InTheseTimes, a well-known liberal journal, runs an article in its February issue attacking Cuba in a tone akin to the Trump government. It refers to the “repression of the Western Hemisphere’s most undemocratic government,” which they allege to be Cuba. Not Bolsonaro’s Brazil, Chile with its police who blind protesters, Colombia’s death squad supporting government, Honduras’ coup regime, Haiti’s hated rulers, nor the US with its murderous police, but Cuba.
The In These Times article (below) covers, in Voice of America style, the November San Isidro protest in Havana. There, Denis Solis was arrested for refusing to appear for a subpoena and for threatening a police officer. The police did not handcuff him, beat him, tase him, pepper spray him, nor hold a knee on his neck. Solis previously received several fines for disturbing the peace and two official warnings for harassing tourists. He accepted the sentence and did not appeal.
Solis, who declares his love for Donald Trump, admitted to receiving money from a person associated with attacks carried out in Cuba. A group of about twenty, the San Isidro Movement (MSI), soon organized a short “hunger strike” to protest his arrest.
Michael Kozak, undersecretary of the US State Department made statements of support for the San Isidro Movement. Timothy Zuñiga-Brown, Chargé d’affaires for the US Embassy in Cuba visited the group on three occasions and transported some in his car. They received calls of approval from Secretary of State Pompeo. Luis Almagro, secretary-general of the discredited OAS, also chimed in to support the action.
Meanwhile, the US State Department on November 24 quickly announced a new $1 million fund for anti-Cuban government projects that justify allegations of human rights violations in Cuba.
The InTheseTimes article makes no mention of these US government ties or funding to MSI.
Tracey Eaton of Cubamoneyproject.com wrote, “An extensive network of groups financed by the US government sends cash to Cuba to thousands of ‘democracy activists,’ journalists and dissidents every year.” The US has spent between $20-$45 million dollars every year since 1996 to fund Cuban groups with the goal of instituting “regime change” in Cuba.
US Agency for International Development (USAID) and National Endowment for Democracy (NED) have funded at least 54 Cuba “regime change” projects since 2017, with USAID spending $39 million and NED $11 million.
Much of this money goes to US government created media platforms to spread disinformation about Cuban affairs. Hundreds of internet publications have appeared in Florida since 2017 with “Cuba” as part of their on-line names.
Unlike its progressive coverage of movements in the US, InTheseTimes has maintained a rightwing view on Cuba. Yet, Cuba is heralded around the world for its work in other countries fighting COVID-19. The Henry Reeve International Medical Brigade, working in 53 countries providing this medical care, is proposed for the 2021 Nobel Peace Prize. The US government has taken a number of measures to worsen the blockade on Cuba, and also adding the baseless declaration that Cuba is a sponsor of international terrorism.
However, In These Times does not cover the cruelty of the US blockade, the exemplary work of Cuban doctors, nor mention the recent documentary The War on Cuba. We urge all defenders of the sovereignty of Cuba and other Latin American countries to write to protest to InTheseTimes at email@example.com or call 773-772-0100.
In These Times: CUBAN DISSIDENTS LOG ON
by ORLANDO LUIS PARDO LAZO
In a neighborhood of old Havana, whose name I do not care to remember, a blogger lived for some time. After years of exclusion, defamation, and violent, arbitrary arrests, he escaped from the Island of Utopia to the citadel of capitalism on March 5, 2013. It was me, one of the founders of Cuban digital dissidence. A text-based (more than an action-based) movement, we were freelance journalists who hoped to democratize the ancient revolution, that living fossil from the Cold War.
I wrote in the December 2009 In These Times special issue, “Inside Cuba, Voices from the Island”:
Though their work generates controversies and awards worldwide, Cuban bloggers are largely unknown here. With Internet access in Cuba restricted to the very few; the nation’s bloggers function as a kind of guerrilla underground. They work as independent agents whose existence heralds a civic re-activation that will modulate the Revolution’s Realpolitik or is that Raulpolitik?
In just the past two years, when least expected, that 2009 assessment has become obsolete: Cubans are now allowed to pay in hard currency for slow (and closely monitored) internet access. But that access was enough for younger generations to speak up, challenging the guardians of the old orthodoxy, aware that the world is now their witness in real time.
An action-based (more than a text-based) collective then began to organize in a neighborhood of Old Havana, the name of which I do want to recall: San Isidro. Despite the attacks of the official press (owned by the Communist Party) and the recent accusations that they are “mercenaries” of Donald Trump promoting a sort of “soft coup,” the group Movimiento San Isidro (MSI) has expanded its cultural influence beyond just the eight members listed on its website to promote freedom of expression in Cuba, among other things.
Of course, these activists will not topple Castro’s military model. No American citizen, regardless of their personal views on U.S.-Cuba policy, should imagine that MSI intellectuals will do (with a couple of mobile phone recharges from abroad) what Pentagon hawks couldn’t (with billions of dollars). But in 2020, in response to the Cuban government’s authoritarian approach to Covid-19, many Cubans joined MSI’s provocative campaigns. The campaigns were aimed at the heart of Cuba’s drama, which is not the affairs of its northern neighbor but the frustration with a fundamentally conservative single-party regime.
Susan Sontag once dismissed Communism as “Fascism with a human face.” In 2009, like a Don Quixote who dreamed the Plaza de la Revolucion was his windmill, I wrote:
THE STATE HAS NOT YET PASSED SPECIFIC LAWS
against a phenomenon as new as blogging, although the habit of accusing critical voices of being “capitalism ‘s useful idiots” or “mercenaries of enemy propaganda” can serve as a brake on free expression…There are also legal warnings issued for “peligrosidad predelictiva,” or” dangerous inclination toward criminality” that [have] been used to arrest and harass , but not yet convict.
Today, the Cuban regime ‘s laws are being manipulated to charge the members of MSI with crimes. On November 11, the rapper Denis Solis was summarily sentenced to eight months in a maximum-security prison for “contempt.” Solis first ran afoul of the state after publishing his 2018 protest song ” Sociedad Condenada” (“Condemned Society”) online. This time Solis called a policeman who had entered his house without a warrant a “chicken in uniform,” an encounter he captured on his phone and posted to social media, for which he was incarcerated.
The government’s treatment of Solis helped spur hundreds of peaceful protesters to gather outside the Ministry of Culture in Havana on Nov. 27, 2020, all day long until midnight. The campaign, calling itself 27N, came together to demand respect for independent cultural spaces, as well as a stop to all censorship and coercion against Cuban citizens. A delegation of demonstrators was reluctantly received by Vice Minister Fernando Rojas, and promises were made in exchange for clearing the crowd.
The next day, however, that verbal agreement was broken on national television by Rojas himself, who ridiculed MSI and threatened to prosecute its members. The leaders of the Cuban Revolution never directly respond to public pressure. Instead, they demonize dialogue as a sign of weakness. Consequently, the harassment has intensified- including the illegal confinement of MSI members in their homes, who are now detained if they attempt to step outside.
I am proud knowing that what bloggers tried 10 years ago has been taken up by MSI. But I also fear that the new generations might be forced to “commit exile,” as I was. Small “d” democrats have a moral duty to engage. Otherwise, efforts like MSI and 27N, whose desires defy despotism and whose poetry challenges power, will collapse under the repression of the Western Hemisphere’s most undemocratic government.