December is a month when newsrooms around the world prepare or commission wrap-ups of the year coming to its end. The Washington Post newspaper already ran one written by its Cuban columnist Abraham Jiménez Enoa, an independent journalist who lives on the island.
The author begins by lamenting the recent exile in Serbia, after eight months in prison, of maverick rapper Denis Solís, “whose unjustified imprisonment in November 2020 was the flame that lit the fuse of the civic struggle in Cuba during 2021,” Jiménez Enoa says.
We should recall that the liberation of Solís was the main demand of a hunger strike started at that time at the headquarters of the civic San Isidro Movement. On the 26th of that month, the fasting people were violently evicted by members of State Security disguised as health-care workers, which led on November 27th to another unusual protest by more than 300 artists and intellectuals in front of the Ministry of Culture. That gave birth to the 27N fellowship, a new link in a saga of civic insubordination events that culminated in massive protests in Cuba on July 11 and 12 of this year.
Denis Solís ─the author says─ was shown as a war trophy, backpack on his shoulder at the Varadero airport, on fake profiles sponsored by the political police. Jiménez Enoa, who lives on the island and feels first-hand the chills of repression, states that, “more than the end of a year full of clashes between citizens and the oppressive regime, Solís’ exile means the final scene of another round in which Castroism, even after having been beaten, managed to stay on its feet”.
Well, the longevity of Castroism, based on its totalitarian, brutal system, fits what journalists call the “dog bites man” paradigm, an ordinary event not worth to make headlines. On the other hand, an arm-wrestling fight between the citizens and the regime that endangered the latter’s very existence fits the “man bites dog” paradigm, the real extraordinary Cuban event of 2021 that made headlines in the world’s mainstream media.
Even a civic project that did not materialize, the call for a national civic march for November 15, forced the regime to put in motion its whole repressive apparatus and propaganda machine, spending big money in logistics in order to militarize the cities and create an atmosphere of terror ominous enough to abort the march. That included besieging the homes of the Archipelago group coordinators who called it. Needless to say, that the regime paid a high political price for this display of intimidation.
The founder of Cuban independent magazine “El Estornudo” acknowledges with a gloomy tone that, a year after the hunger strike in San Isidro, dozens of activists, artists and journalists who joined that battle for the rights and freedoms of Cubans, have been forced into exile “to survive the repression unleashed by the government of Miguel Díaz-Canel, which seeks to quench the citizens revolution that emerged from the social networks” Then he points out that “the few politically-active citizens who haven’t left yet, are tightly controlled by the tentacles of totalitarianism or they are locked up in prisons.”
Of course, it is somewhat discouraging that many of those who managed to draw the regime to a count of three balls and two strikes must choose between going into exile or going to prison. Some, however, like Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, have decided from prison that, at least for now, they are not leaving. In 2010, thanks to the mediation of Spain and the Catholic Church, as well as the pressure of a 135-day hunger strike by Guillermo Fariñas, Havana decided to release the 75 prisoners it took during the Cuban Black Spring of 2003. Most of those who lived through that hell for seven to eight years agreed to leave. Nothing could be fairer. But there were nine men who rejected the offer even though they had many years of their sentences left to serve. Among them were Félix Navarro, the head nowadays of the Pedro Luis Boitel Party for Democracy, and José Daniel Ferrer, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba. Now Navarro and Ferrer are incarcerated again, but neither has regretted so far, their decision to stay in Cuba: they have been consistent with their personal decisions.
Sure, the loss of activists forced into exile is a disgrace, but it is not the Apocalypse. Always, since Ricardo Bofill led in 1987 the first offensive for human rights within Cuba, some have gone to jail, others into exile and others like Sebastián Arcos, Laura Pollán and Oswaldo Payá, have been “neutralized” ─assassinated─ by State Security, without the movement itself having been extinguished.
In addition, the crushing repressive machinery that has put behind bars almost 1,300 Cubans in recent months, 712 of whom are still in prison, cannot guess the thoughts or the next reaction of each of more than eleven million Cubans, most of them tired of oppression, deprivation and lies.
The dictatorship knows it, and it has even designed a secret form that informers of each block must fill out with the data of the “disaffected”. But as the last 13 months have shown, the feeling of dismal and insubordination extends today to all members of Cuban society who are excluded from the privileges of the military-communist party oligarchy. The power elite grasps the real scale of this antagonism, it knows that the hare can jump into the fire anywhere, and that is why it is not only pushing conflictive leaders out of the country, but also promoting a new mass exodus to the US via Nicaragua.
The Cuban columnist for the Washington Post ponders that this year’s watchword in Cuba has been “repression,” that with it Castroism continues to advance towards a future that is increasingly unfair for the people and increasingly prosperous for those who rule the island. For FHRC, the watchwords of the year have been “Freedom” and “Patria y Vida”. And we believe that if Castroism continues to offer the people an “increasingly unfair future”, 11J will not be the last popular insurrection it will face.
So we will rather stand by with Jiménez Enoa’s kicker paragraph in the Washington Post: “If 2021 is leaving us something, it is the libertarian seeds that Cubans managed to sow in the unfertile body of the regime. Making them germinate, despite the repression of the dictatorship, is the number one goal for 2022 of a people crying out for freedom.”
By Rolando Cartaya