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Cuba: What do the Cables from Havana Say? (Part III)

Categories: Latin America, North America, Cuba, U.S.A., Digital Activism, Governance, International Relations, Politics, Protest, Technology

*This post is the third part of a series: You can read the first post here [1] and the second here [2].

On March 15, 2007, the head of the United States Interests Section in Havana, Michael E. Parmly, sent a cable [3] explaining the results of a personal meeting with Martha Beatriz Roque, one of the leaders of the Cuban opposition. During the meeting, Roque said her main objective in the coming months would be to “find a way to get a million Cubans to come out into the streets to demand meaningful political and economic changes.”
To do this, says the cable, they intend to use Fidel Castro's funeral and the tenth anniversary of the creation of the document “The Homeland Belongs to All of Us”, written by members of the Working Group of Internal Dissent: Felix Antonio Bonne Carcasses, René de Jesús Gómez Manzano, Vladimiro Roca Antúnez and Martha Beatriz Roque Cabello.

A cable [4] dated April 2006 gives an account of the constant monitoring of the Castro brothers’ health by the United States Interests Section in Havana. In this letter, Parmly talks about the decline in public appearances by the current Cuban President and the deteriorating health of Raúl Castro, using the Japanese ambassador as source, Iwata, who stated that “Raúl was in a worse physical condition than Fidel. “

A few months later, Fidel Castro's illness was officially announced, which caused his resignation. In this context, since March 2, 2007, the opposition began to organize cultural events. These were “encouraged by the U.S. Interests Section”, as confirmed by a cable titled “The Cuban Opposition: The (art) Show Must Go On” [5], dated March 5 of that year. The cable says the opposition should foster: [6] “the constant search for human stories or other news that would demystify the heroic narrative  of the Cuban medical system. “

With Fidel Castro out of the public arena and the increased activity from the opposition, the leader Martha Beatriz Roque [MBR in the cable] explains that “mobilization should be encouraged at the exact moment that would generate significant changes. ” Parmly, in the meantime, acknowledged that the actions of the opposition, “while useful and necessary, are insufficient to achieve regime change. From our point of view, only XXXXXXXXX [deleted in original] and Oswaldo Paya [principal author of the Varela Project] have the national recognition to mobilize a figure close to one million Cubans. “

Three years after the cable was delivered, the proposal by Martha Beatriz Roque has not yet been materialized. Apparently, contrary to Parmly's predictions, the most significant figures of the traditional opposition do not have the popular support necessary to trigger an uprising. The successor of the Interests Section, Jonhatan D. Farrar, in a cable dated [7] April 2009, says, “it is the new generation of nontraditional dissidents who are closer to achieving long-term impact on post-Castro Cuba. ” For this reason, in recent years, there is focus on the performance of two key figures: the Catholic Church [8] and “alternative bloggers [9].”

However, in a cable [8] dated August 2009 titled “The Catholic Church and the Transition in Cuba”, Farrar admits that “the church keeps away from any public discussion which might be considered counter-revolutionary” and even “has kept away from known opposition figures such as Oswaldo Paya and Dagoberto Valdes, devout Catholics. “

Given this state of affairs, the choice of alternative bloggers is gaining followers. But for this to work, it is of vital importance to increase Internet access and lower its costs. On April 18, 2006, the Cuban dissidents Vladimiro Roca and Elizardo Sánchez requested an interview with the representative of the diplomatic section, Michael Parmly, to discuss the withdrawal of Internet service of 10 independent journalists in 2004 for “inappropriate behavior”.

During the meeting, Parmly announced [10] that other embassies with a presence in Havana gained access to the Internet. Among these were the Offices of Norway, the Netherlands, Britain and the Czech Republic. The Canadian embassy also planned to create a center with Internet access with about eight computers.

Four years later, in a cable [9] classified as “secret,” Jonhatan D. Farrar acknowledged that “the old guard of dissidents was isolated and the Cuban government did not pay much attention to their articles or manifestos because they had no national or international resonance. ” At the same time he encouraged monitoring bloggers “whose ability to stay one step ahead in the use of new technologies and the growing international popularity reached was causing serious headaches for the government.”