Of Conveniences and Geographies

Cuba’s Minister of Education, Ena Elsa Velázquez Cobiella. (Twitter)

14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 1 September 2019 — The clumsy communication strategy of Cuba’s official functionaries on social networks stumbled again this week. This time the blunder came from Ena Elsa Velázquez, Minister of Education, who targeted her words against Cuban emigrants. “Those who do not live in Cuba have no right to criticize us,” she wrote on her Twitter account this Saturday.

Velázquez added another nuance to the segregation by geographical location to define those who are authorized to question the Island’s authorities. “We accept the criticism of those who are next to us and are willing to share our shortcomings and seek solutions,” the official stated in a tweet, which within a few hours accumulated dozens of responses

Those who do not live in Cuba have no right to criticize us. We accept the criticism of those who are next to us and are willing to share our shortcomings and seek solutions. https://t.co/MDdUZKSMup 

– Ena Elsa Velázquez Cobiella (@elsa_ena) August 30, 2019 

The mold so narrowly defined by the minister fits only a few chosen ones. According to her, criticisms may only be offered by those who live in the national territory, who are clear that they are “faithful to the cause,” who are experiencing the ordeal of material problems with a smile on their face, and, in addition, whose proposed solutions do not include regime change, criticisms of the leaders of the process, or a negative opinion of the imposed model.

Only then, with due reverence, this impeccable militant and undoubting “revolutionary” could issue an opinion that is not praise. The problem is that the examples accumulated in six decades indicate that even in that case an individual’s questioning will not be well received and that punishment awaits those who move from applause to criticism, punishments that include the execution of their reputation and the so-called “pajama plan” – defenestration.

The minister’s statements also obey a traditional strategy of the Plaza of the Revolution regarding the exile. Accept from emigrants any and all resources, remittances and support for official causes, but take from them from the possibility of deciding, influencing and criticizing the political and economic model that governs the country. A tactic that promotes, and benefits from, the dollars sent by these Cubans scattered throughout the world, but gags them with regards to internal issues.

This same pattern was followed when the Cuban diaspora was not allowed to participate with its vote in the referendum to ratify the new Constitution. If they could have had a “voice and vote” on that Constitution, the emigrants would have greatly increased the numbers of ‘No’ votes, a fact that was well known by those who cooked up a text filled with articles designed to keep the current system firmly in place in the face of any reformist process.

However, no matter how much they curtail their national rights and call on them to remain silent, Cuban exiles have a permanent presence in the life of this Island. Although many are not allowed to enter the country, create a business or buy a home in their own name, their influence is perceived in almost every aspect of everyday life.

For example, the Minister of Education should know that in the more than 10,000 schools that will host 1.7 million students this September, many of the shoes, backpacks and school supplies the students will carry will have been acquired with the money from received from emigrants or even been purchased and sent directly by a relative residing in the United States, a European country or in the wider Latin American geography.

Lately, in the upper echelons of @CubaMES seems to be a struggle to see who will express the greatest unconstitutional barbarity. It seems that the campaign began to appear in the photo of the incoming Government, and these messages seek to seduce its electorate: the Central Committee of the PCC (Cuban Communist Party).

– Eduardo Sánchez (@Eduardo_SG_) August 31, 2019

Velázquez turns a blind eye to a truth that is like a mountain. Many of the supplies that parents will have to buy and take to schools throughout the school year so that their children can study with greater comfort and dignity, are acquired with resources from the Cuban diaspora. Even a good share of the school uniforms have been bought at stores in Miami.

Why can emigrants economically underpin education but have no right to criticize its multiple shadows, its great shortcomings and its excessive ideologization? Is Velázquez aware that if the support of these Cubans around the world is cut, schools would be much more miserable places? How can you ask for silence from those who contribute a part of the budget that supports your ministry?

This Monday, when Ena Elsa Velázquez participates in a school’s morning assembly and kicks off the new school year, in front of her face there will be hundreds or thousands of objects, resources and school supplies that are the voice of those exiles she is trying to silence.

1 thought on “Of Conveniences and Geographies

  1. The book, Havana Real, was purchased for our daughter who is taking a course on Cuba. I have read a few chapters and want to express on how well written it is and the admiration of the courage and craft of Yoani. As a Cubanamerican I can relate to a certain point having listened to my parents’ stories of what they went through during the revolution. I applaud your tenacity Yoani and determination I hope for a free Cuba very soon. Frank

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