Cuban migrants in the Costa Rica-Nicaragua border. Photo credit: Reuters. Source: Telesur
I have the impression that progressives have found a sneaky way to catch my eye: by obtaining my e-mail address without my knowledge and consent. For some time now, I have been receiving messages from the International Committee for Peace, Justice, and Dignity for the Peoples, a California-based activist network that initially demanded the liberation (which happened last year) of five Cuban intelligence agents indicted and jailed in the US for espionage and is currently campaigning to “support the just struggles of the peoples of the world, from Latin America and the Caribbean to the Middle East.” The messages they send make it automatically to my spam folder and, for that reason, they are ignored, but every now and then they send something that does catch my eye.
Hours before the end of 2015, I received from them a message wishing me a happy new year with a poem by Eduardo Galeano, entitled “The Right to Rave.” It is the next-to-last part of his book Upside Down: A Primer for the Looking Glass World and invites readers to “set our sights beyond infamy to imagine another possible world” – that is, a more humane and less consumption-crazed world where los jodidos (roughly translated to “The Screwed Ones”) can finally exercise their right to a dignified life. Galeano offers a long list of “raves” that certainly deserve the support of the whole human race, so there is nothing wrong with imagining that other possible world. Neither is there anything wrong – theoretically – with the Committee doing so.
Meanwhile, several thousands of Cuban migrants on their way to the US were stuck in Costa Rica since the preceding month, floating in a legal limbo after Nicaragua closed its border and sent soldiers and police officers to forcibly clear the area. Official Cuba was silent for days, only to declare later that those migrants left their country for economic reasons and therefore did not deserve to be treated like political refugees by the US, to which it blames for the crisis by keeping the Cuban Adjustment Act in the books. Costa Rica welcomed the migrants, but Nicaragua’s decision forced it to stop granting temporary visas and declare that neither will it admit more migrants nor shelter those it already has. In response, Central American countries have prepared a plan to solve the situation that includes flights scheduled for later this month to El Salvador, from which the migrants will be transported by road to the Mexico-Guatemala border.
Very likely, the dreamers of that other possible world that wished me a happy 2016 with that Galeano poem have not paid attention to these events. Their silence regarding the odyssey of these migrants is now longer than the Cuban government’s, but it is equally eloquent. Neither has there been any condemnation against the Nicaraguan government for beating and shooting (rubber bullets, though) a group of migrants that, under international law, are supposed to be treated with respect and dignity and not as common criminals. But in turn the Committee has plenty of condemnatory statements against the US because of the embargo and the Cuban Adjustment Act. In all, it seems that these supporters of utopia have determined that the Cubans stuck in Central America do not meet the necessary requisites to become part of los jodidos. For that reason, there will not be even a tuitazo on their behalf.
Those who emigrate rave about a dignified life that will allow them to realize themselves as human beings but cannot be obtained in their countries of origin. Cuba-based blog Havana Times explains the very plausible reasons for the rave among the Cubans that leave or want to leave: “[i]t’s not hatred towards the revolution [sic], its disillusionment. Too many economic failures; poor leadership; a bad system; far too many obstacles everywhere; too many prohibitions still standing; and scant, next to no power granted to the people to have a say in improvements. We rely 99.9% on a tiny and exclusive group of people who earned their right to govern the country more than 56 years ago in a guerrilla war and hold absolute power, propped up by laws and made legitimate by international recognition.” That is the self-critique that neither the Cuban government nor the International Committee for Peace, Justice, and Dignity for the Peoples will engage in because it is not convenient to notice that the emperor has been wearing no clothes for a very long time. (As of 2017, there has been a self-critique of sorts from the Cuban government.) On the contrary, it is better to continue waving the flag of the other possible world to prop up the crumbling revolutionary edifice, for the sake of utopia. In any case, that the Cuban government has said that the émigrés in question are mere economic émigrés is an admission (accidental, but still an admission) that the Cuban Revolution has nothing to offer, except maybe speeches bloviating against neoliberalism and defending the right of Bolivarian Venezuela to exist.
One of Galeano’s raves is that politicians will stop believing that the poor like to eat promises. That problem is not exclusive to neoliberal countries. The Cuban government and its fans at the Committee believe that the Cubans screwed by economic failures, obstacles, powerlessness, and lack of opportunities (not to mention political repression) like to eat the speeches delivered every July 26. Nothing can be further away from the truth. That is why it is embarrassing to assume that Cubans living in Cuba do not have the same right to rave the other Latin American jodidos have. Or that they do not have justified motives to emigrate, economic or not.
As far as I am concerned, my disappointment with the Committee is so great that from now on every e-mail I receive from them will be blocked without remission. Maybe I should have done that a long time ago.
Note: This post was updated in May 2017. An earlier version, written in Spanish, was published in Spain-based online newspaper Mundiario.