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Like every September 24, this Monday Catholics are celebrating the Day of Mercies, one of the invocations of the Virgin Mary. The Virgin of Mercies, or of Mercy, as she is also known, is the patron of the city of Barcelona and is identified with the virtues of forgiveness and benevolence. In the Yoruba pantheon she is syncretized with Obatalá, recognized as the purest of all the deities, owner of everything white, of the head, and of thoughts and dreams.
The Ladies in White, who have taken to the streets to demand the release of their family members incarcerated for political reasons, have taken this date as a very special day. Last year, near the temple dedicated to this virgin in the city of Havana, dozens of Ladies in White were attacked by a mob. The leader of the group, Laura Pollán, was brutally beaten and bitten on her hand. Weeks later she died in a hospital, victim of a sudden illness still not clarified.
Since last Thursday the headquarters of the Ladies in White has been under assault by the police. Neptune Street is blocked off in the block between Hospital and Aramburu streets. There were more than 50 arrests throughout the country, and of these, as of this Monday morning thirty remain unaccounted for, their whereabouts unknown.
These courageous women face not only persecution and violence, but are also victims of a systematic smear campaign of denigration and defamation. Some of them have already seen their family members released, and yet they still accompany those who haven’t yet achieved this objective. They are among the very few Cubans who have found an answer to the question so many of us ask: “What can I do?”
24 September 2012
In the midst of the candidate nomination assemblies for the district delegate elections, the opposition media has revived the discussion about what to do on the day we are supposed to vote. The options are the following:
- Go to the polls as one more citizen, read the biographies of the proposed candidates, and vote for whomever we see fit.
- Go to the polls and deposit a blank ballot in the ballot box.
- Go to the polls and mark the ballot with some message, which automatically annuls the ballot.
- Don’t go to the polls and exercise the right to abstain.
In option number 1 (which I daresay most people will choose) there is a sub-option that in our neighborhood some opponent will have managed to jump the barriers and get themselves on the list of candidates, in which case, and assuming we support our colleague, exercising our vote will have a different meaning.
In the case of options 2 and 3, they will have no influence on the election results because only valid ballots are counted and only if we are present at the hour of scrutiny can we know the number of invalid ballots, because the law establishes that the public report of the count is made on an unused ballot where there is no space to write the numbers of annulled or blank ballots. Nor are ballots with slogans recorded.
Those who choose option 4 should know whether their name has previously appeared in the registry of voters, because it is common practice at the sites where the lists are prepared not to include those who haven’t previously voted. If the name is not on the registry the absence won’t even influence the percentage of abstentions.
As unequivocal proof of the already traditional disunity of the opposition movement, in the October elections there will be no consensus about what the conduct should be of those who don’t believe in the process, much less will it be possible to figure out how many of those who cast their vote for some candidate did so out of conviction, out of pure formality, or from fear of being marked by the regime’s watchdogs. There are still people who believe that the ballots come numbered or that there is a camera in the voting booth or that they take your fingerprints from the paper.
It seems to me they’re already reading the headlines in the Granma newspaper.
Information is, without a doubt, one of the primary necessities in the world, especially at this time, when one can find out almost instantaneously what is happening anywhere in the world. When nearly six million people are affected by a cut in the flow of electricity in the middle of the night, the first thing they need is an explanation, so as not to panic.
The “information black out” we suffered in Cuba from Ciego de Avila to Pinar del Rio, left us doubly in the dark, evidence of the enormous fragility of our society. To the extent that people learned of the enormous proportions of the phenomenon and faced with the growing absence of information, rumors ran riot. “What’s happening?” many asked and what a Cuban is left wondering, the first thing that occurs to them is to think that the government is falling, or that someone died and the bombardment is about to begin.
This is what we have come to. The secrecy, lack of transparency, that is the weapon of totalitarianism, can become a boomerang. Who knows if one fine day a blackout will be the sign that there is going to be more light.
10 September 2012