dangerous foes. At this point they don’t even need to do that, since many working-class and lower-middle class folks are so bamboozeld by the propaganda techniques of the mass media that they consistently vote against their economic interests.

  • chorizo

    the funny thing (as of course, hypocritical) stand of these many pro Castroists that write on this blog, is the fact that most of them LIVE UNDER CAPITALIST GOVERNMENTS…And I assure you, no one of them is ready to part their bourgeois life to go and live in Cuba……