Cubans Are Losing Their Fear

Antonio Rodiles
Antonio Rodiles

By Carmen Muñoz for ABC.es

To Antonio G. Rodiles (born Havana, 1972) it seemed “unthinkable” that a Cuban musician would dare to ask for free elections during an official concert, until the jazz musician Roberto Carcassés did it last week in the capital. “It’s a sign of the new times,” said this physicist, director of the Estado de SATS (State of SATS) think tank, and coordinator of the citizen campaign For Another Cuba. The arrest of the human rights activist over 19 days last November, accompanied by a brutal beating, had wide repercussions.

After participating in Prague in a forum about transitions, this Friday he will meet in Madrid with the Secretary of State for Latin America, Jesus Gracia, and speak at the Real Instituto Elcano. His biggest challenge now is the international meeting on human rights that he is preparing for this December 10 in Havana. “If now they let us (the dissidents) travel. Why don’t they let Cubans and interested foreigners enter the country to participate in a civil society activity. We challenge the system to demonstrate whether it is really changing or not.” This Saturday he returns to the island.

– Do you think Roberto Carcasses incident has ended with the sanction imposed by the regime?*

AR: Robertico Carcassés will just have to deal with it, the regime is waiting for the storm to pass to go after him. He has put on numerous concerts, inside and outside the island, and has never put on any demonstrations like this, even though people know that neither he nor his father (the showman Bobby Carcassés) are unconditional supporters of the regime, like Silvio Rodriguez. His daring is a sign that times are changing in Cuba, people want substantial changes, of greater significance, the current ones are just superficial. Cubans are losing their fear, they are daring more, 54 years of a totalitarian regime is too much time. They now understand that for there to be changes the system must change. What Carcassés did was unthinkable, he didn’t do it as an act of suicide.

– Did the singer Silvio Rodriguez challenge the dictatorship by inviting Carcassés to his concerts?

AR: Silvio tried to throw water on the fire, to find the smartest solution for the system. The censorship of Carcassés censorship would have implied that the news of the act of free speech had acquired major notoriety, counterproductive for the regime.

– What message about the Cuban reforms did you send to Spain?

AR: They are totally inadequate, especially when the country is undergoing such an crisis. For Cuba not to collapse we need to undertake structural changes that would imply accepting all the political, economic, social and cultural rights contained in the UN covenants to enter into a real transition process.

– What do you think the appeal this week from the Cuban Catholic Church for political changes to accompany the economic?

AR: Recently the Church has taken an unwise position. However, it seems very important to me as a political actor and it would be highly recommended to begin to focus on and respect the fundamental rights in Cuba. If that happens, it could play a vital role in the short and medium term.

– Do the new times also affect the dissidence?

AR: There is a rethinking of many points of strategy, of projection, that may have had something to do with the ability to make contact with the outside world through immigration reform. Opponents can travel and make contact with politicians from other countries, Cubans abroad … which leads to a new scenario.

– And to repression?

AR: They have changed their tactics but continue doing it. Now it’s surgical, focused on the projects and actors that the Government considers dangerous to its totalitarian hegemony of power. There are still beatings, large operations to block the opposition from attending events, and short duration arrests. Lately they don’t even take those the arrest to police stations, they abandon them in inhospitable places.

State of SATS and For Another Cuba

During the summer of 2010, Antonio G. Rodiles launched this «think tank mixed with art» in order to «create a public space for discussions» in Cuba among intellectuals, artists and human rights activists . A group of eight people, among them the writer and political prisoner Angel Santiesteban, coordinate exhibitions, documentaries, debates or videos that seek to impact the civil society.

From these discussions, emerged the idea of promoting the For Another Cuba campaign, with the objective of urging the Castro regime to ratify and implement two United Nations covenants on civil and political rights, and on economic, social and cultural United Nations. The creator and director of Estado de SATS adds that «its implementation is a kind of road map to begin the transition from the recognition of fundamental rights.»

Translator’s note:
*After this interview the regime withdrew the sanction — that he would not be allowed to perform in public — against Robertico Carcassés.

Source: ABC.ES. Interview originally published on 9 September 2013