Let's Push Raul Castro into Reforming Cuba

Many self-proclaimed Cuba experts posited that Raul Castro would bring change to the island when he stepped in for his ailing brother. And we have seen some changes but to attribute them to Castro the younger would be factually incorrect. The types of changes I’m talking about are not being welcomed by Raul or his henchmen, but there’s little they can do to stop them.

Earlier this year a Cuban blogger named Yoani Sanchez was selected as one of Time Magazine’s 100 most influential list. Sanchez, who faces incredible hardships to post her writings on her blog because of the purposeful lack of Internet access on the island, also won Spain’s equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize. She writes about the absurd nature of life in Castro’s Cuba with her beautifully descriptive prose.

Yoani’s case is one in a million. Her blogging activities fell through the cracks and didn’t appear on the radar of Cuba’s state security apparatus until the Wall Street Journal published an article about her, and by then it was too late for them to do anything about it. Today she’s probably the most famous Cuban that isn’t named Castro.

On Monday, August 24, a dissident punk rocker named Gorki Aguila was picked up by Cuban police for allegedly committing the Orwellian crime of “pre-criminal dangerousness.” Aguila, who fronts a band called Porno Para Ricardo, writes lyrics that are harshly critical of the regime.

To say that Gorki Aguila was well known before his arrest would be an overstatement. That’s because one of the major accomplishments of Castro’s revolution has been to keep the general public in the dark about Cuba’s dissident movement. Those of us who follow events on the island very closely did know of Aguila and admired him for his guts. After having already served time in a Cuban prison, Aguila never backed down. In fact, he only became more vocal, more direct in his criticisms, more punk.

When news of his arrest made its way out of Cuba and onto the Internet through the band’s official website something curious happened: an international support group emerged almost instantaneously. Ernesto Hernandez Busto, a Cuban intellectual who blogs from Spain posted an open letter to one of Cuba’s most famous performers, Pablo Milanés, who was to play a concert in Havana just three days after Gorki's arrest. The letter asked Milanés, always a darling of the regime, to advocate on behalf of his fellow musician and was signed by many Cuban-born artists and intellectuals living in exile. Gorki Aguila’s arrest was reverberating around the world.