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The video showing the reasons given for the dismissal of Carlos Lage and Filipe Perez Roque has been exhibited on a restricted basis. It’s said that there are two versions, a longer and more detailed one that’s been shown only to the senior leaders, and another synthesized one shown to military officers and Party members. According to some, the video tape (or perhaps the disc) is handled only by trusted people and in order to enter the projection room one must leave phones, cameras, recorders and even purses outside. Proof that they’ve taken extreme measures is the fact that not a single scene has filtered out.
Biological memory, however, has allowed some viewers to retain the most interesting details and, thanks to some indiscretions, these have come to be known by those lacking permission to hear the truth, or at least one part of the truth. The oral narratives have been transcribed and posted online.
All this reminds me of an experience I participated in two years ago, when a friend invited me to a performance of cinema for the blind. In a small video room where there were twenty sightless people, the movie Gandhi, dubbed into Spanish, was projected. A woman with a clear voice and enviable diction described the faces and landscapes and narrated the action. At one moment I closed my eyes and now I didn’t want to open them until the end of the film, despite the fact that on more than one occasion I suspected that something else was happening on the screen.
The narrated adaptation of the famous video of Lage and Perez Roque is a victory against censorship and an indispensable chapter for students of information technology. I don’t doubt that in this era of postmodernism a new literary genre arises from this custom: apocryphal versions on altered filming of facts that never existed.
Cubans have read with optimism Barack Obama’s speech in Cairo where he focused on the new American philosophy of international politics.
The center of gravity of that philosophy seems to be the tendency not to be a prisoner of the past and to focus more on what unites us than on what divides us, with the objective of finding a common space in which to live and work together in peace.
The American president used this constructive thinking to illuminate current conflicts of critical importance, particularly with regards to ethnic or religious differences.
On the theme of democracy, Obama said, “No system of government can or should be imposed by one nation by any other.” He then elaborated on the basic ingredients of a democratic government adding, “And we will welcome all elected, peaceful governments — provided they govern with respect for all their people.” He was not explicit, however, about how his country would act towards those governments it does not welcome.
Clearly (and as he should) Obama outlines an international policy in accord with the interests of his country, understanding that among those interests global peace predominates. He stayed away from concerns stemming from the collection of nations grouped under the banner of Marxist-Leninist ideology. The socialist camp, the Warsaw Pact, no longer exists and the conflict between capitalism and the communist system, which seemed so often to be the most antagonistic conflict of all times and one which could only be solved by the disappearance of one of the contenders, has ceased to be a first order concern for the United States.
The case of Cuba remains as a remnant of the Cold War. No one here uses the old language of the “dictatorship of the proletariat,” and even in his speech for the 50th anniversary of the Cuban Revolution Raul Castro omitted any allusion to Marxist ideology or remembered to comment on its role in building socialism. At the same time, he has made no public renunciation of those postulates, which end with the desired purpose of sweeping capitalism from the face of the earth.
The common ground that might be of interest to both the governments of Cuba and the United States is reduced to the problems of migration, the fight against drug trafficking, and collaboration in the event of national disasters. The recent rudeness from the Cuban government about the possibility of joining the OAS shows how far we are from regional integration.
Maybe that’s why we can’t get the garment that was exhibited on the catwalks of Cairo. Because for the Cuban government, which continues to measure its relations with its northern neighbor by our differences, the cycle of suspicion and discord shows no sign of coming to an end. Nor is there any sign of even wanting to turn the page on a history whose principal source of glory is in the chapters on confrontation. We are prisoners of the past because only it legitimizes our rulers’ permanence in power.
More and more often, we Cubans choose to define ourselves by that substantive that for so long has carried a pejorative sense: citizen.
Already in 1973, in Manuel Pérez’s film El hombre de Maisinicú, we hear Sergio Corrieri, offended, respond to a law enforcement officer, “Not citizen, rather comrade,” because the term is taken as an insult by all those who refused to accept the distance implied. In a country where, “Everyone is willing to die for the same cause,” in a nation where, “We are all one in this hour of danger,” the authority calls the alleged criminal “citizen” while the one who helps to capture him is called “comrade.” But it’s a very different thing to distance oneself from power—when the police call the person they are summoning “citizen”—and another to do it from citizenship if a person calls himself by this title to reclaim his rights. Among brothers, among comrades, among the partners in an indivisible couple, it’s almost bad taste to talk of rights. Only by being conscious of the separation can one demand them without feeling guilty.
