Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Where could one find hope?

Posted on Monday, 09.28.09
Where could one find hope?

After nearly a week of euphoria, I think it's time the overly optimistic
Cuban-American community put their feet back on the ground. For the past
week, I've heard all sorts of claims about the value of the Juanes
concert, how it will build hope among Cuban youth, how it's a sign the
regime is changing, how it's a sign the exile community is changing. I
must respectfully disagree.

Hope derived from this concert is from the mistaken impression that
Cuba's youth will be motivated to pursue its freedom and the Cuban
government will not be able to control it.

I'm not quite sure what concert people saw, but here's the one I saw:

Foreigners were the only performers given any leeway in what they said,
and even then, they were obviously limited in their freedom of speech.

The two ``questionable'' Cuban artists who the Cuban government allowed
to perform, X Alfonso and Carlos Varela, were kept on the tightest of
leashes (particularly Varela) and their combined performances lasted
fewer than 30 minutes. Varela was chaperoned off stage by security as
soon as both songs were over. (As his performance was divided in two,
God forbid the Cuban people see him on stage for longer than 7 minutes
at a time.)

The final group performance of the concert allowed only the foreigners
to keep microphones in their hands; the microphone stayed far away from
Varela and Alfonso.

So, again, we see that foreigners are given more rights than Cubans,
even Cuban artists. This is nothing new for Cuba, but perhaps we can
point it out and not pretend like this was some major tumbling of walls.

So, my question is: How do the Cuban youth derive hope from this? It
remains obvious to any Cuban who watched the concert that nothing had
changed in Cuba or in its government.

Yes, the exile community was mentioned for perhaps the first time in 50
years. But again, how does this encourage hope for freedom for Cubans?
What occurred was a concert, nothing more, nothing less. The Cuban
people were able to enjoy the performances of world-famous mega stars,
all the while knowing that the following day would be the same as the

I am heartened to see that the Cuban government did not politicize the
concert the way that it could have been, that it did not manipulate the
statements of the artists who performed. I sincerely thought that they
would and am glad they did not.

But the Cuban government persists in being a repressive,
near-totalitarian dictatorship. Hundreds of ``questionable'' Cuban youth
were told by state police that they could not attend the concert. This
is not freedom. This is not a changing government.

The message was sent loud and clear to the Cuban people: if you're a
foreigner, you're safe; if you're Cuban, you will continue to be unable
to speak your truth just like Alfonso, just like Varela.

Vanessa Lopez is a research associate at the Institute for Cuban and
Cuban-American Studies at the University of Miami, and a member of
UMCAUSA, a pro Cuba-democracy student-led group.

Where could one find hope? - From Our Inbox - (28
September 2009)

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