Just as expected, April 8 th was D-day for Castro’s troops in Panama, with the Forum of Civil Society in the framework of the Summit of the Americas. The physical and verbal aggression and the “revolutionary violence” unleashed in all its public display of barbarism before the astonished eyes of those who were involuntary witnesses of the shameful act, demonstrate how long the arm of the dictatorship of the Island is, and how disrespectful they are willing to be at international democratic venues.
It would have been naive to expect any other conduct, after preludes that foretold the climax. The Castro clan was initially flattered in its infinite vanity, after half a century of being expelled from the OAS, to have been one of the first invitees to the Americas’ Summit, only to have to swallow the bitter pill, soon after, of tolerating the independent civil society’s presence at the regional event. These are appropriate games of democracy, but a humiliation that the Antillean olive green caste was not willing to accept.
Now we were able to prove that it was not by happenstance that several activists of the Cuban independent civil society were harassed on our arrival at the Tocumen airport, some detained a relatively long time and interrogated, as if we were terrorists or criminals, by authorities that report directly to the Panamanian government. “We do not want disturbances or provocations at the Summit,” was the warning we received before allowing us to continue, and following that, a polite phrase that was almost cynical: “Welcome to Panama.” No doubt this is a peculiar sense of the hospitality and the official image this country is offering these occasional visitors.
It was no coincidence that several activists of the Cuban independent civil society were harassed upon our arrival at Tocumen airport
Later, there was an official apology issued by the Panamanian Foreign Ministry, but it was also learned that the Cuban regime’s troops of the “civil society” were not ill-treated or warned on their arrival. Perhaps that was why they immediately began to distribute, through the hotels hosting delegates from dozens of countries, printed leaflets containing the photographs and full names of various members of the Cuban dissidence, under the heading of “mercenaries.” A great number of the tabloids were placed on tables in the lobby of the hotel El Panama, where credentials were being processed, while other activists handed them out in the streets around the headquarters, where activities of the Summit would take place.
Thus, encouraged by the permission – the complicity, I should say – of the hosts and organizers of the Summit, the revolutionary low-lives who were further protected by the dozens of accreditations that were granted to them, felt free to create violent disturbances right in the meeting room, rudely attacking the scarce representatives of several independent organizations on the Island that had barely achieved accreditation from the Civil Society Forum on behalf of dozens of contenders who were denied the opportunity to participate.
Some public places were also the scenes of Castro mobs, sabotaging the democratic and civilized spirit that should have been expected from this hemispheric event.
It was a poor choice on the part of these guests to the democratic festivity, Messrs. hosts, and if such is the model of civility that we want to imitate in the region, a very bad effect. But worse are the results for the regime in Havana, whose objective was always to boycott the Summit and blow up the spaces for dialogue, but in attempting to demonstrate the supposed low aspect of its opposition, it ended up demonstrating its own, additionally granting its opponents the chance to show their moral superiority. Now the democrats in the region may be wondering about the stateless group who have sustained decades of peaceful struggle against the enormous machine of violence that has been brought to bear against them from the seat of power.
Worse yet are the results for the Havana regime, whose original purpose was always to boycott the Summit and blow up the spaces for dialogue
A great number of the delegates offered their solidarity to the Cuban civil society and commented to us about their bewilderment. “If this is the way it is in the midst of this forum and at a democratic venue, what must they be able to get away in Cuba,” commented a group of young people from several Latin American nations.
A somber sixty-something man shook his head disapprovingly: “This is not right … It is not proper … We cannot allow it,” he said, referring to the performance of Castro followers and supporters.
Our spontaneous embraces in the hotel lobby, to demonstrate support for each other among members of the independent civil society made a better impression than all the shouting and screaming of slogans of the crazed members of the regime. The aggression had only succeeded in uniting us beyond any differences.
It was also made clear that a dictatorship that has sustained itself on confrontation and belligerence, inside and outside its own geographical territory, would not be able to overcome the challenge posed by the open debate and arguments of its opponents. Weeks ago the General-President had already announced that “the true Cuban civil society would come to the Summit to defeat the stateless mercenaries at the service of the Empire,” thus demonstrating their absolute lack of political willingness to respect the diversity of ideas and alternative projects of the very Cubans on the Island.
Well then, General, your serfs – those same strident individuals who carry out your acts of repudiation, whose passports were confiscated as soon as they crossed the border into Panama in order to avoid inopportune desertions – withdrew from the Summit as soon as they fulfilled their wretched role. It did not matter that the Cuban State spent its people’s ever-scarce resources to finance documents, travel, accommodations, food, and a huge amount of printed pamphlets. Nothing will prevent the end of its empire of corruption and fear.
I can imagine how its “victorious” delegation will be welcomed when it returns to the ridiculed homeland. I can almost imagine the team leader, submissively bowing his prop epaulettes: “Mission accomplished, General.” And just the thought of such a degrading image overwhelms me with two conflicting feelings: compassion and contempt.
Translated by Norma Whiting