Watch this story in the next few days. You may think you know Cuba, but you’ll be seeing a lot more of the real Cuba now.
The survivors of the car crash which killed dissident Oswaldo Payá say the car was repeatedly rammed by another car. The family of Payá report that a similarly aggressive driver threatened Payá two weeks earlier.
Those in the car, Payá and two international visitors from Spain and Sweden, were en route to the city of Bayamo, in Granma province, to observe the cholera outbreak that is occurring there. Yes, you heard me – a cholera outbreak. In Cuba, home of the fabled health care system that people seem to think is worth Cubans sacrificing their civil liberties. (We have socialised health care here in Canada, but we also have civil liberties here. Also, I don’t remember the last time cholera broke out in this country, because I wasn’t born in the 19th century – and I certainly don’t remember anyone being run off the road for daring to investigate it.)
I am filled with so much anger about the news of Payá’s death. The anger is primarily directed at the Cuban government, whose fingerprints are pretty clearly all over this, but it’s not only directed at them.
For starters, I can barely stifle my frustration with left-wingers in the US and Canada who are convinced that things like this don’t go on in Cuba, or that somehow they wouldn’t go on like this if it weren’t for outside interference in Cuba’s affairs. Payá actually opposed that kind of interference, for the very practical reason that he didn’t want the regime to be able to smear him as an agent provocateur backed by foreign powers. But our extreme lefties don’t care. They will continue to back the Castros, either tacitly or openly, because he opposes Yanquis and talks a good game about revolution…you know, while people are dying of cholera in Bayamo.
I’m also considerably frustrated with Canadians, who flock to the beach in this police state and act like it’s any other place in Latin America. As much as I admired Pierre Trudeau, he was one of the worst enablers of the Cuban regime – something he rationalised in Realpolitiker terms by suggesting that it had something to do with “balancing power” against the US. I suggest to you that perhaps Canada has balanced power on the back of Oswaldo Payá and others like him, and that perhaps the time has come to find a way of balancing power now against the Cuban regime.
I’m frustrated with right-wingers, whose crazy rhetoric further enables the Cuban regime. Every time some wacko Miami Cuban waxes nostalgic for the alleged good old days under Fulgencio Batista’s dictatorship, the despotism now governing Cuba gets another day added to its lifespan. Remember when young Elián González was sent back to this barracks society because of the parental rights of his father (only considered by the court because Elián’s custodial parent, his mother, had the poor sense to drown trying to escape Cuba?) The real reason Elián was sent back was because people couldn’t see much of a difference between a police state and the community of emigrés in Miami that often waxes nostalgic for the police state which had existed in Cuba previously. That kind of thing does nothing but help the Castros get away with crimes like this. “Well, they’re all the same, right?”
Of course, I’m also frustrated with conservatives even when they say the right thing. Mitt Romney did that when he said Payá’s death “is profoundly heartbreaking and infuriating”, but given what Mitt Romney spends most of his time doing (hint: it’s not standing up for social justice) it is difficult to imagine the Cuban regime failing to use these words of a Republican Party class warrior to their advantage, and to smear Payá.
But most of all, I’m frustrated with people who blather on about how there is no democracy in the US or Canada – people who really don’t get why Payá is now dead. The thing for which history will remember Payá was the Varela Project, which was nothing more than an attempt to file a petition, as is presumably legal under the Cuban constitution, calling for free elections and democratic reforms. Payá died because he wanted Cubans to have rights that we actually have, but nevertheless complain about and don’t use.
Who killed Oswaldo Payá? A better question is, what did we do to save him? And an even better question is, what can we do to save the next dissident on the extermination list of the Castros?