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Brevity refers to a temporal dimension which, although not quantified in precise terms (minutes, weeks, years), is identified by the relatively short duration of an action, a process, a phenomenon. Brief is the time that a lightning illuminates the night and also brief is the presence of the human species on the planet.
Over the course of the last years, which are already baptized “Raulism,” there has been a great increase in the repressive method that has come to be called “brief detentions.” It is a taking advantage of a legal loophole by which a citizen is deprived of his liberty without a formal accusation nor evidence of a crime having been committed.
You’re walking down the street, coming out of the house of a friend, sitting in a park, or planning to travel outside your home province, and some individuals dressed in plain clothes (rarely in uniforms) pounce on you and throw you headfirst into a car. If you’re lucky what looks to be an ID card is quickly flashed in front of your eyes, and you’re then taken to a station where you will spend the next 24 hours, more or less. Sometimes they’ll have you sit in the lobby of a police station, or they may put you in a cell with a drunk who broke the window of a bar, an exhibitionist picked up in front of a junior high school, or a drug dealer caught red-handed.
The only diversion is listening to the stories with which your cell mates explain their complete innocence, unless the situation calls for a higher dose of adrenalin and things end with a few well-placed blows to your throat or one of those interrogations where “they” know everything, conducted by an affable fat guy and some tall skinny Lombrosian, a natural-born thug.
When, the following morning, the new duty officer leans into the bars shouting your name and telling you to grab your things and get out of there, you will feel like one of the lucky ones. It’s possible they won’t have written anything down, probable that you weren’t entered into the list of detainees, and hence you couldn’t call your family nor have the right to a lawyer, you’re dismissed as if nothing at all happened there, as if it had all been a misunderstanding. Apologies? Don’t exaggerate.
Once on the street you yourself say that the detention was brief and not worth denouncing.
27 February 2012
Last Thursday at about six in the evening friends from around the world were sending us text messages reporting on the results of a Resolution about Syria in the United Nations General Assembly. Cuba appeared there on the list of the 13 governments voting against it, in comparison to an overwhelming 137 countries voting to approve it and 17 abstentions.
At 8:00 pm I wanted to see how the National News on TV reflected the event and to my surprise (?!) the announcer said that at that hour the debate at the UN was still continuing, without mentioning the results of the vote.
I wonder if this is how they are fulfilling the agreements of the First Conference of the Cuban Communist Party to eradicate secrecy in our media. If they deny us information that was already shared with the rest of the world, and if it doesn’t even have anything directly to do with some Cuban secret in the military or economic sphere, how are we going to expect them to talk to us about those uncomfortable issues that occur in our own country at sites where there are no foreign correspondents and so we could only be informed through the official media.
We Cubans had to wait another day to learn that the international community condemned the abuses of the Syrian government against its own people. How long will we have to wait to learn that in the village of San Juan y Martinez State Security is preventing the Ladies in White from attending church on Sunday? How long to learn about the final number of fatalities in the building collapses in Havana, or the missing taxi drivers, the bank embezzlements, those responsible for corruption, the crop failures, the evictions — in preparation for the Pope’s visit — along the road between Santiago de Cuba and the Sanctuary of El Cobre…?
In the summer of 1991 the poet and journalist Julio Martinez asked me to write the forward for a book he titled “Red Acrobatics poems against opportunism.” At that time he was still working for the newspaper Trabajadores — Workers — and fortunately I had already been fired from Juventud Rebelde — Rebel Youth. That notebook was printed on a mimeograph belonging to the Cuban Journalists Union (UPEC), on sheets of gazette paper. For the presentation, which should have been held at UPEC itself, Julio invited the poet Raul Rivero and everything would have come off had it not been for the “timely” intervention of Lazaro Barredo, who was then vice president of that institution and who, after reading the content of the poetry collection, deemed the tie to UPEC unacceptable, in that case.
Days later it occurred to Julio to release the book in a performance art event, and that’s how we came to slip into the Cuba Pavilion and hang a piñata filled with rolled up copies of Red Acrobatics. Amid a small group of pre-warned accomplices, along with inadvertent passersby who took the action as an official activity, we invited people to pull on the strings and take a copy.
Afterwards, Julio understood it was too naive to blame the opportunists for the problems we suffered, and along with other friends he was among the first to inaugurate independent journalism in Cuba. That ended in exile, where he was able to print another book without too many problems, but with less excitement. He then began to call himself Julio San Francisco, which is the name under which, I’m told, he just died in Spain.
10 February 2012
Some people have been scandalized by the confirmation of a single Party, reconfirmed during the 1st Conference of the Cuban Communist Party. I would like to remind them that in addition to a single Party we also have:
Only one Union of Journalists
Only one Union of Writers and Artists
Only one Association of Farmers
Only one Organization of Primary and Secondary Students (Pioneers)
Only one Federation of Media Studies Students
Only one Federation of University Students
Only one Union of Lawyers
Only one Union of Workers
Only one Federation of Women
Only one Association of Pigeon Fanciers
Only one Association of Philatelists
Only one Association of Veterans (ACRC)
Only one Association of Amateur Radio Enthusiasts
and a long list that would bore the most tolerant reader.
6 February 2011