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    Why the Dissidence is Irrelevant for Ordinary Cubans

    Why the Dissidence is Irrelevant for Ordinary Cubans / Ivan Garcia
    Posted on November 13, 2015

    Ivan Garcia, 5 November 201 5 — Daniela Sarmiento, 61, has exhausted all
    the legal options with State institutions to complete the process for a
    new home She lives with her three children in a house cracked because of
    a partial collapse or roofs and walls, putting their lives in danger.

    “Since 1988, following the construction of a bomb shelter built by the
    government near my house, they damaged the foundations. Specialists of
    all kinds have come by here. They evaluated the housing as uninhabitable
    but no one resolved anything. I have written letters to the president of
    the country, the national assembly, the armed forces. But by case has no
    solution,” she says.

    When you tell her there are dissident groups that can help her, the
    woman opens her eyes and says, “But can these people (the opponents)
    resolve anything if they are as much victims than we are.”

    In El Calvario, a village of dusty streets and low houses south of
    Havana, the dissident attorney Laritza Diversent, since August 2010, has
    managed a legal clinic that has looked at around 140 files of humble
    people who have exhausted all legal paths.”

    Because of the anachronistic Cuban laws, Diversent and her group of
    lawyers can not represent their clients. Their only option is to advise
    them.

    “Eighty percent of the cases we serve are from people who are not
    dissidents. Very poor people who feel that the courts or state
    institutions do not represent them,” says Diversent sitting in her
    living room converted into an office.

    Aside from the independent legal collectives and a few opposition
    strategies to connect to ordinary Cubans, dissident leaders live in
    another dimension.

    Raul Castro’s autocracy has cleverly hijacked the opposition’s demands.
    The first factions of democracy activists arose in the mid 1970s,
    reclaiming spaces that the olive-green government has been discreetly
    implementing.

    It wasn’t in a session of the monotone Cuban parliament, or in an
    editorial of the State newspaper Granma, or in a union debate, where the
    demand is made for niches for private work, access to the internet, the
    buying and selling of houses and cars, being able to travel abroad, or
    the elimination of tourist apartheid.*

    It was peaceful opponents and independent journalists who raised their
    voices. In their writings and documents such as The Homeland Belongs to
    All. For demanding political openings and changes, hundreds of
    dissidents, alternative communicators and human rights activists have
    gone to jail or into exile, including 75 during the Black Spring of 2003.

    Many of these demands are now part of the package that the government of
    General Raul Castro sold as “updating the Cuban economic model,” scoring
    a political victory and presenting himself as a reformer.

    The unquestionable merits of the dissidence in Cuba cannot be ignored.
    It is a feat to be an opponent in a totalitarian society where those who
    think differently are repressed and there is no legal space to undertake
    their work.

    They could be gentle grandparents, father or mothers who read the boring
    midday national press and care for their children and grandchildren. But
    the value of dissent in an autocratic society does not exempt them from
    being judged for their incompetence.

    “Why,” I ask a neighbor who every morning complains about things in
    Cuba, “don’t you join an opposition group?”

    “Apart from the fear, I feel that the dissidence in Cuba doesn’t meet my
    expectations I don’t seem them chatting with people in the community to
    learn about their problems. They don’t have a strategy to put the
    government up against the wall, they just denounce the repression, they
    could be important, but what affects all Cubans, whatever we think, is
    the low quality of life, a chaotic infrastructure, and seeing what we
    have to do just to find food every day. Political freedoms are
    paramount, but you can’t eat them,” he confesses.

    Yamil, a Havana taxi driver, thinks similarly. “I believe it’s more
    about a media show than communicating with ordinary Cubans, and we are
    the most fucked. Most of them don’t even work. Ninety percent of the
    people in Cuba agree with the demands of the dissidents, but they don’t
    know how to win over the people Their work isn’t going in this direction.”

    Raudel, a university student, makes a comparison, “In the street you see
    the religious denominations, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses who are
    persecuted by the government, proselytizing house to house. The
    dissidents just meet, have discussions and travel abroad.”

    In the last 25 years, except for Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas’ Varela Project
    that managed to get 11,000 signatures, the dissident strategies don’t
    count on popular support. The excessive role of some of them doesn’t
    help either.

    Every opposition leader manages their projects as if it were their own
    property. The lack of transparency, intolerance, and shenanigans condemn
    them to a poor performance.

    Eight of every ten Cubans want change and not just economic ones. People
    want more freedoms, But there are not many regime opponents who are
    doing the work of paying attention to them. It is a thankless task to
    walk under the sun without public recognition.

    But that is the silent work that adds supporters, When they are able to
    call a march with 10,000 people the regime will take them into account.

    They don’t have to convince the United States or the European Union
    about the economic disaster and the lack of freedoms in Cuba. They have
    to talk to their neighbors and tell them that a free and developed
    society depends on them.

    Photo by Ernesto Garcia Diaz of the press conference convened by the
    United Democratic Action Roundtable (MUAD) last August in Havana.

    *Translator’s note: Until recent years, ordinary Cubans were not allowed
    to step foot in tourist hotels, tourist beaches, and other tourist
    facilities (except as employees).

    Source: Why the Dissidence is Irrelevant for Ordinary Cubans / Ivan
    Garcia | Translating Cuba –
    translatingcuba.com/why-the-dissidence-is-irrelevant-for-ordinary-cubans-ivan-garcia/

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