The July 11, 2021 protests sealed the end of popular support for the Cuban communist regime, something the Latin American left does not see in its support for the dictatorship. But the opposition is not limited to the criticized exiles of Miami.
The statement, made by art curator Carolina Barrero, 35, outlines part of the contradictions that mark the relationship of countries in the region with the Cuban Revolution of the brothers Fidel and Raúl Castro, in 1959.
Indeed, authoritarian politicians such as Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro and former US leader Donald Trump are vocal critics of the Caribbean dictatorship.
She says that leaders like Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (PT), the former president who leads the race for the Planalto, should review their position in favor of the Havana regime under penalty of being judged by history.
Barrero was at the center of the movement that led to mega-protests against state inefficiency, economic problems and the lack of freedoms on the island. In activist accounts, more than 1,300 were arrested. Havana says it has sentenced 381 people so far.
A historian who had been the curator of the Havana Biennale, she was part of 27N, a movement that emerged on November 27, 2020 — when 500 artists staged the biggest act that took place in front of a regime building, in this case the Ministry of Culture, to protest against the closing of the headquarters of the San Isidro Movement, a cultural center.
At the beginning of everything is the first act of the government of Miguel Díaz-Canel, who replaced the Castros in power in 2018: a decree trying to control all artistic activity. For the activist, the dictatorship is in an even worse moment.
Barrero paid the price for activism, spending six months under house arrest punctuated by interrogation visits, and was forced to leave the island earlier this year. Since then, she lives in Madrid, where she continues with her artistic work.
He toured Europe and is now on a Latin American tour to denounce Díaz-Canel. In Brazil, it is invited by the Fundação FHC, associated with the former president of the Toucan, Fernando Henrique Cardoso. Indeed, he did not meet with human rights activists, usually linked to the local Philo-Cuban left. she spoke to Sheet on Wednesday night (15th) in a hotel in São Paulo.
In Latin America, Brazil in particular, most human rights activists can be considered left-wing. Overall, this camp supports the Cuban regime. like mrs. see this? Human rights are neither right nor left. It is a subject that should not be ideologized. Unfortunately, there is this confusion of language, which is also the responsibility of the Castro regime in Latin America. I would like to speak with activists in Brazil, but I haven’t tried, maybe I should.
Leaders criticized for their authoritarianism in the region, such as Donald Trump and Jair Bolsonaro, are critical of Cuba. Doesn’t it end up being contradictory? Well, it’s a political thing. See, the military regime of [general Jorge] Videla in Argentina [de 1976 a 1981], which was practically fascist, was related to Cuba. Mexico is not a dictatorship, but to a certain extent it is a mafia narco-state with good relations with Cuba. In Latin America, there is the issue of anti-imperialist sentiment on the left, which sees the embargo on Cuba as a struggle between David and Goliath. This serves as a smokescreen.
Which justifies the regime. Yes, the narrative serves the government to divert attention from civil, constitutional, human and economic rights issues. I do not, of course, want to minimize the indirect effects on citizens. But the sanctions are designed to affect the country’s summit. It’s something similar to what Joe Biden did to Vladimir Putin over Ukraine. Cuba supports the war, a shameful thing, it should be held accountable.
In Brazil, Lula leads the presidential race and is a supporter of the Cuban regime. what mrs. wait for him? I would tell Lula what I would say to [argentino] Alberto Fernández, to all those Latin American presidents who are complacent with Castroism. Let them dare to live in the truth. That they place the values of democracy above political and economic interests. It is crucial at a time of growing global authoritarianism. History will judge them if they don’t.
like mrs. compares the Cuba-US relationship under Obama, Trump and Biden? There are different moments. I changed my idea of what the relationship with the US should be like. I would not like the US to be so important in internal affairs. The first US fan is the Castro regime, which uses the embargo to justify its bureaucratic inefficiency. It’s an obsession, dating back to 1901, at the beginning of the republic. We have to get rid of this psychological dependence.
Did the situation change after Díaz-Canel came to power? He did not, after all, carry the surname Castro, which had its mystique. Certainly, but I will not give any legitimacy to Castroism. But everything has changed, the Cuba of today is not the Cuba of the 1990s, of the 2000s, of the apparent opening, when Raúl Castro took over. Until 2018, I thought that the embargo only served as a justification for the regime.
