Why the Dissidence is Irrelevant for Ordinary Cubans
Why the Dissidence is Irrelevant for Ordinary Cubans / Ivan Garcia
Posted on November 13, 2015
Ivan Garcia, 5 November 201 5 — Daniela Sarmiento, 61, has exhausted all
the legal options with State institutions to complete the process for a
new home She lives with her three children in a house cracked because of
a partial collapse or roofs and walls, putting their lives in danger.
“Since 1988, following the construction of a bomb shelter built by the
government near my house, they damaged the foundations. Specialists of
all kinds have come by here. They evaluated the housing as uninhabitable
but no one resolved anything. I have written letters to the president of
the country, the national assembly, the armed forces. But by case has no
solution,” she says.
When you tell her there are dissident groups that can help her, the
woman opens her eyes and says, “But can these people (the opponents)
resolve anything if they are as much victims than we are.”
In El Calvario, a village of dusty streets and low houses south of
Havana, the dissident attorney Laritza Diversent, since August 2010, has
managed a legal clinic that has looked at around 140 files of humble
people who have exhausted all legal paths.”
Because of the anachronistic Cuban laws, Diversent and her group of
lawyers can not represent their clients. Their only option is to advise
“Eighty percent of the cases we serve are from people who are not
dissidents. Very poor people who feel that the courts or state
institutions do not represent them,” says Diversent sitting in her
living room converted into an office.
Aside from the independent legal collectives and a few opposition
strategies to connect to ordinary Cubans, dissident leaders live in
Raul Castro’s autocracy has cleverly hijacked the opposition’s demands.
The first factions of democracy activists arose in the mid 1970s,
reclaiming spaces that the olive-green government has been discreetly
It wasn’t in a session of the monotone Cuban parliament, or in an
editorial of the State newspaper Granma, or in a union debate, where the
demand is made for niches for private work, access to the internet, the
buying and selling of houses and cars, being able to travel abroad, or
the elimination of tourist apartheid.*
It was peaceful opponents and independent journalists who raised their
voices. In their writings and documents such as The Homeland Belongs to
All. For demanding political openings and changes, hundreds of
dissidents, alternative communicators and human rights activists have
gone to jail or into exile, including 75 during the Black Spring of 2003.
Many of these demands are now part of the package that the government of
General Raul Castro sold as “updating the Cuban economic model,” scoring
a political victory and presenting himself as a reformer.
The unquestionable merits of the dissidence in Cuba cannot be ignored.
It is a feat to be an opponent in a totalitarian society where those who
think differently are repressed and there is no legal space to undertake
They could be gentle grandparents, father or mothers who read the boring
midday national press and care for their children and grandchildren. But
the value of dissent in an autocratic society does not exempt them from
being judged for their incompetence.
“Why,” I ask a neighbor who every morning complains about things in
Cuba, “don’t you join an opposition group?”
“Apart from the fear, I feel that the dissidence in Cuba doesn’t meet my
expectations I don’t seem them chatting with people in the community to
learn about their problems. They don’t have a strategy to put the
government up against the wall, they just denounce the repression, they
could be important, but what affects all Cubans, whatever we think, is
the low quality of life, a chaotic infrastructure, and seeing what we
have to do just to find food every day. Political freedoms are
paramount, but you can’t eat them,” he confesses.
Yamil, a Havana taxi driver, thinks similarly. “I believe it’s more
about a media show than communicating with ordinary Cubans, and we are
the most fucked. Most of them don’t even work. Ninety percent of the
people in Cuba agree with the demands of the dissidents, but they don’t
know how to win over the people Their work isn’t going in this direction.”
Raudel, a university student, makes a comparison, “In the street you see
the religious denominations, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses who are
persecuted by the government, proselytizing house to house. The
dissidents just meet, have discussions and travel abroad.”
In the last 25 years, except for Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas’ Varela Project
that managed to get 11,000 signatures, the dissident strategies don’t
count on popular support. The excessive role of some of them doesn’t
Every opposition leader manages their projects as if it were their own
property. The lack of transparency, intolerance, and shenanigans condemn
them to a poor performance.
Eight of every ten Cubans want change and not just economic ones. People
want more freedoms, But there are not many regime opponents who are
doing the work of paying attention to them. It is a thankless task to
walk under the sun without public recognition.
But that is the silent work that adds supporters, When they are able to
call a march with 10,000 people the regime will take them into account.
They don’t have to convince the United States or the European Union
about the economic disaster and the lack of freedoms in Cuba. They have
to talk to their neighbors and tell them that a free and developed
society depends on them.
Photo by Ernesto Garcia Diaz of the press conference convened by the
United Democratic Action Roundtable (MUAD) last August in Havana.
*Translator’s note: Until recent years, ordinary Cubans were not allowed
to step foot in tourist hotels, tourist beaches, and other tourist
facilities (except as employees).
Source: Why the Dissidence is Irrelevant for Ordinary Cubans / Ivan
Garcia | Translating Cuba –