On December 10 a mob assaulted women who had only gladioli in their hands. Fists raised—urged on by plainclothes police—they surrounded these mothers, wives and daughters of those imprisoned since the Black Spring of 2003. Several of the attackers learned the script on the run and mixed current political slogans with those popular almost three decades ago. It was a shock troop with license to insult and beat, granted by precisely those whose job it is to maintain order and protect all citizens. On Friday’s news the announcer said that those who berated the Women in White represented an “enraged people”, but on the screen there was no hint of spontaneity or real conviction. It just looked like fanatics who were afraid, very afraid.
I’m ashamed to say it, but in my country the demons of intolerance were having a party on Human Rights Day. They were incited by those who have long since lost the capacity to convince us of their argument or to win us over with a new and just idea. They don’t even have an ideology any more, but only keep their hands on the reins of fear, calling for “exemplary” acts of repudiation to stem the growing discontent. In the faces of those summoned to a social lynching, however, one could see doubt alternating with rage and the exaltation with the trembling of knowing themselves observed and evaluated. As painful as it may be, it’s easy to foresee that perhaps one day a multitude just as unthinking and blind might direct their anger against those who, today, pit some Cubans against others.
With a lack of openings, of more food on the plate, of structural changes or long-awaited relaxations, Raul Castro’s government seems to have chosen punishment as the formula for self-preservation. It shows no tangible results from its management, rather there is the sound of the rusty instruments of control and the old techniques of punishment. In recent months it hasn’t even put forth promises of projects, or announced plans with imprecise dates. Rather, it has reached for its belt, not exactly to tighten it in a gesture of austerity and saving, but rather to use it as authoritarian parents do, on the hide of its children.