Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Maleconazo: Reflection on the 21st anniversary of the Cuban uprising that shook the dictatorship

"Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future." - Elie Wiesel
Uprising in Havana on August 5, 1994
 In the early hours of August 5, 1994 Cubans began to gather near the Malecon and as the hours passed and the promise of freedom was met with repression the numbers swelled into a huge protest. The video below offers a partial accounting - brief snippets- of what took place. This uprising would become known as the Maleconazo.

State security went out and shot into the crowds. Years later photographs taken by a tourist confirmed the anecdotal accounts of that day. Regis Iglesias described how the dictatorship militarized the streets in an effort to terrorize the populace:  
A convoy of trucks crammed with repressive special troops and a vehicle with a 50 caliber machine gun on top patrolled up and down the long street.
Ignacio Montero described how he was attacked and a young boy was shot:
They broke my left eyebrow and left me semi-lame. Yes, there were assaults and the aggressors had guns, but not among the civilians. One of the boys who went with us, who was called the Moor, even while handcuffed, they shot him in the torso and it was a miracle that he did not die. Who do you think paid for that? No one.

State Security agent points his gun at the crowd
Unfortunately, the Clinton administration backed the dictatorship and not the Cuban people on that day and in the weeks that followed stopped granting parole to Cuban refugees, claiming some as migrants holding them at Guantanamo Naval base and eventually started deporting others to Cuba.

State Security aiming their guns at Cubans
With the latest actions by the Obama administration and State Department, Cubans are slowly coming to the realization that they are on their own and like Chinese pro-democracy activists that is not an easy thing to process. Chinese dissident Wei Jingsheng describes how his jailers in China used the policy of engagement with the communist regime in China to demoralize Chinese democrats:
“The second time I was in jail, before I was officially given a fourteen-year sentence, some of my jailers said, "What’s the point of you fighting like this? Your so-called friends in the United States are very good friends with our leader. They are in a pact together. You are wasting your time." At the time I refused to believe them. But, now that I am outside, I am forced to believe because I have seen it with my own eyes.”
The important thing for Cubans to remember is that with nonviolent resistance even if you are on your own that does not mean that you cannot develop and carry out a strategy to free yourself from the most oppressive of dictatorships, even when backed by the United States.

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