The Horrendous Havana Behind Obama’s “Historic Milestone”
The round-up of hundreds of Cuban activists was denied by the Cuban state during President Obama’s March visit to the island.
On Sunday March 20, US President Barack Obama touched down in a drenched Havana, greeted by a relentless drizzle that had washed away the Cuban capital’s usual grime. Although it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, it is in a state of dilapidation following decades of a totalitarian government that has been highly efficient in its methods of repression, but incapable of preserving the Cuban people’s architectural heritage.
- Is it worth-while to focus on the last images and letters coming from the inside of the last living utopia on Earth? Is Cuba by now a contemporary country or just another old-fashioned delusion in the middle of Nowhere-America? A Cold-War Northtalgia maybe? Can we expect a young Rewwwolution.cu within that Ancien Régime still known as The Revolution? I would like to provoke more questions than answers.
- Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo was born in Havana City and still resides and resists there, working as a free-lance writer, photographer and blogger. He is the author of Boring Home (2009) and is the editor of the independent opinion and literary e-zine Voces.
General Raúl Castro did not welcome Obama at the airport. The State did not organize one of its customary “mass receptions.” Even Cuban television did not broadcast any reports of Obama’s “meet-and-greets” with the people in the public squares, cathedrals and family-owned restaurants of Old Havana. By all appearances, the Cuban regime is seeking to minimize the popularity that Obama has found among our people since 2009.
Castro and Obama finally met on March 21. It was a pitiful, pathetic affair. To begin with the US President appeared jovial and lucid. In contrast, the octogenarian Cuban tyrant, brother of the now senile tyrant Fidel Castro, came across as conceited and arrogant. Much worse, he also looked deceitful in his impunity as an absolute monarch, one who will transfer his dynastic power to his son Alejandro Castro Espín. Alejandro Castro was also present at this top-level meeting despite holding no public office in Cuba, instead working for military intelligence.
Raúl Castro almost lost his temper when the foreign media questioned him about human rights and the peaceful political prisoners who still languish in Cuba’s prisons. Castro rebuked the press and challenged them to give him a list of detainees. I could give him that list right now, but he would never accept it from my hands since he sees me as a non-person. Furthermore, in his hubris the Cuban dictator will not believe that any Cuban he has imprisoned deserves to be called a “prisoner of conscience.”
Another outrageous detail deserves a mention: while Raúl Castro was demanding lists—just as even Cuba’s Catholic Cardinal has denied that there are any political prisoners on the island—across the country hundreds of artists and social activists were being hounded, subjected to public beatings, held under house arrest, and detained in secret locations for days on end. Of course, this same State Security modus operandi has been used for each one of the masses held when a Pope has visited Cuba, with the Catholic hierarchy never uttering a word against it.
The victims of this oppression are not conspiring against the State: They are Cuban citizens who are passionate about justice, beauty, goodness, and order. They are friendly people who wish to life their lives to the full. They are people like graffiti artist Danilo Maldonado (El Sexto), photographer Claudio Fuentes, writer Lia Villares, film graduate Henry Constantín, blogger Yuri Valle Roca, reporter Roberto Guerra, punk musician Gorki Águila, pro-democracy activists Antonio Rodiles and Berta Soler, Baptist pastor Mario Félix Lleonart, teacher Joanna Columbié and an ellipsis of other dignified Cuban citizens whose rights have been held hostage by this grotesque gerontocracy, communists oozing blood and thirsty for capital, even before Obama and the foreign media.
Imagine, dear readers of the free world, how this corporative-military class must behave when it is enjoying the impunity of a country behind closed doors!
P.S. The list, which can only ever be rather imprecise given the opacity of a regime that views information as a weapon for oppression, can be found here. It was shared no sooner after Raúl Castro—like a magnanimous hegemon or perhaps a philanthropic ogre—asked those journalists for a list of political prisoners in today’s decrepit Cuba.
P.P.S. Since March, official journalists at CubaDebate.cu and most governmental websites in Cuba (and all of them are), have been publishingsuspiciously unanimous opinions against Barack Obama´s visit to Havana, including the very offensive and racist piece “Negro, ¿tú eres sueco?” literally meaning: “Hey, Black man, are you numb?”