Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Reinaldo and the streets

When his wife Yoani Sanchez was roughed up a week earlier, Reinaldo Escobar decided that he would reciprocate not with violence but by challenging her assailants to a “verbal duel.”

He gave notice that he would appear Friday at a well known streetcorner in Vedado – La Rampa and G, Avenida de los Presidentes, a place where huge numbers of Cuban youth congregate at night, especially on weekends.

Days before, the government announced that a street festival would occur at that place and time. Escobar showed up and, needless to say, the “verbal duel” didn’t take place. He was met by a mob, roughed up, packed into a car, driven well past his neighborhood, and dropped off.

Penultimos Dias has a collection of videos, and AP’s coverage is here. Nothing about the event seems spontaneous, right down to the plainclothes agents stepping in to shield Escobar from “the people.”

To people watching from abroad, this was the opposite of a display of strength. But it’s part of a set of strategies that the Cuban government uses to suppress opposition: pure police power, infiltration of agents in opposition groups to gain information and sow dissension, and occasional unveiling of agents so the public knows that opposition groups are partially populated by state security poseurs. Plus, in this case, a message to Escobar, his friends, and the Cuban public that control of the streets is not in doubt.

Escobar wrote that he returned to his street and found it “full of friends, among them Father Jose Conrado who embraced me and gave me a piece of advice I’ll never forget: ‘Forgive them.’”


Anonymous said...

and if he was in iraq the americans would have arrested him, tortured him and if he was in afghanistan he would have been arrested, turned over to the afghan authorities, and tortured and killed.

clean up your own houses. if this is the worst that happened what's the big deal.

end the siege, then end the justifications.

leftside said...

Peters says a "street festival" was put together at the last minute in this location in order to counter the spectacle proposed by Reinaldo. In fact, this is an annual event (the University festival of Books) and it was made public at least by November 1st - well before any of this silliness. the implication is that ordinary people are not opposed to Reinaldo and his wife's antics - only an organized mob of fanatics. Nevermind that most seemed to be students (never seen before in a rapid response brigade). Nearby there is also an important branch of the UJC (and great nightblub they run).

Peters chooses the words "roughed up." General enough to be meaningless I suppose. Too bad the same can not be said of our news organizations (Rueters, AP, AFP, etc.) who all could not stop from using the word "beating" and "beaten." Yet with the foreign press and loads of cameras present, I have not seen one image of anyone attempting a single blow on Escobar. If I am mistaken, please show me. But surely "beaten" is the wrong word for what happened here... once again. We were also told there were sticks. Can someone show me one instance of a stick being weilded?? I wish this were an isolated problem.

Now we can bank on all manner of politicians and policy makers being able to say that Yoani and her husband were beaten and abused for their opposition to the Revolution. Yet, anyone actually paying attention will know this is far from the truth. Yoani resisted her temporary detention and had to be forced in a car. Escobar went out looking for trouble and found that the people are sick an tired of he and his wife's charade.

leftside said...

As I have said before, Yoani's 25 minute detention can be fairly argued. I did not defend it (as I don't have sufficient information as the cause and legal basis of the detention). If there was no basis, then I am against it. But people are detained related to non-permitted protests all the time. And the US practices "preventative detention" every day on Cuban soil.

Here are some recent, actual stories of police abuse that never made it outside of California just from the month. A transit cop's trial for killing an unarmed train rider in cold blood was moved to Los Angeles. Chances are he'll get off, like most police abuse cases. A policeman in San Jose recently beat a handcuffed student at least 10 times over the head with his baton. A few days ago, scores were beaten by the police for protesting a 33% hike in University tuition. Zhivka Valiavicharska, a graduate student, had her hand beaten by a police baton while it was resting on a barricade. She will need reconstructive surgery to fix 2 broken fingers. Her case (and others like it) has not received ONE mention outside of the Bay Area.

I could go on... but hopefully you get the point. The point is why a thousand media outlets around the world ran her story - without fact checking, or getting the other side - but completely ignores far more egregious examples of abuse in our own backyard? Abuse that we could actually do something to stop if we really cared about police brutality (13% of Americans have reported being beaten by the police in the US).

Anonymous said...

No Leftside I don't get your point. You deplore police brutality in the US -- who the hell is for it? -- while you tried to explain it away in the case of Yaoni.


Anonymous said...

Lefty, you would have made a great capo on Kristalnacht.

Alex said...

Nonsense. Students were part of brigadas de respuesta rĂ¡pida as early as 1990. I remember particularly students from the ISCF, who were a constant and organized presence in some "conflictive" university events in the early 90s, such as concerts in the UH's escalinata.

As far as Reinaldo Escobar being beaten, PD has video of the actual blows (I guess leftside doesn't follow links):


But then again, no hay peor ciego que el que no quiere ver.

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

According to Penultimos Dias, the regime is worried about the huge negative publicity generated by its attacks on Yoani and Reinaldo Escobar.

Pro-regime flacks are generating a flurry of hostile articles against her, and university students are being indoctrinated as to her "evil" and "threat to destabilize" the dictatorship. One source even suggested cutting her long hair in an effort to humiliate her.

Lefty, can I borrow your scissors, or do you want to do the honors yourself?

leftside said...

Alex, I said that MOST of the supposed "rapid response brigade" seemed to be students. I said I have not seen that before.

And I guess you are calling what happened at the beginning of the PD video a beating?? I guess we have a different vocabulary. And second, we don't know what happened right before that moment. AP reported that there was an argument amongst Reinaldo and another individual. Did that escalate into what we saw?

And Chingon, I stated my point quite clearly for you. It was not that I deplore police brutality - we all do. It was that a highly questionable account of abuse in Cuba gets transmitted around the world in an instant, while abuse that happens every day in this country gets basically ignored, in comparison. Do we simply accept that police abuse is so common in this country that it is not news?? Or are we so eager to print anything negative about Cuba that even small incidents make big news. Probably both. Neither are excusable and deserve to be condemned... if you really care about police abuse.