AMAC Exclusive – By Ben Solis
The pro-freedom Cuban opposition mounted their most recent protests two days ago against the Communist government in Havana. The most encouraging development we are now seeing coming out of these periodic protests, which started on July 15th, is a phenomenon once described by Vaclav Havel–the renowned dissident, thinker, and later president of the Czech Republic–that ultimately marked the beginning of the end of the communist regimes in Europe.
Havel observed that public protest in totalitarian countries reveals a stark comparison: a fellowship of honor, righteousness, and dignity demonstrated in the squares, parks, and streets stands in contrast with the mass of disgrace, immorality, and degradation displayed by the regime.
This confrontation sometimes becomes even more distinctive when protestors, representing good and virtue, are imprisoned, whilst the evil and immorality of the regime pervade the streets. Another leader of anti-Communist opposition of the 1980s, also known as the mother of the Polish trade union movement Solidarity, Anna Walentynowicz, further emphasized that the mobilization and preparation for the protest buoyed dissent even more than the taking to the streets.
With blue lights and sirens, the long convoys of police cars toured Cuban cities at midnight on Monday, November 15, 2021. The noisy paddy wagons with cages – black-colored military transport trucks for those arrested – followed by motorbikes woke up children and disturbed their nightly rest. But the post-Castro regime show of force did not succeed in the reinforcement of a culture of fear in the hearts and minds of average Cubans.
The regime evidently understood that this display of arrogance and ignobility would not suffice, and an additional step was needed. A few hours later, with thousands of plain clothed agents, the regime conducted a crackdown that some opposition veterans called the most vicious in a decade. The regime blocked the apartment doors of the protest leaders in several cities.
According to reports by the Christian Liberation Movement (CLM), one of the leading organizations advocating for political change in Cuba, the secret police threatened and intimidated everyone who wanted to peacefully express their opinion publicly, including three leaders of the CLM: Eduardo Cardet, Eliécer Porto, and Rosa María Rodríguez. Not only did the regime arrest thousands of Cubans at home without a court order, but they are also punishing many with the loss of their jobs, subjecting others to permanent secret police surveillance, and releasing thugs armed with bamboo batons to harass still others.
With metal fences cutting through the main cities in Cuba, the deployment of armored police, special forces, and the regular army, along with the ubiquitous presence of plain clothed agents, the regime has totally deprived Cubans of their right to demonstrate peacefully in person and imposed an undeclared Martial Law.
But this level of persecution—unusual even in Communist Cuba—has revealed an enormous power of the powerless.
Cubans under house arrest offered water and meals to the tired police agents. Lone protesters on the streets handed white flowers to armed officers. The priests who received death threats recorded short appeals for a culture of civility and offered a blessing to their tormenters.
White fabric spontaneously placed outside of thousands of balconies and windows provided a remarkable voice for the voiceless, and courageous Cuban opposition figures openly called for freedom for political prisoners and an end to all intimidation of citizens at home and work.
“No one is asking for food or medicine,” said the coordinator of CLM, Eduardo Cardet. “Cubans unanimously are demanding liberty,” he stressed.
One week earlier, Catholic bishops endorsed the protest with a unique Pastoral Letter, declaring that every person deserves dignity as a child of God. Calling for the establishment of a new institution for dialogue, the Cuban bishops reiterated that every Cuban has the right to express their opinion without fear.
The letter appealed for the release of all political prisoners.
According to the Human Rights Watch report, at least 800 protesters who participated in the Peaceful anti-Communist Uprising on July 15th, 2021 have been unjustly imprisoned.
Citizens of democratic countries are generally unaware, even while it is notoriously known in totalitarian countries, that individuals may end up in prison if they publicly complain about something as simple the disorganization of a line at food shops or public offices.
The Cuban regime has persecuted members of the CLM with an exceptional fury. Nine years ago, CLM founder Oswaldo Payá died in a horrific car crash that many believe was caused by the secret police. Nearly thirty members of CLM have been imprisoned unjustly and are serving long-term sentences. In October 2020, the police “disappeared” CLM member García Labrada after he criticized “irregularities in the supply of goods in the local supermarket.” His lawyer said that when García rejected the investigator’s demand to leave the Movement, he was left with an injured arm and breathing difficulties due to torture.
The draconian punishment for García confirms that a public commitment to living a life in the truth is a fundamental threat to living a life according to a lie – which is, of course, the strategic pillar of the entire Communist system in Cuba.
Living a life in truth in a totalitarian system plays a far more significant role than living in truth in Western countries. Living in truth is a factor of power. It is the essence of resistance to the Communist lies.
Stopping the opposition from living by the truth can be effective in a totalitarian country with an inefficient economy as long as that fact can be concealed by the foreign media and as long as Western businesses remain indifferent.
Therefore, after Monday’s protest, the leaders of the Christian Liberation Movement asked the international community to sanction Havana with measures akin to those imposed on South Africa’s apartheid regime in the 1980s.
The CLM has engrained in the Cuban protest movement the Catholic ethos of non-violence. That ethos is based on the dignity of the human person, an unalienable right stemming from the Natural Law that is taught by the Catholic Church.
This Christian ethos, highly evocative of victories achieved by the anti-Communist movements in Central Europe in the 1980s, including Polish Solidarity, reinforces the power of the powerless. It was this power that was manifested during this past Monday’s protest which Cuba’s Communist regime failed to suppress.
Ben Solis is the pen name of an international affairs journalist, historian and researcher.
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