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Freedom and Libertad at the End of Political Romanticism

Freedom and Libertad at the End of Political Romanticism

The legacy of the Cuban Revolution that marks the daily life of Cubans to this day has taken a blow as Cuban citizens fight for their freedoms. The past narratives, posters, painting and songs of the fight against the Capitalists was always a draw for those outside of Cuba to defend and actively support the Cuban Revolution. Many a time during my own work in Western countries that excelled with virtues of freedom and democracy were colleagues who not only wore Che proudly as their work clothing, but encouraged visiting Cuba to take advantage of the advantages Cubans did not have in their daily lives. At one point a colleague who was an expert on Cuba had to be put on undetermined sabbatical as she had a long diner with Fidel Castro himself. While it was an impressive tale, it did not reflect well on an organisation that often had discussions with Cuban exiles living in the US at the time. Their rebels were seen as the heroes for most of the latter half of the 20th Century, but that might have changed recently.

Power to the people can only really come from grassroots movements that gain a certain level of strength, often based on valid grievances towards an established system. While Latin America has spent the last one hundred years flowing between Capitalism and Socialism, the trend often was linked to cults of personalities, namely since the 2000s Chavismo and faith in the Castros. The connections movements had to these personalities often propelled some awful and abusive policies towards those citizens that did not agree with their leadership. Whether their flag was red or blue did not always determine more rights to average citizens, in many cases, it turned them into refugees. With many of these refugees now living for a few generations in places like the United States, and more recently in Colombia, an aversion to anything that looks like support for similar movements creates a healthy aversion to similar outcomes.

When listening to discussions outside of Cuba, on Cuba, you will notice that it often is shaded by local politics and best/worst case scenarios. Often an accelerated narrative is created where Cuban protesters are compared to those that protest in fairly healthy democracies. While many of these claims can be seen as valid, they must accord with the reality of the situations at hand. Romanticizing a movement in places where rights are sacrosanct is not the same as analyzing a situation where Romanticizing the narrative eliminates the ability for protesters to seek their basic essentials in life.

In more extreme examples, the Romanticism of a situation is used to justify horrific acts by governments over their own people. Havana seems to have a soldier with a rifle in every intersection in calm times, and if we are honest towards ourselves, it is not the same as most cities where we reside. The almost wholly ignored plight of the Yazidis, especially women and children does not benefit from a romanticized narrative, so they are almost wholly ignored despite suffering the worst atrocities since the Second World War and brutal acts by the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia. The silence by many democratic countries over the Uighurs being systematically eliminated is heard from young footballers before Prime Ministers, even though they make daily pronouncements against Genocide in the past that they barely recognise in the present. It is simply the worst thing you can do as a political leader in a democratic country.

When a narrative is used to violate human rights, it is no longer a narrative, but a tool of violence and oppression. It seems like Cubans are sending us all a message: Romanticizing dictatorships will put you on the wrong side of history. We should listen.



Richard Basas

Richard Basas, a Canadian Masters Level Law student educated in Spain, England, and Canada (U of London MA 2003 LL.M., 2007), has worked researching for CSIS and as a Reporter for the Latin America Advisor. He went on to study his MA in Latin American Political Economy in London with the University of London and LSE. Subsequently, Rich followed his career into Law focusing mostly on International Commerce and EU-Americas issues. He has worked for many commercial and legal organisations as well as within the Refugee Protection Community in Toronto, Canada, representing detained non-status indivduals residing in Canada. Rich will go on to study his PhD in International Law.

Areas of Focus:
Law; Economics and Commerce; Americas; Europe; Refugees; Immigration


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