Saturday, July 17, 2021

Leonardo Padura on the Crisis in Cuba

 La Joven Cuba

A scream

 July 16, 2021 862 views

Spanish original

Translated by Walter Lippmann for CubaNews.

It seems very possible that everything that happened in Cuba since last Sunday, July 11, has been encouraged by a greater or lesser number of people opposed to the system, even paid some of them, with the intention of destabilizing the country and causing a situation of chaos and unsafety. It is also true that later, as often happens in these events, opportunistic and regrettable acts of vandalism occurred. But I think that neither evidence takes one iota of reason from the scream that we have heard. A cry that is also the result of the desperation of a society that is going through not only a long economic crisis and a punctual health crisis, but also a crisis of confidence and a loss of expectations.

To this desperate claim, the Cuban authorities should not respond with the usual slogans, repeated for years, and with the answers that these authorities want to hear. Not even with explanations, however convincing and necessary they may be. What is imposed are the solutions that many citizens expect or demand, some demonstrating in the street, others giving their opinion on social networks and expressing their disappointment or disagreement, many counting the few and devalued pesos that they have in their impoverished pockets and many, many more, queuing in resigned silence for several hours in the sun or rain, including a pandemic, queues at markets to buy food, queues at pharmacies to buy medicines, queues to reach our daily bread and for everything imaginable and necessary.

Scream (2)

"(...) the Cuban authorities should not respond with the usual slogans, repeated for years ..." (Photo: Canal Caribe)

I think that no one with a minimum feeling of belonging, with a sense of sovereignty, with a civic responsibility can want (or even believe) that the solution to these problems comes from any type of foreign intervention, much less of a military nature, such as some have come to ask, and that, it is also true, represents a threat that is still a possible scenario.

I also believe that any Cuban inside or outside the island knows that the US commercial and financial blockade or embargo, whatever you want to call it, is real and has become internationalized and intensified in recent years and that it is too heavy a burden for the Cuban economy ( as it would be for any other economy). Those who live outside the island and today want to help their relatives in the midst of a critical situation, have been able to verify that it exists and how much it exists when they are practically unable to send a remittance to their relatives, just to mention a situation that affects Many. It is an old policy that, by the way (sometimes some forget it) practically everyone has condemned for many years in successive United Nations assemblies.

And I don't think anyone can deny that a media campaign has also been unleashed in which, even in the grossest ways, false information has been released that at the beginning and end only serves to diminish the credibility of its managers.

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«(…) Neither one nor the other evidence takes away an iota of reason from the scream that we have heard. A cry that is also the result of the desperation of a society… »(Photo: Yamil Lage / AFP)

But I believe, along with all of the above, that Cubans need to regain hope and have a possible image of their future. If hope is lost, the meaning of any humanist social project is lost. And hope is not recovered by force. You are rescued and fed with those solutions and changes and social dialogues, which, by not arriving, have caused, among many other devastating effects, the migratory anxieties of so many Cubans and now provoked the cry of despair of people among whom there were surely paid people and opportunistic criminals, although I refuse to believe that in my country, at this point, there may be so many people, so many people born and educated among us who sell themselves or commit crimes. Because if it were, it would be the result of the society that has fostered them.

The spontaneous way, without being tied to any leadership, without receiving anything in return or stealing anything along the way, with which a notable number of people have also demonstrated in the streets and on the networks, should be a warning and I think it is an alarming sample of the distances that have been opened between the leading political spheres and the street (and this has even been recognized by Cuban leaders). And it is only in this way that it is explained that what has happened has happened, especially in a country where almost everything is known when it wants to be known, as we all also know.

To convince and calm those desperate, the method cannot be the solutions of force and darkness, such as imposing the digital blackout that has cut off the communications of many for days, but that nevertheless has not impeded the connections of those who want to say something, in favor or opposing. Much less can the violent response, especially against non-violent people, be used as a convincing argument. And it is already known that violence can be not only physical.

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"Much less can the violent response, especially against non-violent people, be used as a convincing argument." (Photo: Yamil Lage / AFP)

Many things seem to be at stake today. Perhaps even if calm returns after the storm. Perhaps the extremists and fundamentalists will not be able to impose their extremist and fundamentalist solutions, and a dangerous state of hatred that has been growing in recent years will not take root.

But, in any case, it is necessary for solutions to arrive, responses that should not only be of a material nature but also of a political nature, and thus an inclusive and better Cuba can address the reasons for this cry of despair and loss of hope. that, silently but with force, since before July 11, many of our compatriots had been giving those laments that were not heard and from whose rains these muds arose.  

As a Cuban who lives in Cuba and works and believes in Cuba, I assume that it is my right to think and express my opinion about the country in which I live, work and where I believe. I know that in times like this and trying to express an opinion, it often happens that "You are always reactionary for someone and red for someone," as Claudio Sánchez Albornoz once said. I also take that risk, as a man who pretends to be free, who hopes to be more and more free.

