A Soft Coup in Cuba

Rosa Miriam Elizalde
https://static01.nyt.com/images/2020/12/09/world/09cuba2/merlin_164212665_035ec66b-6e91-470b-9d20-6d328354fb1c-mobileMasterAt3x.jpgThe invasion has very bad press, those close-ups of foreign boots stepping onto a beach or a neighborhood, like El Chorrillo in Panama, which still does not know the number of its dead. After more than a century of relentless practice, U.S. military interventions in Latin America have fallen into disrepute, lost their glamour, and gone out of style. Now they cling to soft blows.

The soft coup consists of transvestitising a minority into a majority, amplifying its claims, stirring up controversies and confrontations and wearing down the real majority that governs until it falls through some judicial farce, as in Honduras; or parliamentary, as in Brazil; or electoral, as in Bolivia; or forcing a foreign intervention, as is intended in Venezuela and some dream of for Cuba.

It is more complicated than the hard coups of the Marines, but, unlike them, they have the colors of these times, with their archetypes of dictators on the side of the bad guys, and a side of the good guys with their archetypal “freedom fighters,” with their simulations of remastered epics and with their false discourses of citizen heroism, all of them, good and bad, designed as the protagonists of a Z-class action movie by the great tools of domination: the media corporations and the social platforms.

Well, this is what we are dealing with in Cuba these days. We have fake artists who barricaded themselves in a house in the San Isidro neighborhood of Old Havana, and a context in which legitimate needs for dialogue with cultural authorities are confused, political opportunism, pandemic and economic tensions aggravated by a carousel of measures of the Trump regime – cutting off remittances, persecution of oil tankers, financial sanctions….

Within hours the “artists” operation was deactivated without a single scratch documented. Since then we have seen the other well-known film: the Chargé d’Affaires of the U.S. Embassy in Havana (acting ambassador) driving the entrenched in his own car, while high-ranking State Department officials publicly call these local soft-coup employees “colleagues”. Some involved flaunt their sympathies for Donald Trump, whom they recognize as their President, and receive financing from federal government funds for “democracy promotion”.

As American researcher Tracey Eaton has documented, the U.S. government has spent between $20 million and $45 million a year since 1996, when financial support for local groups and international observers was given carte blanche to bring about “regime change in Cuba” under Section 109 of the Helms-Burton Act. More than $500 million has been allocated to these operations, although it is not the only channel for money, nor the most common one for promoting the big business of Cuban “dissidents”. No one knows for sure how much the covert operations receive, nor how much is the total amount that has arrived in San Isidro for this attempt to bring a match to the powder keg.

A good part of this slice also goes to a digital media cluster created by the US government for disinformation on Cuban issues. Since 2017, hundreds of publications have appeared in Florida with Cuba featured somewhere in the name under which they appear on the Internet. The goal is to give volume to toxic information about the island, repackaging a single agenda for different audiences and projecting U.S. directives as belonging to Cubans. Unlike other moments of the so-called Fourth Generation War or Non-Conventional War, the new laboratories of the Soft Coup operate simultaneously in the physical, psychological, perceptual and virtual worlds, so that after the confusion only cultural scorched earth remains.

The Guardian interviewed a few days ago the correspondent of one of these digital media in Florida who received a $410,710 grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) in September. The journalist from ADN Cuba told the British newspaper that the measures taken by the White House last month to ban remittances sent to Cubans by their relatives from the United States are “perfect” because most of the money ends up in the state coffers, which is an outrageous lie. “If I were in the United States, I would have voted for Trump,” added that “impartial reporter” who, like others, has been adding fuel to the furnace in San Isidro for weeks. It is not the same as invading a country, but it is still a juicy attempt to disguise violent minorities as libertarian majorities.

In the midst of all this, they have scammed the poor uninformed audiences of this world, which is actually happening in terms of true culture within the Island. Right now, more than 1,800 films and more than 800 unpublished scripts have been registered for the International Festival of New Latin American Cinema in Havana. We are preparing for this annual festival, which is a bid to keep culture alive without the effects of the soft coup resonating in the dense mass of misinformation.

Hate has a long wait, said French-African writer Rene Maran. And almost always, a great failure, for that matter.

Translation by Internationalist 360°