Desde Dentro de Cuba.

Distribuido por Cuba Free Press, Inc. - http://www.cubafreepress.org

February 24, 1999.

APOCALYPSE NOW? GOOD BYE TO THE IDEA OF CUBA OPENING TO THE WORLD By Iván García, Cuba Free Press.

HAVANA - Time is hard pressed. It is necessary to destroy the internal enemy quickly. A Trojan Horse corrodes from within the armored power of Castro's revolution. Apocalypse now? Yes, the apocalyptic hour is here. Good bye to the idea of Cuba opening to the world and to the world opening to Cuba. The Cuban government decided to slam the door shut on tolerance. It felt that its power was in danger.

The island set a record in judicial legislative matters. After President Castro spoke on the 40th anniversary of the National Revolutionary Police (PNR) in early January and highlighted the dizzying increase in crime, Cuban pettifogging legislators "loaded their batteries." In barely four days they brought to light two new laws aimed at "keeping the peace of the citizenry and defending sovereignty and freedom."

LIKE A SUMMARY DECLARATION OF WAR

They aimed to put an end with just one shot to both crime and dissidence, two "phenomena" that are undermining the aseptic image of the revolution. Both are guilty. They both dig on the same ground. The island governors have shown once more their expertise at manipulation. They performed a nearly impossible chore: "Killing two birds with just one stone." Mission accomplished.

Of course there were reasons. Violence had grown at an alarming rate. Drug addiction, prostitution, assaults, burglaries, human trafficking, corruption of minors, illegal cattle slaughtering, among others, became a fashion trend. There was a popular outcry to put a brake on crime.

Havana was turning into a society as dangerous as Medellín or Rio de Janeiro. At sundown, anybody could die for as simple a motive as wearing a gold chain, a good watch or a Yankees baseball cap.

Violence and corruption were taking the form of organized crime. History has demonstrated that in systems of totalitarianism and extreme shortages, an excellent culture broth forms for the appearance of mafia groups. More so in a country where tourism generates more than $1,OOO,000,000 a year and an amalgam of adventure seeking capitalists, occasionally disguised as serious businessmen, whose goal is to make easy money.

We are not Russia yet, but we are heading there. Behind the dollars the white collar criminals are piling up and the motto is to eradicate them, because money engenders power. The regime, of course, does not want them to gain size and strength. Now they have a strong law to combat them.

The other kinds of crime are less serious and do not quite undermine power. But they are equally harmful. On the 40th anniversary of the police, President Castro got angry reading a report in the "Washington Post" relating the scourge of prostitution and crime in Cuba. This kind of information started to appear often in foremost cable agencies and high circulation media. These reports were hurting his "creation." They were affecting his image.

In the Western world, violence and prostitution do certainly exist. But this kind of journalistic material did hurt the pride of the regime. Because in Cuba the youngsters prostitute themselves for clothes, soap, an invitation to dinner, a visit to "Tropicana", and ultimately to set up an "engagement" so as to eventually leave the damned island.

This last matter is a peculiarity that does not occur in other nations but does in revolutionary Cuba. It is that of the "New Man," where not only sex is sold for money, but people fake falling in love with the first unwary old person that might be able to take them to some European capital. It is the diaspora of hunger, impotence, frustration, all the shortages and, even more, boredom.

Violence also reached the tourists: In less than two years, four visitors died at the hands of common criminals. As for drugs, no parents want their child to become a victim of such a poison.

Many dwellings around the country have turned into true "bunkers." The streets had become extremely dangerous. There was an urgent need for a severe response. And it came. The citizen on foot agrees. Violence affects him.

In a poll of 63 people by this agency, 56 agreed that violence had to be eradicated, seven were in doubt. Of these, five were Catholics who thought the response sinned by being excessive, since they reject the death penalty. The other two agree with the government on almost all the new penalties, except those referring to the stealing and the illegal slaughtering of cattle.

They thought the government "got carried away". Asked why so, they confessed to being habitual buyers of beef on the black market. According to the Penal Code modifications, they could themselves go to prison. >p> So there is in general a consensus in favor of the government. Up to here, reason is on their side.

