act of repudiation
BY FABIOLA SANTIAGO
Cuban immigration is stirring up a hornet's nest of concern, with good
Are some of the Cuban newcomers victims fleeing oppression and economic
hardship — or two-faced opportunists seeking to cash in on generous U.S.
government benefits available only to Cuban refugees?
Are supporters of the Castro regime going into exile already — in Miami
of all places — because they fear internal change? Or because they don't
want to be left out of the spoils of living on the other side?
Or the worst case, are the new immigrants Cuban government plants, sent
to stir up and diminish the Cuban exile community? A new "Age of
Engagement" way to spy for Cuba?
It's hard to know for sure.
But enough evidence has surfaced in recent days that something sinister
is afoot — and it's time for the relations-giddy Obama administration to
pay attention to what's happening in the underbelly of Cuban Miami, and
It's time to investigate who is on a stampede from Cuba to touch U.S.
soil and take seriously the accusations of exiled dissidents, who say
that some of their oppressors in Cuba are living it up in Miami and
taking advantage of the Cuban Adjustment Act to become residents, and
eventually U.S. citizens.
Take the case of Jenny Freire Rosabal. In a 2012 video in Cuba, she is
clearly seen leading a demonstration against Cuban dissidents who are
barricaded in their house in the eastern province of Camagüey.
From inside their home, the dissidents are filming the angry
neighborhood mob outside engaged in an "act of repudiation" against
them, as these violent attacks are called in Cuba.
Freire and her crew are chanting pro-Castro slogans and threatening to
kick in the door. The barricaded dissidents, in turn, are chanting "Down
with Fidel! Down with Raúl!" and denouncing, on the anniversary of the
massacre, the number of children killed when Cuban government gunboats
sank a tugboat packed with fleeing families in 1994.
Freire is the one in bright yellow tights and red blouse seen holding up
a cardboard banner that says "Long Live the Revolution!" and rallying
everyone around her. She's also pictured on the Internet in Venezuela
rallying on behalf of chavismo, an indication that she's more than just
a local small-town activist in Santa Cruz del Sur.
Now, flash-forward to Facebook in June, 2015, and there she is ...
married and living in Miami. In her profile photo, she poses smiling in
front of packed store shelves.
The man who identified Freire and brought her presence in Miami to light
is the man whose home she attacked in 2012: dissident Yoan David
Gonzalez, member of a prominent group in eastern Cuba.
Freire's husband, Adalberto Duvernal — tracked down Monday by a
Univision 23 reporter at his job at a custom boat manufacturer off the
Palmetto Expressway — confirms on camera that Freire is the woman who
staged the videotaped acto de repudio.
Duvernal claims that his wife was "forced to do that" in Cuba so that
she could be seen as a Castro supporter, be allowed to travel, and find
a way out of the island. She had tried four times to leave and failed,
he said. Such displays of doble moral — two-faced morality — are common
in Cuba. We've seen this play out before in previous generations, when
people made proclamations of loving Fidel or being Communists and later
defected at the first chance. But people seldom went as far as violently
To make this case more revolting, Duvernal accuses Gonzalez, the
dissident, of being "a criminal" — the preferred Cuban government
terminology to demean dissidents. Duvernal, also a recent arrival, says
he came as a "political refugee" himself and brought Freire — whom he
married in October — with him.
What a mockery of U.S. law and the concept of this country as a place of
refuge to the truly politically persecuted.
Gonzalez says he has filed a complaint against Freire with immigration
authorities and with U.S. Rep. Frederica Wilson, in whose district he
lives. Wilson should take it up with the Obama administration. The Cuban
Americans in Congress should also support an investigation. Cuba
immigration policy needs a lot of revision and updating.
Who is who, and who is doing what, is not a difficult thing to
investigate these days, when everyone feels the need to be on social
media. It didn't take me long to follow the online print of Freire and
company to discern who is who — and to make connections to recent Cuban
arrivals in Miami, Tampa and New York who have ties to open Cuban
Looking the other way while rights abusers take advantage of a generous
engagement policy for personal gain and to push their agenda is not an
option in a country that purports to uphold freedom and human rights as
Every American president has made the same mistake: underestimating the
Castro regime and its tactics — among them pushing emigration to its
advantage. President Barack Obama should think himself no different and
develop some skepticism, and quickly.
It's one thing to pursue engagement as a savvy strategy, a new way
forward. It's quite another to be played for a fool.
Source: Fabiola Santiago: Some new immigrants from Cuba need a second
look | Miami Herald -
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Fabiola Santiago: Disruption of Yoani speech in New York carries echoes
By Fabiola Santiago
NEW YORK -- What do you know?
