Let's Push Raul Castro into Reforming Cuba

The international media, usually docile in the face of its Cuban government censors, had no choice but to report the incident. Word spread that Gorki’s trial was being set for Friday the 29th and international pressure on behalf of Gorki Aguila began to mount. Even Amnesty International, an organization that normally is not too concerned with any human rights abuses in Cuba outside of Guantanamo Bay, issued a statement denouncing the unjust detention. Cuba’s best-known musicians in exile joined the growing chorus that was demanding Gorki’s release.

On the appointed day, Gorki’s trial was postponed, then postponed again as a throng of supporters and members of the international media waited outside the court. In the matter of just one week, Gorki Aguila went from being a relatively unknown punk rocker to a cause célèbre. Raul Castro officially had a hot potato on his hands. Finally, at 5:00 p.m. (eight hours behind schedule) Gorki was brought into one of the regime’s kangaroo courts. He faced anywhere from one to four years in prison if convicted (everyone gets convicted). Then something unusual happened. The charges were reduced to a simple case of “disobedience” and Gorki was convicted (remember, everyone gets convicted) and sentenced to pay a fine of 600 pesos, which is roughly $40, about two months' salary in Cuba.

The groundswell of international attention was too much for even the Castro dictatorship to stand up to. The regime’s lifeblood is carefully crafted propaganda and the possibility of making Gorki Aquila an international poster boy for those who fight musical censorship would be a long-term setback.

For those of us that desire democracy and human rights for Cuba, the case of Gorki Aguila proved what we always believed: the regime could be forced to change if only the media would report the truth about Cuba. The Internet demonstrated its incredible power as a tool for good. Citizen journalists like Yoani Sanchez and Ernesto Hernandez Busto made it so that the media could not ignore an important story of abuse in Cuba like it had so many times before.

Yes, changes are occurring in Cuba. The going rate for calling Fidel Castro a “c*ck sucker” on the island was reduced from a lengthy prison sentence to a $40 fine, a bargain that is sure to increase the levels of remittances to the island. This was most certainly a change that Raul Castro never envisioned having to make when he ascended to his brother's throne.