Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Witch Hunting Revisited in Cuba

Witch Hunting Revisited in Cuba
May 25, 2011
Dariela Aquique

Like in the Middle Ages, witch hunts are the search for sorcerers or
evidence of black magic, all of which lead to the accusation of people
who are sometimes tried and always condemned. Currently in Cuba we're
experiencing a remake of this unfortunate phenomenon of past ages.

According to experts, "Witch hunts still occur in the present day and
are usually classified within what is called "moral panic." In general
terms, these end up denoting the persecution of a perceived enemy
(usually a group of social non-conformists) in an extremely biased
manner and independently of their real innocence or guilt…"

In the face of the credibility crisis that confronts our political
system, and with the perception that over it looms the threat of
destabilization, some persist in badgering their fanatics to immediately
react to any accusation of witchcraft = dissidence with superstitious
fears and savagery to punish the presumed practitioners.

An example of this is the unfortunate occurrence experienced by one of
our most prominent figures in the visual arts: the painter, national
arts award-winner and teacher Pedro Pablo Oliva. He has just published
an excellent essay on the web site El Diario de Cuba, where he clearly
describes what happened and expresses his firm and commendable position
of being no more than another Cuban with the right to free expression.

The artist, who was also a member of the Provincial Legislative Assembly
of Popular Power (what made him part of the politocracy of the island),
has been expelled from those ranks accused of dissidence and high
treason for the simple act of having agreed to an interview with
Edumundo Garcia, on his program "La noche se mueve" and a letter
published in the blog Generation Y, the site of Yoani Sanchez, the
blogger classified by the inquisitors as the most infamous
witch=dissident in the country.

He was also questioned about his friendship with people and institutions
satanized by government leadership. His arts workshop in Pinar del Rio
was closed and a chain of events have begun that are condemning the
famous creator to social isolation and discredit.

The mechanism functions like it did in the Inquisition, but here its
principal target is not the practitioners of witchcraft, but heretics.
For them, witchcraft didn't initially turn out to be as great a danger
as the other medieval heresies.

Right now, to express ideas with courage and conviction or to raise
criticism of the methods of the leadership of Cuban society doesn't
deliberately imply a crime, but I'm sure work is being done to somehow
transform these into that. It's such that witches shouldn't be pursued
actively, but only under accusation.

This can also be done under the accusation of a comrade, which was how
Oliva was subjected to scrutiny. Years ago we had a period of witch
hunts in Cuba where one could be singled out by the accusing finger if
they didn't sympathize with the government or if they held another
incriminating opinion.

Formerly, investigations based on suspicion, rumors or accusations were
often enough to start the judicial machinery that led to getting false
confessions through torment. I remember the unfortunate case of
Herberto Padilla 40 years ago. Under psychological pressure he declared
himself guilty of being a heretic. Oliva was more valiant before the
rural court and did not declare himself at fault since he hadn't done
anything wrong.

Together with the news of what happened to the painter, a close friend
commented to me that universities also promote actions like these to
"combat" all manifestations of disaffection. They identify those people
who should be reported and as a consequence these individuals receive
from public admonishments to expulsion.

Reappearing in the social jargon are sayings like, "Within the
Revolution everything, outside of it nothing" and "the universities are
for revolutionaries." A young student who's not careful with their words
can say good-bye to their career. Likewise, if an excellent artist
doesn't choose their friends or interviewers correctly, they can wind up
in big trouble.

In any setting we will be exposed to someone who with their gauge will
pick you out or will speak against you if you say what you think, if
that is not favor of what's established. Be careful freethinking men
and women! Tomorrow it might be you who are seen as the black magician
in these revisited witch hunts.

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