Sunday July 11, 2021 will go down in Cuban history as a unique day.
With the island hit by one of the biggest pandemic peaks in its history, and in difficult economic and financial conditions, social networks surprised the world with a peaceful, growing and spontaneous popular march, with a majority presence of young people. and without appeal to opposition groups or visible leaders in the municipality of San Antonio de los Baños, province of Artemisa, east of Havana.
Within minutes, identical public expressions of popular discontent followed in more than 30 towns and villages across the country. It is not only the growing spiral of participation that has drawn attention, but also the explicitly political content of its demands: “freedom”, “homeland and life” and “down with dictatorship”.
The simultaneity of the marches, thanks to the internet and social networks, seems to have surprised the authorities.
When President Miguel Díaz-Canel arrived in San Antonio, the protests had already acquired a national character and were a relevant international success.
For the first time, in 62 years of post-revolutionary Cuba, we are witnessing the free appropriation of public space and the expression of a people accustomed to the rigid manipulative routines and controls of the state.
This aggravation had its counterpart in one of the most aggressive and radical speeches of a Cuban president.
The interim president, visibly decomposed and in totally military discursive terms – perhaps faithfully reproducing a superior mandate – gave the order to fight: “Revolutionaries are taking to the streets to courageously confront these counter-revolutionary demonstrations.”
Again, the old polarizing rhetoric of “revolutionaries” versus “mercenaries sold to empire”.
Shortly after his threatening public speech, images on social media showed regrettable acts of public violence, repression and mass arrests across the country.
For the official account, the unusual event responds to a “reaction provoked” by an interventionist strategy aimed at regime change, reinforced by the capacity of social networks to reproduce certain distorted stories, “fake news”, in order to stimulate disorientation. emotional, anxiety and existential angst, as well as the confusion of “revolutionaries” about the real causes of crisis situations.
The authors of this “miraculous” strategy would be the American agencies and laboratories of unconventional warfare.
Therefore, the popular protests were allegedly provoked by pro-annexationist external agents, masked in the false humanism of the theories of “humanitarian intervention”.
The rhetorical solution will be, once again, to suggest “the patience, unity and organized actions of the state in the face of the cruel imperialist blockade”.
A day later, listening to the speeches of the president and the ministers, the cause of the social explosions is reduced to the impact of the American blockade on the economy and the finances of the country.
It is nonetheless true that the Trump administration has considerably limited any attempt at trade with Cuba, increasing the cost of access to international technologies and resources for the Cuban government.
But reducing the current complexity of the trade embargo shows that the “new” generation of political leaders is inheriting the ideological myopia of historical leaders.
The cumulative effects of the structural distortions of Cuban socialism are hardly worth mentioning, when they may well be the determining causes.
The ideological framing of economic decisions for six decades, the obstinate and unrealistic conception of the State as the axis of articulation of the economic system, the continuous denial of the innovative potential of private initiative and foreign investment are some of the mechanisms that hinder productive development.
Ordering chaos is an impossible task; hence the resounding failure of Task Ordering, and its negative impact on popular well-being.
Concretely, the financial unification and the opening of stores in freely convertible currency (American dollars), which strongly affected access to basic necessities, accentuating social differences and the precariousness of everyday life.
From a political point of view, all attempts to organize and express the divergent views and interests of civil society have been minimized, defamed or suppressed by the state.
Legal ambiguity and defamatory use of official media against divergent sectors of the cultural, journalistic or emerging minorities world has been the norm, (re) activating accumulated tensions and a growing perception of exclusion and conflict.
Yet the myth of “state-CCP-people” identity – another structural distortion of the regime – seems to have been shattered last Sunday.
Although, in the Cuban case, the economic crisis precedes the impact of the pandemic, authorities should have foreseen the high costs of the “peak pandemic” under limited sanitary conditions.
The human drama of the constant threat of contagion and the lethality of the virus translates the growing uncertainty of the environment into anxiety, frustration, fear and various emotions.
Finally, massive demonstrations respond to multiple factors and cumulative contexts, internal and external, of lack of well-being and crisis of expectations.
The surprise factor for the government reflects its disconnection with the precarious living conditions of the average Cuban, and should suggest to it the limits of legitimacy and the state’s constant need to relax its mechanisms of participation and inclusion in terms of welfare and public freedoms. .
The violence we have witnessed reflects the hatred and phobias cultivated for decades, and the inability of the state to provide real spaces for social participation.
The radical dichotomy used by the president to label the people as “revolutionaries” or “counter-revolutionaries” highlights the inability of the current Cuban leadership to organize an inclusive and respectful national renewal dialogue for all Cubans.
It is frustrating to see this “new” generation of Cuban politicians repeating historical ideological slogans unrelated to the daily life of ordinary Cubans.
This perhaps explains the contempt for Sunday slogans; they were not delinquents or mercenaries, they were young Cubans shouting “freedom”, “homeland and life” and “down with dictatorship”.
Translation by Maria Isabel Santos Lima