After nearly a week of euphoria, I think it’s time the overly optimistic Cuban-American community put their feet back on the ground. For the past week, I’ve heard all sorts of claims about the value of the Juanes concert, how it will build hope amongst the Cuban youth, how it’s a sign the regime is changing, how it’s a sign the exile community is changing. I must respectfully disagree.
Hope derived from this concert is from the mistaken impression that Cuba’s youth will be motivated to pursue its freedom and the Cuban government will not be able to control it.
I’m not quite sure what concert people saw, but here’s the one I saw:
· The only performers given any leeway in what they said were foreigners, and even then, they were obviously limited in their freedom of speech.
· The two “questionable” (in the eyes of the Cuban government) Cuban artists that were allowed to perform, X Alfonso and Carlos Varela, were kept on the tightest of leashes (particularly Varela) and their combined performances lasted fewer than 30 minutes. Varela was chaperoned off stage by security as soon as both songs were over (as his performance was divided in two…God forbid the Cuban people see him on stage for longer than 7 minutes at a time.
· The final group performance of the concert allowed only the foreigners to keep microphones in their hands; the microphone stayed far away from Varela and Alfonso.
· So, again, we see that foreigners are given more rights than Cubans, even Cuban artists…it’s nothing new for Cuba, but perhaps we can point it out and not pretend like this was some major tumbling of walls.
So, my question is: How do the Cuban youth derive hope from this? It remains obvious to any Cuban who watched the concert that nothing had changed in Cuba or its government.
Yes, the exile community was mentioned for perhaps the first time in 50 years. But again, how does this encourage hope for freedom for Cubans? What occurred was a concert, nothing more, nothing less. The Cuban people were able to enjoy the performances of world-famous mega stars, all the while knowing that the following day would be the same as the previous.
I am heartened to see that the Cuban government did not politicize the concert the way that it could have, that it did not manipulate the statements of the artists that performed. I sincerely thought that they would and am glad they did not.
But the Cuban government persists in being a repressive, near-totalitarian dictatorship. Hundreds of “questionable” Cuban youth were told by state police that they could not attend the concert. This is not freedom. This is not a changing government.
The message was sent loud and clear to the Cuban people: if you’re a foreigner, you’re safe; if you’re Cuban, you will continue to be unable to speak your truth…just like Alfonso, just like Varela.