When the Only Thing that Matters is Emigrating

As the main interest of an average Cuban has narrowed down to leaving the country as soon as possible, the pro-democracy movement in Cuba has found it increasingly difficult to find new supporters.

Rain in Havana
Rain in Havana

To be more specific, there are very few of those who really choose to join an opposition group. A significant part of those who decide to take part in demanding fundamental rights do so in order to get the necessary credit and become eligible for the refugee program run by the United States Interests Section in Havana.

One of the reasons why it is impossible to achieve greater progress in the struggle to extricate Cuba from the realm of authoritarianism lies in the fact that there are only two choices for Cubans rooted in the popular imagination: either leave the country or adapt to the complex reality of a political system which forces people to resort to corruption in order to cover their basic needs.

Although there are sufficient reasons that would justify a wave of mass protests, there have been none. People have been paralysed by fear, which makes them prefer airing their disagreement in safe spaces. Ranting against the government within the four walls of their home or when talking to a close friend doesn’t cost anything. It helps them relieve the bitterness and despair they feel without running the risk of being invited for a visit to a dungeon patrolled by rats and mosquitoes, getting a beating from vigilantes or having a court-ordered holiday behind bars for at least one year.

The fear of being punished for openly denouncing the status quo has lead to the emergence of several standardized types of conduct contrary to morality and ethics. Indeed, a rare type of environment has emerged in Cuba where it’s nothing unusual if the same person who applauds a speech of a government official or even holds a position in a major social or political organization is disposed to take on an important role in the black market.

Seeing the crowds of people around the United States Interests Section in Cuba waiting for family reunification visas, temporary stay visas or a political asylum, one can no longer wonder why it is so difficult to gather a critical mass to advocate fundamental rights in the country.

Cubans seeking to leave the country seem indifferent to the drama of their fellow countrymen who have been taking part in the struggle for an establishment of a republic without “caudillos” (dictators), humiliating prohibitions and excessive repressions.

A few days ago, I asked some of the Cubans gathered outside of the U.S. Embassy if they knew the dissident intellectual named Antonio Rodiles, who was put to jail for almost a month after having received a severe beating while being arrested. They all responded alike: “I don’t know what you’re talking about”, “I don’t engage in politics”, “Don’t make my life more difficult, I want to leave and that’s all I care for.”

The democracy that many of us here in Cuba continue to advocate, exposing ourselves to risks, will not be an easy task if people keep adopting this kind of attitude.

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Jorge Olivera Castillo

Olivera Castillo is a former political prisoner. He published number of books. He lives in the old part of Havana.
  • Peter

    Good Article!