But where law ends and treachery starts is in the chapter related to dissidence and free press. In this regard, of the 63 polled, 51 believed that, besides being an exaggeration, the law is a new violation of individual freedom and of the presumptive democracy that Cuba claims to possess. Eight did not want to express an opinion; they were afraid. The other four repeated the "canned" official speech: Dissidents and free-press activists are "annexationists" and mercenaries in the service of imperialism. They must be swept away.

There is no consensus on the second law. It was the regime's subtle and intelligent maneuver to mix up the two phenomena, crime and dissidence. Now a massive consensus for both will be highlighted at the factory and neighborhood meetings organized to obtain popular backing. But those governing, better than anyone else,know that a high percentage of the population is paralyzed by fear, and no one is going to oppose in public the imprisonment and the condemnation to forced silence of dissidence and independent journalism.

Even though they do not all agree, the majority will offer the government its approval and support. And we can already envision what we can expect from the national communication media, controlled by the Communist Party.

Something that will come to light if nothing else is the pathological fear people have lived with for the last 40 years. No one wants to catch the attention of the political police or of the neighborhood or workplace informants. People complain daily that they want to emigrate. But they prefer routine to the courage of speaking what they think. On top of this, there is the despairing and exhausting game of survival.

TO BE ABLE TO CONTINUE "INVENTING"

(Translator's note: In contemporary Cuban slang the verb "to invent" - Spanish "inventar" - and the noun "invention" - Spanish "invento" - are used to mean: CREATIVE WAYS, AND THE FINDING THEREOF TO CIRCUMVENT ADVERSE CIRCUMSTANCES, FROM MERE SHORTAGES TO, SOMETIMES, EXPLICIT PROHIBITION BY THE LAW.)

However, the hardening of the Penal Code left one window open, that of the "invento" ("invention"). The average Cuban does not see as "stealing" the possibility of taking a piece of cheese or a little tomato sauce from the pizzeria where he works, or to take home from work half a bag of cement. Or to take from the school where he teaches a few pencils or copybooks donated by some ONG organization friendly to Castro. Or to "translocate" a roll of toilet paper to his home from the hotel where he works.

The law modifying the Penal Code and approved on February 15 does not cover these "small transgressions." If it were to cover them, it would then cut off the umbilical cord through which much of the population survives. The regime knows it would be crazy to do so, because the average monthly salary of 200 pesos (US$10) is not enough to live on for a month. For that reason it leaves a little crack open. To close it might provoke social conflicts of incalculable proportions.

What the majority condemns is what gets condemned harshly: The violence that punishes the island. And, by the way, the dome of power does itself a great favor by dumping into the same bag the opposition that bothers it. In summits, international conferences, visits by presidents, ministers and personalities, the same is always asked of Castro: Political pluralism, freedom of the press, democracy and more economical openness. These petitions usually are proposed in exchange for new investments and financial aid.

THE RESPONSE

In the "Law for the Protection of the Independence and the Economy" it is stipulated that anyone who supplies information, directly or through third parties, to any foreign medium, with a content that might be useful to "the enemy," might receive penalties of up to 10 to 30 years in prison or fines up to 100 thousand pesos (US$5,000). That's an amount equivalent to the total earned by an average Cuban during 45 years of work.

We bother and threaten the power. The independent press and the dissidence 'needed' an energetic response, without leniency, after the period of tolerance surrounding the Pope's visit. The governing ones do not care a bit that this year the King and Queen of Spain are considering coming to Cuba, and that this coming November the Ninth Ibero American Summit is to be celebrated with the participation of chief executives who represent democratic societies.

It does not matter that more than 140 countries are against the embargo and the "Helms-Burton" law: They responded to those 'imperialist' creations with a fascist treaty. The Cuban government is doing itself a poor favor. Worldwide repudiation has been immediate. But that seems to be of no concern to the regime. For Cuba's governors this is a matter of life or death. With this verbal and juridical all-out hostility they bring to a higher position the internal dissidence, which thus becomes stronger rather than weaker. What is incredible is that they fear a disarmed and totally peaceful minority.

By now there is something cyclical in four decades of power. The effectiveness of these measures to eliminate the opposition yet remains to be seen. The Cuban governors seem to ignore that during their uninterrupted tenure in the Palace, the world has moved on. And not precisely in the same direction as they have.

Iván García, Cuba Free Press.


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