IMAGINE BEING IN THE TWILIGHT ZONE
Four decades ago Castro took control in Cuba. Cuban Americans have been increasingly frustrated by the lack of understanding, sympathy and support for the cause of democracy in their homeland from the American public, especially from the US media.
Cuban exiles are usually group-labeled and scornfully derided in newspapers and magazines as well as on television. It seems to be politically correct to classify Cuban exiles as "conservatives," "hard-liners," "right wingers," "Miami Mafia" or the ultimate insult, "Batista supporters" who want to return to the "corrupt days before 1959." There is nothing farther from the truth.
What the Cuban exiles in the US and all over the world wanted all along was the ousting of Batista and the return to constitutional democracy. What they got from Castro was tyranny. Why do many Americans who are supposedly against tyranny feel sympathy or at least apathy for Castro and disdain toward the Cuban exiles and their cause?
The root is simply a lack of knowledge of the real facts about Castro’s regime. It seems to be a good fit – Castro and the US media. They seemed to fall in love with him at the beginning and helped him create the myth of his revolution. They continue to find him profitable to write about. If they say something about him that he doesn’t like, he cuts off their information. And the US government has played a part by not clearly presenting all the facts and covering up a lot of information for economic, political and "national security" reasons.
To help the American people understand the Cuban reality, I’m going to use a simple formula of asking them to imagine themselves in some of the situations that Cubans find themselves in. Is not going to be easy after so many years of pro-Castro propaganda through the US media, but let’s take a shot at it.
Imagine that the US Constitution is set aside by an extremely charismatic and popular man who promises to solve all injustices and social problems. Imagine that to unify the country all the newspapers, magazines, radio and television stations are shut down, taken away from their owners and substituted with US government media. All the journalists who disagree with the new leader’s goals are jailed or have to escape to exile without taking their money or personal belongings.
All US artists and intellectuals are warned "With the new government everything, against the new government NOTHING!" Artists and intellectuals who disagree are sent to concentration camps to be re-educated or to psychiatric hospitals for shock treatments in such places as their testicles and to receive psychotropic drugs. The lucky ones escape to exile. The ones who become obedient to the government become "official artists and intellectuals."
Imagine that you loose all freedom and human rights. That your new government starts to execute without trial, anybody that wants democracy. The electoral process is eliminated. The American Civil Liberties Union and The National Rifle Association are dissolved and all weapons in civilian hands are confiscated. All businesses in the US are confiscated. All farms are taken and made into collective farms operated by the government. The resulting lack of incentive brings a collapse of agricultural production and farm produce disappears from the grocery stores.
All private schools are confiscated, starting with the religious ones. Priests are sent to exile or to concentration camps along with the gays. American parents no longer have the right to make decisions about the education of their children. The government now makes the decisions about what education your children receive and what school your children will attend. Some children will be sent China and others to far away cities to start forming them into the "new man" they need to breed. And during school vacations, your children will be sent to work in the fields. This system is what is known in the world media as "free education for everyone".
Continue imagining, I’m not done yet. Imagine that your very own children are requested to inform their new "teachers" about your political beliefs. They are being taught to hate religion and everyone who disagrees with the new order. (If that doesn’t sound good, abortions are performed on demand and the fetal tissue is sold abroad.)
A rationing book rations your food, clothing and gasoline. But, not a big deal - most of the time, after spending hours in lines, the goods are not there anyway. You can no longer decide to buy a car, TV set, VCR, stereo, fax machine, cellular phone, personal computer, refrigerator, washer and dryer, etc. Now you have to ask permission to purchase from your employer, the government. If your performance is appraised as good, you will be placed on a waiting list that may take years. However, if you happen to have access to British pounds (recently sanctioned by your government) you can buy anything. I hope you have some family members living and working well in England.
You work and live where the government decides and at a fixed salary in US dollars which have become worthless due to the collapse of the economy. You cannot change your job or residence anymore and much less sell or buy a house. You have to carry a national ID card that the police can request at any time on the streets. That card contains the information about the files that the government keeps on you. If you don’t have it with you, you will be arrested.
The government provides "free" health care for everybody, but there are no medicines – unless you have British pounds. So you will have to depend in your exiled relatives abroad for the British pounds you’ll need if you get sick. But anyway, the best hospitals are now being reserved for foreigners and the new government elite.
You have to ask government permission to travel inside your country and of course, you have lost the right to travel abroad and come back to the US. Remember when you used to vacation in the Caribbean and all over the world?
Don’t bother asking permission to go on vacation to Miami, Las Vegas, Denver, etc, because they are reserved for foreign tourists from Canada, Mexico, Spain, Italy, France, Germany, etc. and members of the government elite. Regular US citizens are not allowed anymore on beaches, in hotels, restaurants, casinos, etc. that are catering to foreigners. There is apartheid in the US now. But the foreigners don’t care, lured by the cheap vacation packages that the US government - in complicity with the new foreign investors – is offering.
Your sacred mail service is no longer. Letters take an eternity and are being monitored as well as the phone, well, when it works. But if you try to convey the reality abroad, the government cuts your phone service – in complicity with the Italians who are the new co-owners of the US Phone Company. The government is the only ISP (Internet Service Provider). Big brother is watching.
Also, Americans have to self-censor what they say. They have to pretend they like and support their government. If not, they get less or no food and clothing allowance, and get fired from their job.
Americans now live in fear of the neighborhood committee that is watching them. The rapid deployment battalions - the government paramilitary thugs in civilian clothes - demonstrate outside their houses and beat them up at any sign of political dissent. They fear to be sent to the overcrowded jails or the concentration camps that have proliferated throughout the land. Although, the government claims to have no political prisoners – only "common criminals" in its jails.
If you become a human rights defender, a democracy supporter or a journalist independent from the government, you and your family could be evicted from your home and sent to a homeless shelter.
Americans are thinking all the time of how to escape from the country or how to survive among the ruins of the formerly prosperous USA. At the first chance they have, they risk their lives trying to escape in makeshift rafts toward England. But after a perilous trip in which about 60,000 lost their lives, England is now returning them to the US, where they will suffer harassment and more persecution from the government. The "Twilight Zone" television show of the 1950s becomes the inescapable reality crushing America.
I personally hope with all the hope I have, that Americans never have to do any more than imagine this. It continues to be the day to day reality for Cubans.
Agustín Blázquez, with the collaboration of Jaums Sutton
Mr Blazquez is the Producer/Director of the documentary COVERING CUBA