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    The Cuban Regime Survives by Fear

    The Cuban Regime Survives by Fear / Iván García

    Iván García, 21 March 2017 — In the slum of Lawton, south of Havana, the
    need for housing has converted an old collective residence with narrow
    passageways into a bunkhouse. With dividers made from cardboard or
    bricks recovered from demolished buildings, “apartments” have appeared
    where a dozen families reside, living on the razor’s edge.

    Among the blasting Reggaeton music and illegal businesses, cane alcohol,
    stolen the night before from a state distillery, is sold and later used
    in the preparation of home-made rum; or clothing with pirated labels,
    bought in bulk from stalls in Colón, a stone’s throw from the Panama
    Canal. A while back, when cattle were slaughtered in the Lawton or
    Virgen del Camino slaughterhouses, you could get beef at the wholesale
    price.

    These overpopulated townships in the capital are cradles of
    prostitution, drugs and illegal gambling. Lawton, like no other
    neighborhood in Havana, is the “model” for marginalization and crime.
    People live from robbing state institutions, selling junk or whatever
    falls from a truck.

    But don’t talk to them about political reforms, ask them to endorse a
    dissident party or protest about the brutal beatings that the political
    police give a few blocks away to the Ladies in White, who every Sunday
    speak about political prisoners and democracy in Cuba.

    Let’s call him Miguel, a guy who earns money selling marijuana,
    psychotropic substances or cambolo, a lethal mix of cocaine with a small
    dose of bicarbonate. He’s been in prison almost a third of his life. He
    had plans to emigrate to the United States but interrupted them after
    Obama’s repeal of the “wet foot-dry foot” policy.

    Miguel has few topics of conversation. Women, sports, under-the-table
    businesses. His life is a fixed portrait: alcohol, sex and “flying,”
    with reddened eyes from smoking marijuana.

    When you ask his opinion about the dissident movement and the continued
    repression against the Ladies in White, he coughs slightly, scratches
    his chin, and says: “Man, get off that channel. Those women are crazy.
    This government of sons of bitches that we have, you aren’t going to
    bring it down with marches or speeches. If they don’t grab a gun, the
    security forces will always kick them down. They’re brave, but it’s not
    going to change this shitty country.”

    Most of the neighbors in the converted bunkhouse think the same way.
    They’re capable of jumping the fence of a State factory to rob two
    gallons of alcohol, but don’t talk to them about politics, human rights
    or freedom of expression.

    “Mi amor, who wants to get into trouble? The police have gone nuts with
    the businesses and prostitution. But when you go down the path of human
    rights, you’re in trouble for life,” comments Denia, a matron.

    She prefers to speak about her business. From a black bag she brings out
    her Huawei telephone and shows several photos of half-nude girls while
    chanting out the price. “Look how much money. Over there, whoever wants
    can beat them up,” says Denia, referring to the Ladies in White.

    Generally, with a few exceptions, the citizens of the Republic of Cuba
    have become immune or prefer to opt for amnesia when the subjects of
    dissidence, freedom and democracy are brought up.

    “There are several reasons. Pathological fear, which certainly infuses
    authoritarian societies like the Cuban one. You must add to that the
    fact that the Government media has known very well how to sell the story
    of an opposition that is minimal, divided and corrupt, interested only
    in American dollars,” affirms Carlos, a sociologist.

    Also, the dissidence is operating on an uneven playing field. It doesn’t
    have hours of radio or television coverage to spread its political
    programs. The repression has obligated hundreds of political opponents
    to leave the country. And State Security has infiltrated moles in almost
    all the dissident groups.

    “The special services efficiently short-circuit the relation of the
    neighbors of the barrio and the people who support the dissidence. How
    do you overcome that abyss? By expanding bridges to the interior of the
    Island. I believe the opposition is more focused on political crusades
    toward the exterior. The other is to amplify what the majority of Cubans
    want to hear: There isn’t food; to buy a change of clothing costs a
    three months’ salary; the terrible transport service; the water
    shortage….There is a long list of subjects the dissidents can exploit,”
    says Enrique.

    I perceive that around 80 percent of the population has important common
    ground with the local opposition. The timid economic openings and
    repeals of absurd regulations were always claimed by the dissidence,
    from greater autonomy for private work, foreign travel or being tourists
    in their own country.

    According to some dissidents, many neighbors approach them to say hello
    and delve into the motives for their detentions after a brutal verbal
    lynching or a beating. But there aren’t enough.

    Rolando Rodríguez Lobaina, the leader of the Alianza Democrática
    Oriental (Eastern Democratic Alliance) and director of Palenque Visión
    (Palenque Vision), felt frustrated when street protests demanding rights
    for everybody were taking place, and people were only watching from the
    curb of a sidewalk.

    “One night I was in the hospital’s emergency room, since my son had a
    high fever, and I initiated a protest because of the poor medical
    attention. Several patients were in the same situation. But no one
    raised their voice when the patrols arrived and the political police
    detained me by force. That night I realized that I had to change my
    method to reach ordinary Cubans. Perhaps the independent press is a more
    effective way,” Lobaina told me several months ago in Guantánamo.

    Although independent journalists reflect that other Cuba that the
    autocracy pretends to ignore, their notes, reports or complaints have a
    limited reach because of the lack of Internet service and the
    precariousness of their daily lives.

    For the majority of citizens, democracy, human rights and freedom of
    expression are not synonymous with a plate of food, but with repression.
    How to awaken a Cuban from indifference is a good question for a debate.

    Translated by Regina Anavy

    Source: The Cuban Regime Survives by Fear / Iván García – Translating
    Cuba –
    translatingcuba.com/the-cuban-regime-survives-by-fear-ivn-garca/

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