Haroldo Dilla Alfonso*
HAVANA TIMES — The imprisonment and persecution of Cuban activist Antonio Rodiles has broken the chain of short-term express arrests that had typified the new Cuban government’s methods of repressing the opposition.
It all started a couple of years ago when the government released over a hundred political prisoners and encouraging the vast majority of them to leave the country. Since then, the circle around Raul Castro has renounced spectacular raids and subsequent judicial farces such as those that took place that sad spring (2003).
In its place began a new approach of selective harassment and arrests for several hours as a way to achieve — at the lowest cost — what they failed to accomplish in 2003: the annihilation of the opposition.
Cuban security agencies are well aware that no one is farther away from being a terrorist than Antonio Rodiles, and that his activities are fully transparent.
Although always a brave and honest communicator, Rodiles is a dangerous person to a system that makes information sequestration and opacity a vital condition for its operation.
If he had confined himself to the valuable online discussions of the Estado de SATS audiovisual project, it’s possible they may have tolerated him.
As long as the Cuban government keeps society excluded from the Internet, an activity like his is inevitably limited in scope.
But Rodiles took some steps that tripped off the alert system. One of these was to convert his own residence into a center of opposition activism, as happened with the Click Festival.
Another was promoting a citizens mobilization initiative that asked the Cuban government to adhere to international human rights covenants.
And finally, responding to the case of the imprisonment of a young opposition activist, he had the audacity — which a dictatorship never forgives of its citizens — to take to the streets in protest (and what was worse in their eyes was that he did so across from a police station).
For months, Rodiles was subjected to an infamous smear campaign by whatever poorly-paid government blogger that was available. Now Rodiles is being jailed and subjected to a legal process for being consistent and for advancing a political struggle that has inevitably moved to the street, as it should and as it has the full right to do.
He is charged with resisting arrest, and for that reason was manhandled, during which his clothes were torn and his glasses broken. The fellow dissidents with him allege that his assailants were police, though all were in civilian clothes.
If this was the case, the offense and abuse are even greater. But I must say that if at any time Rodiles did indeed resist arrest, then that doesn’t diminish his stature or detract from his cause.
Resistance to illegitimate violence is a right of the people, for several centuries, and I don’t think we should give it up. If Rodiles was guilty of resisting, I think he deserves all the respect and support for doing what many have done in the nation’s history.
These has been a continuing theme since the distant days when Jose Antonio Aponte organized slave conspiracies, and when independence leader Carlos Manual de Cespedes organized his own conspiracies in Demajagua, and when poet Ruben Martinez Villena broke with his verses to organize a general strike, and when Frank Pais enlisted in the underground resistance to fight against another dictatorship.
Ultimately, Rodiles is not innocent. He’s guilty of using his only resources — dignity, courage and talent — to confront the oppression of a dictatorship that for a long time has known no moral standards.
His is a kind of guilt that the oppressors don’t forgive, one that not all of us can reach. He is guilty of aiming high. Therefore the minions are becoming desperate and are cowardly whispering, hiding their most prosaic fears behind the rubble of alleged high principles.
(*) A Havana Times translation of the original published in Spanish by Cubaencuentro.com.