A recent incident in which a very young sympathizer of the Cuban opposition group Ladies in White was violently assaulted, only highlights the violence that has existed for decades against those who openly express themselves against the government in Cuba. These violent acts have been not only supported but also instigated by the government, and are public in nature. Throughout the years they have become so common, that they have acquired an official name, “acts of repudiation” (positive in the eyes of the government and official media). In the 1980s, for example, entire neightborhoods participated in these public shaming rituals against those deemed anti-revolutionary, which included anyone who was rumored to be leaving the country anytime soon. These acts of repudiation are an important part of the cuban repressive machinery, and are most often planned through neighborhood “committees for the defense of the revolution.”
Today, these acts are combined with police brutality. Many times, police officials actually disguise themselves as civilians, making the distinction between civilians and police violence even harder to flesh out.
Although the Cuban government scores high marks in systematic human rights violations, this is very different from the kinds of mass atrocities we have looked at in this course. Although the government itself plays a key role in these acts, they are a better representation of the kind of violence and repression that is committed by day to day citizens against each other. Needless to say, it is incredibly rare for anyone to be tried for violent crimes related to these acts, given that they are condoned and instigated by the government. In the mentioned incident, for example, the perpetrator was not even charged by local authorities, and the hospital reported the victim’s wounds as being minor, despite the fact that she had to remain in an intensive care unit after being stabbed a dozen times.
As a result, local resentments have grown and cemented throughout the years, especially because of the strength of communal relationships, where everyone knows each other in a given neighborhood, and people are aware of who key perpetrators are. In the event of a democratic transition, it would be virtually impossible to try everyone who was ever involved in these acts of repudiation, however, processes of local justice and reconciliation would be invaluable. It is incredibly important that in the future Cuba acknowledges the injustices associated with these acts of repudiation, and how detrimental they were. It would also be invaluable that people within communities go through a process of truth-telling, acknowledgement, and forgiveness, and that the higher-level perpetrators within communities are brought to justice. It will be interesting to see whether any of this will happen, or whether, given the immensity of the task at hand, local resentments will just be ignored.