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In the center of Fraternity Park there is a tree surrounded by a fence. It is a ceiba that was planted there ten years after it germinated. Presidents from all of the Americas each packed a small bit of the most fertile earth found in their respective countries and brought it to Cuba to provide the soil to host this tree. Since 1928, when it was planted here, it has been called, “The Tree of the American Brotherhood.”
Over the iron gate giving access to the grounds, all the names of the dignitaries who attended the inaugural ceremony are engraved, with the exception of Cuba’s Gerardo Machado, whose name succumbed to the tip of a chisel as a result of the people’s fury after the collapse of his brief dictatorship, the first in the history of our republic. Nobody celebrated the 80th anniversary of this event. It was not celebrated by the government because, like other symbols of this pre-revolutionary stage, it is abhorrent, like all the institutions of civil society are abhorrent, and cannot be celebrated.
The unworthy old ceiba grows, regardless of people’s repudiation and indifference. Inside the fence, topped with the official seals from all the republics of the continent, the municipal employees who clean the park store their work tools.
Recently I had the occasion to be a guest at a party where there was a group of young journalists, recent graduates. There I engaged in an animated discussion with Frida Kahlo (it was a costume party), who maintained that the principal problem of the Cuban press is not censorship, precisely, but self-censorship.
Frida assured me that in the media, where she’d been working for about two years, she didn’t know of any journalist whose work had been returned to them because it was considered un-publishable, that no one was censored, and that the problem was that people did not dare to go too far.
As for me, I was wearing on my head the remnants of a vine that was meant to disguise me as the ceiba tree in Fraternity Park, and was tempted to relate my personal story to convince her that self-censorship is nothing more than a conditioned reflex caused by the ongoing exercise of censorship (remember Pavlov’s dogs?). But, not wanting to err on the side of vanity, I confined myself to this question:
“Then the solution would be to have the journalists who are experiencing this inexplicable pathology undergo therapy?”
Frida preferred not to respond to my question and went over to say hello to Trotsky who had just arrived, accompanied by John Lennon.
Footless woman: What happened to Gugu?
Black hairy creature: He was sweet-talked by the songs of the serpent.
Red hairy creature (Gugu): They have me bound hand and foot.
“In Cuba, in the name of human rights, they demand impunity for those who seek to deliver, bound hand and foot, the country and the people to imperialism.” Fidel Castro, Reflection, published in Cuba Debate, on June 19, 2008 under the title United States, Europe and Human Rights.
In the recent statement of the ex-president of Cuba on the lifting of European Union sanctions, the text we quote here appears to refer indirectly to the 75 imprisoned in the spring of 2003. Here it is clarified, five years later, the reason for the harsh sanctions imposed, ranging from 15, to 20 and even 28 years’ imprisonment. Now we understand that these people were not convicted for what they did, but what the prosecutors imagined they intended to do.
Because those who, in a direct sense, not metaphorically, are tied hand and foot to the country and to the people of an imperial power deserve a severe punishment. It may be more general: one who ties the hands and feet of a people to subjugate them to a power that snatches their sovereignty must be brought to justice. The 75 prisoners of the Black Spring never achieved such a thing nor could it be proved legally that this was what they had tried to do. Only from a strictly political point of view could it be interpreted that this was their intention, but that, then, would classify them as political prisoners, which contradicts the official version.
In the direct sense of any language, a people is tied hand and foot with a rope not around the wrists and ankles but when, with force of arms or with the might of the law, they are prevented from changing the political system, electing their leaders, expressing their views freely, associating according to their political tendencies, receiving information, leaving and entering the national territory, or deploying economic initiatives.
If we are talking about the need for impunity, we should add that not even on behalf of social justice can a state claim to immobilize the people it governs.