I came to the hip "capital of the world" to attend an unprecedented
conference on digital media in Cuba — and ended up witnessing an
American-style version of what on the island is widely known as " un
acto de repudio."
Literally, the phrase means an act of repudiation, but in any language
it's a calculated, verbally violent attack that escalates and turns
uglier and uglier with by the moment. It's the favored weapon of the
desperately intolerant to quash a point of view that runs contrary to
their deeply held beliefs.
Note this important difference: The point of an " acto de repudio" is
not to express an opposing viewpoint — a value held dearly in our
democracy — but to disrupt an event and/or discredit an individual.
And that's exactly what a group of pro-Cuban-government Americans sought
to do Saturday in this cultural hub where one expects intelligent
conversation — disrupt the packed conference The Revolution Recodified:
Digital Culture and the Public Sphere in Cuba, at The New School's
Tishman Auditorium, and discredit one of its panelists, the celebrated
Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez.
In the United States for the first time, Sánchez, 37, was the last
speaker of the last panel of the day, Cuba in a Global Context: Social
Media and Political Change, which included U.S. experts on social
network analysis who have done fieldwork in Russia and the Middle East.
While the panelists made insightful presentations about how global
networks are expanding and fomenting social change, organizers gave
members of the audience note cards to write down questions for the
panelists. It was an effort to speed up time-consuming translations and
people walking up to microphones.
After the questions were collected, conference coordinator Coco Fusco, a
Cuban-American interdisciplinary artist and associate professor at The
New School, read them to the panelists.
Most turned out to be for Sánchez — and quickly, a pattern of antagonism
against her emerged:
How much money is the State Department paying you?
Could Sánchez name five human rights violations in Cuba, since the
previous day she had said there were many but hadn't named one?
Has she ever attempted a civil dialogue with people who support the
Sánchez took the questions as an opportunity to present the kind of view
of the real Cuba that quickly shatters utopian myths.
Her answers were slam dunks against the regime — and most of the
audience applauded her.
The fact that she and the U.S. government coincide on wanting to see
democratic change in Cuba, Sánchez said, doesn't make her "a slave" to
U.S. interests, and by the way, when did you ever hear of a person in
Cuba who wanted freedom and wasn't called a CIA agent?
"The rhetorical game," Sánchez called the practice.
She listed a myriad human rights violations recognized by the Geneva
Convention — lack of freedom of speech and assembly, of movement
throughout the island, etc., but the last violation she named was a
zinger: Lack of access to the Internet.
"That, to me, is also a human right," she said.
But it was her answer to the question about who she had engaged in
dialogue that brought out the rage in her detractors.
Every attempt to debate issues has ended in pro-government people
hurling insults, or hasn't materialized because the other side hasn't
come to the table, Sánchez said.
She gave as an example her attempt to engage Raúl Castro's daughter,
Mariela, who was abroad promoting her work on gay issues at the National
Center for Sex Education, with the question: "Now that Cubans are free
to come out of the sexual closet, when will they be able to come out of
the political closet?"
To which Mariela Castro answered that what Sánchez needed was sexual
therapy, and that she could get it at CENESEX.
"That's a lie!" a woman in the audience shouted and was immediately
joined by others who echoed her from different corners of the auditorium.
One after the other, the pro-Castro members of the audience began
shouting tired lines used by the Cuban government and unfurling
anti-Sánchez banners smuggled into the auditorium with their personal
They also threw dollar bills printed with Sánchez's face into the air
and along the aisles
Sánchez supporters grabbed two of the banners away from the protesters
and ripped them up.
"Yoani! Yoani!" her supporters began to chant.
It's amazing the kind of misery a heavy dose of hard truth — the kind
that shatters the myths of ideologues — is capable of unleashing.
For those of us who were sitting in the middle of this circus as the
tensions escalated, it was scary. There were no metal detectors during
this part of the three-day conference and few security officers, so
there was no way of knowing if anyone was armed and how far things would go.
Take note, Miami.
The world will soon cast its eyes upon the exile capital to see what
kind of reception Sánchez receives. If New York was a dress rehearsal,
the provocateurs have already been lined up for a big show.
But I hope we can do better than this and let Sánchez speak her truth,
whatever that may be, in peace and freedom.
http://www.miamiherald.com/2013/03/19/v-fullstory/3295249/fabiola-santiago-disruption-of.html Continue reading
Posted: 02/19/2013 1:12 pm
Perhaps you don't know — because not everything is related in a blog —
but the first act of repudiation that I saw in my life was when I was
only five. The commotion in the tenement caught the attention of the two
girls we then were, my sister and I. We peered over the railings of the
narrow corridor to look down to the floor below. People were screaming
and raising their fists around a neighbor's door. As young as we were,
we had no idea what was going on. What's more, now when I recall what
happened I have barely the memory of the cold railing under my fingers
and a brief flash of those who were shouting. Years later I could put
together that kaleidoscope of childish evocations and I knew I had been
a witness to the violence unleashed against those who wanted to emigrate
from the port of Mariel.
