The Cuban government is proclaiming victory for having thwarted street demonstrations similar to those it faced on July 11th (11-J) after the civilist group Archipiélago called for a civic march on November 15th (15-N). Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez described it as a “failed operation”, encouraged by the United States. Yet Havana knows that, no matter what it did, it was going to lose something the day of the march. Even worse, during the weeks prior to 15-N it started losing its battle against Cuba’s civil society.

As pointed out this Tuesday from the island by the editor-in-chief of the independent digital newspaper 14ymedio, Reynaldo Escobar, the Government’s repression “has been effective only because the streets were kept empty by way of a wave of terror. To make it work, they mobilized thousands of troops throughout the country, made hundreds of vehicles available and spent heavily in logistics”.

Because the widely seen scenes of the July 11th (11-J) repression ratified them as a brutal dictatorship, this time the sticks of the Rapid Response Brigades and the “tonfas” of the police and black berets stayed in the background, in sensitive places such as Havana’s coastline Malecón. They stayed there as part of plan B, just in case the threats, the jail sentences given to 11-J protesters and the two-month militarization of the cities did not achieve the desired effect of keeping the discontented population in their homes.

If Archipelago planned to win the political battle with the lowest possible cost in victims of state and paramilitary physical violence, at least on Monday it succeeded.

For plan A the Government resorted instead to the fiction of the “enraged people.” That is, the hackneyed plot of taking on buses a mob trained by State Security ─including common prisoners freed to that end─ to besiege the homes of the leaders of the peaceful march. Archipiélago moderator Saily González observed during her Facebook live that, except for three neighbors from her neighborhood, she did not recognize anyone else among those who besieged her home.

That was seen and heard by everyone who followed the events of the day, because as part of the 11-J damage-control measures they felt they had to maintain Internet service, or cut it selectively, as was the case with 14ymedio.

Just as everyone could also see how members of the violent mob that surrounded his house arrived at Yunior García’s door on Sunday, November 14th, to warn him that they were not going to let him march alone on the eve of the main march. If this time they chose to conceal the sticks of the brutal dictatorship, the wolfish ear of the intolerant police State still stuck out.

Cuban officials may keep singing the praises of a pretended victory over civil society, but in fact they suffered an astounding defeat. With the 15-N convocation the movement for change on the island pressed the eyes of the world to stay focused on Cuba after 11-J.

Even the most reluctant ones to criticize the Cuban Government, such as European Foreign Minister Josep Borrell, had to concede. Entertainment celebrities such as all-around Panamanian artist Rubén Blades, Nueva Trova founder Pablo Milanés and even the famous Cuban pianist Chucho Valdés offered their solidarity, some of them for the first time.

Another transformative consequence: Archipiélago managed to galvanize the Cuban diaspora to support them and denunciate their repressors from more than a hundred cities, not only in the United States, but from Valencia and the Balearic Islands to Brazil, from Berlin. Frankfurt or Paris, to Mexico City.

A superb poster about 15-N shows a police tonfa from the end of which a white rose ─the symbol of the march─ sprouts. As we are told that Galileo Galilei said, after the Inquisition threatened to torture him so that he would desist from preaching that the Earth revolved around the Sun: “And yet it moves.” On November 15th Cuba also moved, towards democracy. And make no mistake, it will keep doing so.

By Rolando Cartaya