He could have been an alcoholic lying on a street corner sleeping off his inebriation, like so many others in this city, but he also wanted to act. He jumped in front of a camera and cried for food which, along with yearning for change, has become the national obsession. His spontaneity, and the emphasis he gave to asking for “grub” has turned the brief video of Juan Carlos, alias Pánfilo or Dimwitted, into a “superhit” on the alternative information networks. I don’t remember other visual material that has gone viral so quickly in our society, not even the video of Eliécer Ávila versus Ricardo Alarcón from last year.
Pánfilo would understand, a few days after the broadcast of his image, that his demonstration had been denounced. His words were like a red circle around his head, a lighted announcement at the entrance to his house, or a finger pointed at his life. The magnifying glass of power, which hangs over us all, focused on him and begin to rummage through his weaknesses. Managing to stay afloat with no work, he had been prosecuted for theft, probably bought rum on the black market, and the many other outrages that we Cubans commit every day to survive or escape. It was enough that he was sincere in front of the microphone and took off his mask to feel the scalpel of repression slicing through his existence.
In a society marked by punishments against those who express their opinions, neither fools nor children say what they think, only drunkards. Thus, I wasn’t surprised at the news that they found Pánfilo to be a criminal and charged him with “pre-criminal dangerousness” for which he was given two years in prison. The judicial process must have sobered him up faster than a bucket of cold water and an extremely strong coffee. Although there is still the possibility of appealing this decision before the court, he’s unlikely to get off without punishment because it is lesson aimed not only at him. If they don’t condemn him, who will prevent the corner alcoholics, the neighborhood drunks, from standing in front of a camera and starting to shout for everything we lack: Food! Future! Freedom!