There is no embargo that justifies guards throwing mothers and children overboard or mismanagement. As part of the myth, especially on the international left, this cannot be sustained after July 11th. We barely had a civil war. But today I think the sanctions are coherent.
When Mrs. started to be interested in politics? My generation was always contestant. I was lucky, as I was raised by my paternal grandparents in the 1990s in a house where the parents had to leave Cuba in search of better opportunities. It was a hard time after the fall of the Soviet Union [que ajudava a sustentar o regime]and they were from a very rebellious region, they were critical of the regime.
Many people who are now on 27N started talking, confronting the police, in parks in Havana. The opening of the internet in 2013 changed everything. Soon we were communicating, using VPN [sistema que permite acessar sites estrangeiros]. Today social networks, with all the problems of fake news and such, are the agora where we discuss. Before Díaz-Canel, there was repression, but not as strong, perhaps because we were not seen as a threat.
Now that has changed. Yup. When Díaz-Canel takes over, his first decision was to implement decree 349, which legalized artistic censorship in the country. Censorship has always existed in the arts, but it had never become law. In the 1980s, they censored an exhibition, prohibited a person from exhibiting. But now they can step in and shut down an artist’s personal studio.
How we came from the Obama years, when everything looked like it was going to change [com a abertura do americano à ilha], the artistic class did not accept. I think they believed that the community would be scared, people would think individually about the risks. But the opposite happened: only together can we stop this, we don’t want to lose this little freedom we have.
Were there not other segments of society involved? It all starts with art, but then it expanded. See the 27N manifesto, which grew out of the only large protest ever held in front of a Havana public building since the revolution. The manifesto called for political freedoms, because there is no artistic freedom without them. This became a civic movement, which led to the 11th of July.
How was your departure from Cuba? I spent six months trapped at home, from April to November 2021. I ran away twice, I visited every dungeon in Havana. On January 31, when protesting against the trials of activists, I was given the option: either I would leave the country or they would also accuse the mothers of young detainees. I left, I have dual Spanish nationality and I stopped in Madrid, my charges are still open.
When Mrs. Do you think she will return to Cuba? I want to come back every day, but I just want to come back in a position of strength. The July 11th feeling of liberation is something they can never take away from you. Cuba was never the same again.
like mrs. see the next steps? Dictatorship still stands. The myth of the revolution fell on the 11th of July, the regime no longer has popular support. On the other hand, the repressive power is real, it is there. But I believe it’s the throes of a wounded animal. This year, according to the Cuban Observatory for Human Rights, we had more protests than last year, but they are smaller.
It takes one group to succeed another in power. There is alternative? This question is fundamental, and I think the answer is not the expected one. Unlike Nicaragua and Venezuela, in Cuba there are no opposition parties, only the Communist one, and any form of association is persecuted. This seems like a disadvantage, but I believe it is an advantage.
That’s because the protest movement was a self-awareness of civil rights. Parties must be born out of these needs. The associations are maturing for the democratic transition process. We have centers, local groups, movements like 27N, LGBTQI+ groups, anti-macho and feminist associations, which deal with a big problem in Cuba.
Cuban authoritarianism is elitist, classist, sexist, racist, it is almost fascist. If he was a socialist, he forgot it long ago. So it’s not a wasteland.
what mrs. says is that the Cuban opposition is not alone in Miami. And them? All are Cubans. Whatever ideology you have, you have the right to think about the nation. If not, we will repeat the same mistakes of Castroism, it would not be democracy. Of course, Miami’s initial exile had a very conservative ideology, many today are close to Trump, and are entitled to do so. They are often seen as the only Cuban opposition, and this is something the regime has encouraged. They are an important part, but they are not the leaders.
I would say no one leads the opposition, luckily. I think it’s best that there is no “who” in this process, which perpetuates the logic of one leader replacing another, so we can focus on the “how.”
And would there be room for members of power today in this transition? Of course, there is room for everyone. Cuba needs to move towards a process of reconciliation. We need to learn from similar cases. Which is not to say that there were no crimes, an impartial Truth Commission is needed. It takes something in measure, without hate. Neither justice nor impunity.
Mrs. Will you enter politics? I am a cultural and political activist, but I believe that political caste is part of the evil.