Cuba: The Repercussions of the Carcasses Affair
September 20, 2013
Should we congratulate Silvio Rodriguez?
By Haroldo Dilla Alfonso
HAVANA TIMES — As we might have expected from an incident as
talked-about as asking for political changes in Cuba during a massive
official function, musician Roberto Carcasses (RC) has gone from being
what he is – a brilliant and innovative artist – to a kind of test case
for political militancy on the island.
The first to come forward, of course, were the system’s watchdogs, those
who supported the administrative measures taken against RC. This
included artists compelled – either by their own convictions or
opportunism – to support everything the regime does and the increasingly
sterile, insignificant and badly-paid government bloggers. There was one
lot among those who supported the sanctions, however, that caught my
eye: Miami’s tiny pro-Castro bunch.
The first to speak up was a radio host who used to have a show about
cult musicals in Cuba and is today a kind of militant mudslinger who
flirts with several, apparently opposed political tendencies (which, in
truth, are mutually dependent).
Then came Max Lesnik, whom I mention and quote only to show the
ideological backwardness and decadence of pro-Castro circles. For
Lesnik, the main problem with RC’s statements is that he called for the
legalization of marihuana, “(…) to smoke it, as he said, to be able to
party hard, in the lap of vice and corruption. Of course, none of that
means freedom. This whole business of marihuana ‘for everyone’, I don’t
agree with that.”
To summarize, Lesnik comes off rather foolish with such a vulgar
dismissal of the broad range of complex issues referred to by RC. One of
those thorny issues, in effect, is the legalization of drugs like
marihuana, a very serious international debate which this political
analyst (in lower case, to be sure) reduces to “partying” and debauchery.
I should point out that, when I wrote last week’s article on Carcasses’
statements, I didn’t know what the artist had meant with “Maria.” Now
that I know, I, who have fun in ways which do not involve the use of
drugs, have yet another reason to congratulate RC.
Then we have those who support RC. Within Cuba, they have shown merely a
kind of guild solidarity. In other words, they have only touched on the
issue of an artist’s right to make use of the stage for such political
demands. Nearly all have reproached RC for using an official function
related to the Cuban Five for other purposes.
These are erroneous presuppositions that don’t hold water.
On the one hand, I believe we have to defend the right of artists to
express themselves as they see fit, be it through a speech or a song.
But I also believe this right should be granted all citizens. RC
exercised this right, availing himself of the fame his talent and hard
work have earned him, and to a certain degree give him immunity.
Other people who attempt to do the same thing are beaten by authorities,
forced to leave the country or worked over at a police station. The only
truly democratic, just and patriotic position would be that of defending
the right of all citizens to express themselves, a right that should not
be denied such prominent intellectuals as Cuesta Morua, Yoani Sanchez,
Miriam Celaya, Regina Coyula and Rodiles, to name only a few who are
denied access to the country’s grandstands.
On the other hand, I believe we have to desacralize Cuba’s public
sphere, no matter what issue is being debated. What’s sacred for some is
not so for others, and such differences do not make any of us less
Cuban. Behind this issue of the imprisoned Cuban agents – and I am also
in favor of their release – there is a whole machinery of jingoistic
manipulation that ought to be unmasked, to the benefit – even – of the
The most prominent figure to have publicly come forward in defense of RC
is Silvio Rodriguez. Basically, what this veteran Cuban folk musician
said is that RC was clumsy when he made use of the grandstand the way he
did, but that the sanctions the government was planning were also clumsy.
Portraying himself as well above these two blunders, Silvio Rodriguez
asked RC to join the stage with him in a number of neighborhood concerts
and organized a meeting where, it is said, authorities annulled the
Though this is a positive development, I don’t think it is the most
important. When all is said and done, RC is young, well-known and
talented and can overcome any petty sanction imposed on him. The
sanction would also, ultimately, prove very costly for the government.
The most important development is that a cultural figure of
post-revolutionary Cuba as paradigmatic as Silvio Rodriguez, or so an
optimistic interpretation of what he said seems to suggest, is moving
towards more tolerant and pluralist positions, something he hasn’t
exactly expressed in the known past. If this is the case, I congratulate
One of the things Silvio said, for instance, is that he supports the
idea that artists should be able to express their criticisms through
different means, though not at an official function related to the Cuban
Five, an issue he called “sacred.” He also expressed disagreement with
“a sanction as excessive as forbidding a musician to carry out his
If we take the issue to a different terrain and apply pure logic, Silvio
Rodriguez would have to acknowledge that he also condemns sanctions that
forbid medical doctors, professors, sociologists, anthropologists,
journalists and others to carry out their “social function”, when these
are dismissed from their place of work or subjected to such harassment
that they are practically forced to leave.
If he is ready to condemn “excessive sanctions”, perhaps he is ready to
condemn such measures against activists of the opposition, and even
against those people who express criticisms without any intentions of
changing the government, as is most often the case.
He should be particularly critical of such measures when they are
implemented during such celebrations as those held by dissidents on
Human Rights Day, a day which, to these Cubans, is “sacred.”
Some readers will no doubt think I am dreaming. I want to believe I’m
not. I would therefore like to see Silvio Rodriguez stand above his own
blunders – as he does today over those of others – and take back having
signed, only ten years ago, a document supporting the extra-legal
execution of three young, poor black men who committed a crime that did
not warrant such a measure.
I am not, to be sure, asking him to disavow his political views, nor his
fondness towards Fidel and Raul Castro or Machado Ventura. Such
positions are a part of our present and will be part of a pluralist
future where they’ll be room for all imaginable political positions.
What I am suggesting is that Silvio Rodriguez ought to distance himself
from a criminal action, so that we can begin to believe in his words and
so that no similar incident ever takes place again. While it is true
that the three young, poor black men were not artists, they were
nonetheless as human and as Cuban as Carcasses and the Five, as Silvio
Rodriguez ought to know.
Source: “Cuba: The Repercussions of the Carcasses Affair” –
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