The big news for all Cubans, without a doubt, has been the reestablishment of relations between Cuba and the United States, which has been a dream for three generations on our captive island, although there are opponents among some fellow countrymen both here and abroad. The other story — the one about the release of the three spies from the Wasp Network who, for refusing to the collaborate with American authorities, became by the grace of the Cuban government “anti-terrorist heroes” even though they had acknowledged their role as spies in courts of law — raises a secondary issue, which is the high economic cost for our country in the form of lawyers, propaganda and family visits.

Of course, the vast majority of Cubans without access to the internet or any other means of information other than Cuban television or Venezuela’s TeleSur (more of the same) has dutifully accepted as true what government propaganda has them led to believe, since the priorities of this long-suffering people are food and day-to-day survival. Others who rely on official media accept it out of fear of being challenged politically.

If (like me) you wander the streets of Havana, you will hear various expressions of playful joy that reveal the average person’s true feelings. Comments, especially those of young people (who do not have an official microphone under their noses), reflect dreams of a better future: We will soon have the internet, ferry service will return, McDonald’s will be everywhere, we will now be able to go to the “yuma”* without endangering our lives and those of others.

However, some old, recalcitrant members of the Committees for the Defense of the Revolutions (CDR) only talk about the release of the three spies, portraying it as a Cuban triumph over the United States, unaware that it was merely an exchange of three spies for fifty-three political prisoners of interest to the US. Of these details they are ignorant.

This reflects the focus by government-run television (the only kind) which, apparently on orders from above, focused on the return of Gerardo, Ramón and Antonio, who incidentally appeared healthy, well-fed and in superb physical condition, quite at odds with the terrible stories about mistreatment, sweatshops and other falsehoods officially promulgated during their internment.

It also stands in contrast to Alan Gross, who upon his release was anemic, having suffered loss of vision and some teeth. It was a picture worth a thousand words. By continually lying to the Cuban people and unscrupulously manipulating information, the mass media makes it clear that our country does not enjoy freedom of the press.

Now as never before, civil society and the various opposition groups must prioritize this important event, setting aside our personal differences to jointly maintain pressure on the regime so that everyone might find a place in this new, emerging era and that our voices may finally be heard. It is worth remembering that whenever negotiations of any kind take place, one should carry two suitcases: one to give and one to receive.

 *Translator’s note: Slang term for the United States.

22 December 2014

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