Of the Internet and State Security
To write on the internet with your real name and criticize the government is a real challenge if you live in Cuba. When I published my first article, I knew I would be in the spotlight of the Department of State Security. The challenges had begun.
The first challenge, to put up with the political police intruding into my private life. The second, to ignore the control they tried to exert over my actions. The third, the exposure of my family. For me, these three challenges are the most important.
Publishing my work under my full name on the internet turned me into a public dissident in the eyes of the Cuban regime. From that moment on I became a “CR,” the two letters by which State Security identifies dissidents and independent journalists, and which stand for “counterrevolutionary.”
When I decided to write, I was aware that they would poke around in my past, particularly for “personal secrets” that I might have. There is really no way of knowing how and when they hunt for and obtain information about you. I imagine that they use what they have archived from when you were a child attending school, when you continued studying, when you started working, and also of course what they can get on your neighborhood block, through the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, among other mass organizations.
I imagine, further, that they contact childhood friends, former classmates, neighborhood friends, and even relatives near and distant. It’s hard to know who could betray you. Anyone who has dealings with you could, directly or indirectly, give information about you without your knowing it. That generates a kind of paranoia that makes you suspicious of everyone around you. And everywhere you see an informer or a snitch.
The fact is that they inquire about everything, because they are interested in everything about your life. This they want you to know in each of the “interviews” to which you are summoned and which you’re obliged to attend. Summonses that are initially designed to dissuade you: “You have entered a world that you do not understand, and we must warn you about this.” Dissent, they say, is something unclean. And over and over they repeat, they are “the guardians of the fatherland.”
But the goal of State Security is not to stop you from dissenting, in this case writing and publishing on the Internet. Nor even to stop you from criticizing the government. No, what they seek is that you begin to “collaborate.” And little by little to convert you into an agent or informant, like some others who regularly prepare and infiltrate the dissident community, independent journalism, and the emerging blogosphere.
To achieve this, they hunt for what they consider “your dark side.” And so they scrutinize your love affairs, family members, sexual preferences … Any detail they can use to blackmail you. When they find something, they have no qualms about using it. And if you are weak-kneed, they obligate you to do what they want: they capture you to integrate you into their corps of snitches.
Then they assign a State Security officer to you, who will be responsible to “talk” with you, to tell you that “we are aware of your views on …,” that they know who you meet with, where you go … So you know that they are in control of you, and follow you everywhere. No matter what you do or where you are, they are like God, omnipresent.
To overcome this whole diabolical modus operandi of the State Security Department, I used the same response used by most of the dissidents and independent journalists. A thousand times I repeated “my life is my own, I’ve made it public, I have nothing to hide, and nothing you do is going to influence me.”
That’s how I got over the first two challenges. But the third is the more difficult: that what I do should not affect my family. The first time State Security contacted me, they did it through my father. He was told that I was meeting with “worms” (those hostile to the revolution), writing for a “counterrevolutiony” website, and that if I didn’t stop, I could go to prison. My father was a veteran of the Rebel Army in the Sierra Maestra, a retired officer of the Armed Forces, and is currently a member of the Association of Combatants. In a nutshell, he is faithful to the revolution.
You can imagine what happened next. Yet I stood on my rights and demanded that they “ensure” that they would not intrude on my family. I let them know that I was an adult, responsible for my own actions, and that I alone should bear the consequences. Nevertheless, they summoned my husband through the sector or police chief in charge of the neighborhood.
Apparently, the basis for the summons was that my husband was not working for the State. But the person who really summoned and interviewed him was the agent in charge of my case. A young man who claims to be 27 years old, and goes by “Ricardo”. He told him that I went out alone, that I met with men, to try to make him jealous, knowing that Cubans are very macho. He even had the gall to ask that he “collaborate.” They wanted my husband to forbid me to go to certain places.
I have a special concern for my son. He is 10 years old and studies in the fourth grade of elementary school. While you might not want it to, it always affects the family. There is always the fact that because security is constantly researching you and your background, they could discover some legal problem or situation involving any member of your family.
In Cuba you live outside the law. The State is supposedly responsible for providing us everything; all we have to do is study or work. But in real life, day in and day out, it is not like that. Salaries are insufficient and people are forced to seek alternatives to survive. Therefore, a high percentage of the population relies on illegal activities that have become their primary means of subsistence.
After the crackdown of March 2003, and the political-economic repercussions, but especially the international isolation that these events caused for the government, they reduced their violent methods of repression against dissidents and independent journalists who wrote under their real names on the Internet.
The very fact that the world can know the name and face of dissent, can see that we are flesh and blood people with our own opinions, gives us some protection. However, subtle methods of repression continue, and these tend to be more effective because they act on the individual psyche. Despite this international protection, there are still many risks to be run by those who write on the internet in Cuba.
Translated by: Tomás A.