To Punish and to Protect

Photo: Periódico Cubano

By Alina B. López Hernández

…Those who really live

cannot help being a citizen and a partisan.

Indifference and apathy are parasitism, perversion, not life.

 That’s why I hate the indifferent.

Antonio Gramsci

In the second month of 2019, we the Cubans who live on the island gave ourselves a new National Charter. In the plebiscite, a significant majority voted in favor of the Constitution. Whether this was by loyalty or inertia, by conviction or indifference, by idealism or tedium —and there was a bit of all of that—, is beside the point.

The truly important result was the adoption of a legal contract which is of mandatory observance by everyone, but which also protects the stated rights of everyone; even the rights of those who didn’t vote, or of those who voted against it.

No exceptions. Respect for the Law and legal protection also extend to the sector called the opposition. Our government has been trying to update the economy for several years. I’ve always said that Cuba equally needs an update in its politics. To that I may add that these changes should have to include the relations with and the treatment given to the opposition.

On December 20, 2010, journalist Fernando Ravsberg —at the time the BBC Mundo correspondent in Havana— published a cable revealed by WikiLeaks. The Head of the Interests Section back then, Jonathan Ferrar, described the members of the Cuban dissidence as: ‘self-oriented, with no social influence and excessively concerned with money’.[1] This criticism is proof of the financing channels from the US government to at least part of the Cuban opposition.

Is it legal for Cuba to try to protect itself from an opposition financed from abroad?

In order to answer that question, let’s use a thought experiment. Let’s imagine that the Cuban embassy in the US starts receiving American citizens disgruntled at the prevailing system in that country —for example, some of the sympathizers with socialism who have proliferated there lately—, handing them sums of money and supporting a campaign to promote actions against their government. What would be the response of the US administration?

Some would argue that our neighbors up north allow opposition as a fundamental part of political culture. That’s true. However, this is not the case when that opposition is financed by a foreign nation. The impeachment process being carried out against President Donald Trump is based on the alleged offense of using a foreign power —Ukraine— to tip in his favor a rivalry with the Democratic Party, with an eye on the 2020 elections. And attempts are still being made to confirm whether Russia indirectly meddled in the 2016 elections to support Trump.

When the anti-neoliberal outburst in Ecuador and the internal confrontations in Bolivia happened, they tried to find ties to Cuba as the instigator of actions in those nations. This means that any country will always protect itself from being a hostage of decisions emanating from another.

In the case of Cuba —with all the more reason— the traditional hostility of American administrations, boosted by the current President, grants absolute validity to a legislation which penalizes those who agree to receive financing from the US in order to oppose the government.

The question has been answered: yes, it is legal for Cuba to try to protect itself from an opposition financed from abroad. Therefore, there’s no way to explain the shameful approach used by the Cuban intelligence machinery, which would rather try to seek proof of common offenses and not to denounce —and present the corresponding evidence, of course— the true crime: taking money from a foreign nation in order to subvert the political order. The process being carried out against José Daniel Ferrer has lost itself in inexplicable intricacies to try to prosecute him as a common criminal. Why follow that course of action?

Nevertheless, be it in a process for common offenses or otherwise, all Cuban citizens should be protected by the Law. There must be a court order issued for arrest, access to an attorney and contact with the family should be allowed, and the possibility should even exist —unless the offender is a terrorist or a dangerous murderer— for a person to remain free during the judicial process.

The inadequate handling of this case is worrying. Not only because it breaches the legislation, but also because strategic considerations are being ignored. Can’t our government understand the need to project an image of legitimacy both domestically and internationally?

In a considerably hostile relationship with the US; in a regional environment that has changed lately, for Latin America is no longer a zone of peace and some governments of a new political perspective have undone important economic agreements and strategic alliances; in a financial crisis and an evident economic recession which definitely isn’t just a thing of the present juncture; it is crucial for Cuba to have a rapprochement with the European Union.

Certain controversies were starting to subside with the Old World bloc over the issue of Human Rights. The decision of defining ourselves in the Constitution as a State under the Rule of Socialist Law was well received. Geopolitically speaking, Europe is far from being a negligible ally today. It has not only condemned the blockade against Cuba, but has also shown clear signs of rapprochement, and it encourages its member nations to invest in the island at a time when it becomes imperative to find faithful commercial and financial partners willing to assume the risk of dealing with the fluctuations of our beleaguered economy.

In an act that fails to recognize these sound reasons, some images were made public which are counterproductive given the charge of mediocrity and derision they contain. It would have been so conclusive if they had managed to record the instances when Ferrer received American money or at least made reference to doing so! That table video? Please…

Because the economy is not the only thing that has regressed. What’s happening to our intelligence services? Regarded by many as being among the best in the world, they look like inexperienced greenhorns playing a dangerous game in the present context, where the social networks display photos and videos of their actions.

Posted at the doors of certain houses to obstruct the free movement of people who are not the subject of any legal process —which has been done not only to intimidate members of the opposition, but also to stop them from attending places where tensions can be generated, as it happened with SNET—, or coming out of homes where they have gone to ‘talk’; they are photographed, the plates of their motorcycles or cars are revealed, and sometimes even their names, surnames, aliases and positions in the intelligence apparatus. If the founders of the old G-2 came back to life, I think the embarrassment would drive them to suicide.

In a previous article, I made reference to the existence among the citizenry of a ‘critical mass of people who disagree with the bureaucratic model of socialism we have, but also disagree with the hegemonic and aggressive policy of Donald Trump’s Government. These are people who equally reject the pro-American opposition and the abusive and unconstitutional reactions of the Ministry of the Interior and the Police against that opposition.’

It would be good to have a wise reflection on whether government tactics when dealing with the opposition could be generating sympathies that they were having trouble earning with their political proposals.

In my opinion, if the Law isn’t applied equally for all people, the Constitution of 2019 will be on its way to becoming what they say the one of 1940 became: ‘dead letter’. So that there may be a Rule of Socialist Law, we must put a stop to para-judicial abuses: arbitrary arrests for a few hours and without an order from a judge, denial of the possibility to travel abroad to people who are not the subject of a legal process, unwarranted beatings to members of the opposition who protest peacefully, even though this is a right granted by the Constitution.

Instead of having the agents posing for the camera, they should work undercover, with professionalism. Their goal would be to uncover the conspiracy by the opposition and its financing in order to subvert the political order. And I insist on the obtainment of evidence, for we have normalized the tendency of attaching the label of mercenary and dissident to anyone who openly voices their criticism, and this is not a ‘cry wolf’ situation.

According to Prensa Latina, the Cuban Foreign Minister denounced on November 26 ‘that the American Embassy in Cuba, and particularly [Mara] Tekach, has focused in the last few months on the failed purpose of recruiting mercenaries, and promoting division and confusion among the Cuban population.’

If the purpose of recruiting mercenaries failed, that proves that not all Cubans are willing to conspire against the government under the auspices of the US. However, the inadequate and unlawful treatment given internally to the opposition in Cuba also generates ‘division’ and ‘confusion’. It’s time to meditate; this is not a question of force, but a question of legality. The Law to punish and the law to protect. And to protect everyone. Even the opposition.

Contact the author at: alinabarbara65@gmail.com

[1] http://wwwbbc.com/mundo/noticias/2010/12/101219_wikileaks_cuba_disidentes_estados_unidos_pea.shtml

(Translated from the original)