Well, since then I have experienced several acts of repudiation up
close. Whether as a victim, observer, or journalist... never -- I should
clarify -- as a victimizer. I remember a particularly violent one that I
experienced with the Ladies in White, where the hordes of intolerance
spat on us, pushed us and even pulled our hair. But last night was
unprecedented for me. The picketing of the extremists who blocked the
showing of Dado Galvao's film in Feria de Santana was something more
than the sum of unconditional supporters of the Cuban government. They
all had, for example, the same document -- printed in color -- with a
pack of lies about me, as Manichean as they were easy to refute in a
simple conversation. They repeated an identical and hackneyed script,
without the least intention of listening to any reply I could give them.
They shouted, interrupted, and at one point became violent, and
occasionally launched a chorus of slogans that even in Cuba are no
However, with the help of Senator Eduardo Suplicy, and the calm in the
face of adversity that characterizes me, we managed to start talking. In
short: they only knew how to yell and repeat the same phrases, like
programmed automatons. So the meeting was very interesting! Their neck
veins swelled, I cracked a smile. They attacked me personally, I brought
the discussion back to Cuba which will always be more important than
this humble servant. They wanted to lynch me; I talked. They were
responding to orders; I am a free soul. At the end of the night I had
the same feelings as after a battle against the demons of the same
extremism that fueled those acts of repudiation in 1980 in Cuba. The
difference is that this time I understood the mechanism that foments
these attitudes, I could see the long arm that controls them from the
Plaza of the Revolution in Havana.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/yoani-sanchez/cuba-organizes-acts-of-re_b_2718118.html Continue reading
Lilianne Ruiz, Translator: Unstated
Yesterday I decided to go to Neptune Street between Aramburu and
Hospital Streets to see about and receive impressions of the site where
from 7:35 in the morning on Friday until today, Tuesday, September 25,
the repressive organs have established themselves in front of the
headquarters of the Ladies in White.
At some point in the afternoon when it came time for me to decide
between leaving or staying home I made the second choice. I imagined
myself in the situation of a person who avoids plunging into very cold
or very hot water, and you just put one foot forward or imagine you can
but the body and soul hang back, avoiding the danger.
The news came by word of mouth: the street and house were under siege,
it was impossible to reach them. They had ordered the employees and
students from the University of Havana to go there to repudiate* them.
The Federated University Students (FEU) "extras" and a platform with
singers were making noise, while State Security agents were stationed at
the door to prevent the Ladies from leaving to go to Church. The extras
in Cuba have become somewhat macabre, I always perceive them in slow
motion, the government uses them to repudiate while the mob, brought in
for the occasion, beats the opponents.
No one imagines that immensely apathetic people who participate in an
act of repudiation, under orders sent from the top of the pyramid of
power in Cuba, have the least interest in either in changing their
destinies or in defending this government from the threat of a group of
women who protest in defense of the rights of all Cubans not to go to
jail for dissent or for denouncing the regime, and who fight for the
release of those who are now prisoners under conditions difficult to
imagine, and even to believe on hearing their testimonies.
I remember the legend of the martyrdom of St. John of Patmos at the
Latin Gate, and the poem. Surely as part of my quest to continue to
protect my shell.
Finally a feeling of frustration invades me. I can't write about
anything else. At night the number of Ladies in White imprisoned was
confirmed to be more than 60.
Meanwhile at my daughter's school they are preparing the children for
the Young Pioneers scarf. A picture of the Castro brothers on one of the
walls of the classroom and portraits of the five State Security agents
(the "Cuban Five") — colleagues of the abusers besieging the house of
the late Laura Pollán — appear in the childish imagination as heroes of
Those are not my values nor the values I want my daughter to learn. I
would be difficult with her five years to maintain two meanings for the
same symbols; because none of these people are completely real to the
child's perception, fairies are more real. It's me who's looking for the
morals and hope of all these childhood fables, where being brave and
telling the truth don't leave you completely alone against the forces of
*Translator's note: The nature of these "repudiation rallies" is clear
from the photos in this post. The regime often claims they are
"spontaneous uprisings of outraged neighbors" but in fact people are
routinely bussed in and the actions are planned in advance. In at least
one case, confronting the regime with knowledge of a planned
"spontaneous rally" and demanding its cancellation was successful, at
least in cancelling that particular action.
September 25 2012
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