In Mantilla, July 15, 2021.

Video of looting from Cardenas:

Leonardo Padura on the Protests, his Novels, and Cuba

Leonardo Padura

“When someone wishes to criticize Cuba, they don’t have to exaggerate, just tell the truth.”

From Cubaencuentro

HAVANA TIMES – Cuban writer Leonardo Padura, recipient of the “Princess of Asturias” Award for Literature (2015), considers his novels “among the most radical documents that could have been written” about Cuba. Today that Cuba is in turmoil, but its problems “must be resolved among Cubans,” Padura recently told EFE.

“I believe that the novels I’ve written – many of them published in Cuba, including The man who loved dogsHeretics: a novel, or The story of my life -are the most radical documents that could have been written or spoken about this country. That gives me a lot of peace,” the author maintained during an interview with the Spanish-based news agency.

Padura spoke from his home in Havana’s “Mantilla” neighborhood, three weeks after thousands of Cubans took to the streets to protest the scarcities and ask for freedom.  The author reflected on the extreme polarization regarding the island, which he hopes “can be resolved among Cubans,” including the issue of exile.

“I receive attacks from one extreme and the other with a certain regularity, because I try to be fair and to speak of truths that are generally agreed upon. We already know that truth isn’t absolute; what’s absolute is a lie. And in none of my writing, neither in my novels nor in my articles as a journalist, do I need to make use of lies to speak of Cuba,” he affirmed.

Padura, who is also a distinguished scholar of literature, believes: “When someone wants to criticize Cuba, they don’t have to exaggerate. They only have to tell the truth.”

“I’m at great peace with myself. I can’t satisfy all positions. I don’t want to place myself at any of the extremes. I’m very fearful of fundamentalisms and of extremes, because they spring from the idea that their view is the only possible way to reason. I think there’s always more than one way of seeing things, and that there should be a dialogue among different ways of thinking,” he pointed out.

The protests took Padura by surprise while he was watching the European Cup finals. “All of a sudden, they interrupted the transmission to broadcast the President’s (Miguel Diaz-Canel) speech. That’s when I found out what was happening.”

Shortly afterwards, the authorities blocked internet access, and the information that reached him was confused and “very distorted, very biased, in some cases very aggressive. It was difficult to get your bearings, in terms of what was happening,” he recalled.

A week after the demonstration, Padura described his initial sensations in an article published on the platform La Joven Cuba [“Young Cuba”]. “A howl had been produced from the guts of a society that demanded other ways of managing life in a general sense, where the economic, the social, and the political all come into play…”

The unjustified delay of the economic reforms engendered “something very evident”, the growth of poverty and inequality, as reflected in his 2018 novel: The Transparency of Time.

There, Padura mentions the extremely poor settlements in Havana, where “you discover that this isn’t the country we’ve been working for, dreaming of, which we’ve made so many sacrifices for. Solutions must be found for those people (..)”

In his judgement, the demonstrations channeled people’s feelings of being completely fed up, waiting for a prosperity that never comes. They’re evidence of the lack of communication between those in power and the feelings of the citizens.

“So much so, that I believe that demonstration surprised them. It wasn’t like someone began to yell while standing in line. In many parts of the country, there were people who came out to demand things. To demand freedom for example. It’s very serious when the people cry out demanding freedom.”

It worries the writer that those perceptions, “aren’t being understood and processed in the best way. The social magma is flowing with intolerances and extremes, like we spoke about at first. It could be that these views end up being imposed, and that would be the worst thing.”

“Violent responses aren’t at all the cure this country is needing, this country that isn’t the same as it was a few weeks ago. It’s a different country, and it needs to be managed differently,” he expressed.

Padura also asserted that the events [of July 11] had already been germinating, as evidenced by the concentration of young artists in front of Cuba’s Ministry of Culture last November 27.

“They spoke there of the need for a dialogue, that in the end was reduced to only a few words and very few solutions. When people demand freedom of expression, of thinking, of opinion, they’re demanding something that belongs to them, something I believe can’t be denied them under any system or in any country,” the author stated emphatically.

Regarding all the young people who protested on July 11, Padura warned: “the least desirable [outcome] would be for them to be marginalized, or “even jailed for their social or political position.” In that case, due to the prolonged “bleeding” that the island suffers, many of the most promising youth will end up leaving.

In 1996, Padura became Cuba’s first “independent writer”. He thinks the recent events will end up reflected in his literature, although “probably not directly.”

“I’ve tried for many years to practice my independence and my freedom. I believe that freedom of expression and thought is fundamental for any creator.”  He noted, though, that there are limits with regards to “homophobic and xenophobic attitudes, attitudes that are in some way fascist.”

“Also, life is too short for us to limit ourselves in as many ways as we have to limit ourselves within the existing social contract,” Leonardo Padura concluded.

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