Amid the perennial provisional state in which we have always lived, there has been a call at “this historic moment in which our country is living” urging a momentary forgetting of rights to pay more attention to the fulfillment of duties. This incitement only works between comrades sworn to a cause, between leaders and led, but it is, at the very least, inappropriate between rulers and citizens. Especially if the rulers are obliged to account for their management and the citizens have the power to change their rulers if they do not comply.
Obviously an enormous difference exists between declaring oneself a citizen and exposing oneself as opposition. But for the fundamentalists—with their narrow conception—this distancing, this separation of “us” in which we are conscious of our citizen identity, in order to demand something from that power whom we place in the third person, is, after all, an act of treason.
I often ask myself about the Cuba that I imagine in the future. Almost without batting an eye I answer, “I dream of a nation difficult to govern.” A country with a pluralist parliament in which each paragraph of each law requires hours of discussion and lobbying, with many viewpoints and divided opinions. In such a nation there would be no unanimous votes, nor would it have charismatic leaders with their speeches of easy metaphors pulling in unconditional followers. There would be no applause or standing ovations, but there would probably be whistles of disapproval and the boos of the discontented.
The education of citizens to live in a nation like the one I imagine would probably be autodidactic, because I have the impression that there is not a sufficient formal bibliography for this. We must now learn the rules of the future.
The least one would expect from a democratic assembly is that it would not come to the point of a vote or accept consensus around a proposal until it had heard different ideas. Each demand, each goal, would have to be elaborated and discussed before becoming a proposal. Meanwhile, the more groups, subgroups and individuals involved the better.
To aspire to unity is an aberration, whether from power or from the opposition. There are people who claim that unity builds itself around them, unity around them is the first thing that happens, without stopping to think if that is what everyone really wants.
Cuba is sick and the solution to her problems will not appear until all Cubans, those inside and outside the country, have the opportunity to calmly discuss the many options, the many priorities that present themselves. I have my own personal recipe which is summarized in three words: “Decriminalize political dissent.” Who doesn’t? But I don’t dare to launch a program, nor to indicate priorities for a plebiscite, nor to invite a chorus of supporters to join my proposal.
I am absolutely certain that it is necessary to release all political prisoners, but I would dare to suggest that a demand of this nature would get lost in a competition with one to take bread off the ration or reduce the price of eggs. I would give years of my life for the establishment of free expression but I understand those who want freedom of travel are more numerous.
I am not becoming bureaucratic nor do I believe that conventionality must stop the spontaneous initiatives of citizens, but we must not waste opportunities. When we call on the government for something, whether it be the price of bus fares or the complete waiver of them, first let us consult, listen to everyone, then draw it up together, and then we will have the right to say: “We want this, that or the other.”
A call to a “common action,” supposedly launched by assorted Cuban websites and blogs, requested that we open our pages this Monday with a text which calls on the Cuban government and the world to free political prisoners, lift migratory restrictions, and abolish the prohibitions on Internet access.
I don’t join this initiative because none of the Cuban bloggers I know within the Island (and I know almost all of them) were aware of the call, so I suspect that someone, without denying their good intentions, has hijacked the right to declare a common opinion without even checking whether or not there was a consensus for it.
I don’t join this initiative because making an appeal of this magnitude should take into account that the list of demands to be made is long, and choosing three, in some way, is to diminish the importance of the missing ones. The same thing happens with the way they are ordered in the list.
I do not join this initiative because it sets a precedent that breaks one of my personal rules that can be reduced to a principle, if I want to be egotistical: I don’t like anyone dictating to me what I have to write.
Nevertheless, I will not be the water in the wine nor the fly in the ointment, and I tell my few and respectable readers that some bloggers here want people to know this, on Monday:
APPEAL TO THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT AND THE WORLD
We call upon all persons and institutions defending civil rights in the world to contribute and we call on the Cuban government to: