A year after the protests that shook Cuba , accounts on social networks once again set their sights on this archipelago and wish, with visceral hatred, to revive violent clashes between law enforcement authorities and citizens. They want an action film, some with a plot that includes intervention and marines, and they want the country to be bombed.
Other more “intelligent” people want a blow, but one that is soft, to mask the matter, to stick their noses in from the outside and pretend that they have nothing to do with it. The facts are, this is not fiction. Of pacific, let’s speak without euphemisms, it does not even have the “p”. Let’s say that for some time they have been discounting the hours, waiting for the day and for the streets of Cuba to become chaos. Again.
Internally, the scenario is complex: as in several nations of the world, the effects of two years of pandemic have led to an economic crisis, fueled by an inflation that is felt daily in the pockets of Cubans; social problems accumulated for a long time and that the Cuban government is working to reverse with the transformations in the neighbourhoods ; blackouts, energy deficiency in which they work tirelessly to restore services…
Externally, the sanctions that from Washington have the express intention of making the daily life of this Island a sustained wear and tear continue to influence the life of each Cuban. From Trump to here, the current US administration has kept most of the 243 measures of the “orange president” in force to suffocate Cubans , even though they say they are only sanctions against the government in Havana.
In this context, some even celebrate the date, as if violence, the confrontation between ourselves, the wounded, could be celebrated. As if the threat to peace could be celebrated, beyond legitimate claims.
Cuban police cars that were overturned by protesters on a street in Havana on July 11, 2021. Photo: AFP / Archive.
Helen Yaffe , a professor of economic and social history at the University of Glasgow, Scotland, who was in Cuba during the July 2021 riots , noted then:
“The Cuban government and the Communist Party of Cuba have categorized the protesters into four groups: ‘counter-revolutionaries’ paid for and operating under US regime change programs; criminals who took advantage of the situation to loot; people genuinely frustrated by daily difficulties; and young people who feel deprived of their rights.”
Now, once again, an attempt at a soft coup appears and the media war against Cuba has never lowered its guard. About this, Cubadebate spoke with three renowned international analysts: Marco Teruggi (Argentina), Pedro Santander (Chile) and Carlos González Penalva (Spain).
For the social media planning analyst, González Penalva , soft hits “are not a new phenomenon in Latin America and the Caribbean, but rather a custom.” However, he emphasizes that the “novelty” of the term lies in the development of communication technologies.
For his part, the Chilean journalist and author of the book The communication battle , Pedro Santander , states that they have common characteristics to traditional coups, and that, like all coups, their goal is to destabilize and overthrow legitimate governments because they are considered a “threat”. Now, the fundamental difference between military coups and soft coups is that the latter, underlines Santander, have a less military and frontal way of overthrowing governments.
“What we do always see is a communication campaign prior to the coup that is committed to poisoning the social climate and generating extreme reputational damage to the leaders who lead processes of social transformation.
“The social environment is intoxicated in this way, betting on generating the necessary subjective conditions that allow the communicational temperature to rise enough for there to be a transfer, a change in physical state and a jump of that intoxication from the media-virtual to the social- material, with the purpose of generating citizen mobilization in the street”, affirms Santander.
In the case of Cuba, the difficult economic and health situation of July 2021 was taken advantage of to stimulate that intoxication that you speak of…
“Clearly. For this, a script similar to the one used in Bolivia in 2019 was applied , adapted to the specific Cuban reality: use of cybertroops, hashtags , trends, fake news , etc., added to the attempt to silence our media through cyber attacks. At least since November 27, 2020, it was possible to observe that there was a transition from a chronic phase of communicational attack against the Revolution to an acute phase that was in crescendo , until July 11.
“The political objective is clear: transfer the dynamics of online claims to the streets. And there was in that operation a ‘trigger’ or trigger event accompanied by a hashtag (#SOSCuba), the latter supported by artists from around the world and later by the world media. This trigger event occurred on July 11 due to the rise in Covid cases, and it is interesting to note that it was linked to an issue where Cuba is strong, the health issue. That day, indeed, a mobilizing capacity was shown from the communicational to the territorial”.
For the Argentine journalist and sociologist, Marco Teruggi , there are different variables that, together, gave rise to the events of July 11, 2021 : “There are internal, political, economic factors, together with the United States blockade . There are elements of what was fabricated as an international media engineering, prior to and during the events of July 11.
“In any case, it is clear that one cannot think about what happened without thinking about the US dimension due to its omnipresent blockade, its destabilisation policy worked from some political centers in the United States. And in turn, we must obviously think about what happened from internal elements.”
Riots of July 11 in Cuba. Photo: AFP.
Did the July 11 protests mark a before and after?
Carlos González Penalva: “There is no before and after 11J, but rather a before and after the pandemic, confinement and the role of communication technologies in this period, and in this context a double war against Cuba: on the one hand, as a laboratory, toxic goods are planned and inserted that seek to contaminate those who touch them with the aim of subverting the political, economic and social system with which the people of Cuba have sovereignly endowed themselves.
“But on this subject, it is necessary to point out that a toxic commodity spreads virally if it finds a favorable breeding ground for its spread: the fear of the bankruptcy of a horizon of life that the pandemic caused and the perpetual wear and tear on daily life that they entail. US sanctions against Cuba is the perfect soup.”
Pedro Santander: “I have no doubt that there is a before and after after 11J. There is no choice, it is a matter of the utmost political importance. The lesson to be learned is that the communication issue is today a priority issue. I would say that together with the military and the economic one, it should lead the political concerns of the Revolution.
“In that sense and for very obvious reasons, Cuba arrives late in this field, but there is a tradition of study, struggle, commitment and revolutionary creativity on the island so immense that it is now necessary to direct it to the communication issue and from there know how to defend themselves, even fight back. You have to put a lot of intelligence into this issue, and that Cuba has it to spare.”
$Millions against Cuba
They are not invented numbers. They are at the speed of a click on Google . They are public. The world knows them. In an article published on the US website MintPress News , journalist Alan Macleod states that every year the US government allocates millions of dollars to overthrow the Cuban government. In this sense, he underlines:
“The most recent House Appropriations Budget, for example, allocates 20 million for ‘democracy programs’ in Cuba, helping to support ‘free enterprise and private business organizations.’ In case there is any confusion about what ‘democracy’ means, he goes on to insist that ‘none of the funds made available under said paragraph may be used to assist the government of Cuba.’
“This is far from the only source of funding for regime change operations. The US Global Media Agency, for example, is spending $20-25 million on a similar goal.”
It is very clear then that it is a direct violation of the Charter of the United Nations, International Law, the Geneva Conventions and the Vienna Convention. It is very clear that they are systematic attempts to intervene in the internal affairs of a country. It is not Cuban rhetoric. International principles condemn interference in any nation, wherever it comes from.
For the Spanish analyst Carlos González Penalva, foreign governments, particularly the United States, have played a dark role in subverting legitimate governments .
Chilean journalist Pedro Santander agrees: “It is no mystery that the conspiracy center against Cuba is based in the US and that the State Department spends millions of dollars attacking the island without pause or respite. It is so, it has been so and it will continue to be so.
“The central thing is how to act on this combat front, the communication front, which is opening up in an unusually intense way. It is not that it is new, but it has gone to another phase in this field. And the challenge of the Revolution is knowing how to respond, despite the asymmetry, knowing this phase, studying it, applying creativity and intelligence, and knowing how to operate in it. Therefore, with communicational logics of the 21st century and not of the 20th century”.
The Chilean journalist stresses that soft blows will continue to be used because they are destabilising mechanisms of this era. In this sense, he asserts that “the new political-military doctrine of NATO, therefore, of the United States, has explicitly and publicly wagered since the end of 2020 on what is called Cognitive Warfare , cognitive warfare that posits the human mind as the new theater of operations and battlefield that through the possibilities of information technologies can be conquered (the alien) and defended (their own)”.
Social networks are the quintessential mechanism for orchestrating these color revolutions. How, from the left, to deal with that?
Marco Teruggi: “The existence of social networks represents a new field of action, classic in some countries, such as in the coup process in Bolivia, in the attempts in Venezuela as well. It is not a secondary space. Now, the question is when does this construction that is managed in social networks connect with a real movement in the streets and when not?
Carlos González Penalva: “With soft blows, the entire technological infrastructure is put at the service of spreading hoaxes and toxic merchandise. The effective articulation of these new digital tools for war is only in the hands of large states and financial corporations. It would be more direct in this aspect: it supplies tools for war, like those who supply tanks, missiles or biological weapons.
“It is essential to understand that we live in times of delocalized and analog wars. Second, disinformation has been incorporated as a relatively new phenomenon in the forms of unconventional warfare that seek destabilization and subversion”.
Pedro Santander: “As revolutionaries we must never forget that conscience and morale are our mechanisms par excellence, they are our strength, our armor and, faced with them, the communication force of the enemy rebounds. The problem is always, in the first place, political, never exclusively communicational. The communicational does not operate alone, decoupled from the political, nor does it resolve issues that politics has not been able to resolve or face.
“Secondly, since on the other hand everything tends to be digital, we must know that dimension exhaustively, know how to navigate in that ocean. We must be in the networks, of course, but it is not enough to be talented users, we must also understand digital dynamics, the behavior of digital data, the phenomenon of algorithmic filtering, the difference between digital bubbles and echo chambers, knowing how to distinguish between influencers and network authorities and aspire to have both.
“At the same time, I think it is also essential that part of the top leadership of our force become aware of the communication issue, even that they know it technically, at least the basics.”
In the current Cuban context, with economic and social characteristics similar to those that affected the events of 11J, could a scenario like that of July 11, 2021 be repeated?
The destruction and looting spread to different establishments in Cárdenas. Photo: Girón.
Pedro Santander: “Indeed, the ‘economic-social characteristics’ are similar. However, I believe that 11J has a positive flip side: it allowed us to assess the importance of the political-communicational element, especially in circumstances as adverse as those that affect Cuba today. We are on notice and within the framework of that reality I believe that the revolutionary forces have known how to react in multiple and intelligent ways. The key is the social base.
“Any revolutionary communication initiative, no matter its size, its location, its nature (digital or analog), its format, must always aspire to achieve communicational connection with its public, with the audience, if it does not achieve that, it is useless. I also think it is important to understand that ‘communication initiative’ is not equivalent to or reduced to ‘media initiative’. Today the traditional media are not the only field in this ideological and cultural battle, but also networks, memes, messaging services, direct communication, street events, etc., are.
Carlos González Penalva: “There are currently two of the factors on which 11J was sown: a ‘vital’ discontent and anger derived from the economic and productive consequences, which in turn stem from the COVID-19 health crisis. 19. To this is added the blockade, with which citizens are continuously subjected to pressure on their material living conditions that continue with the same intensity, if not more.
“Now, there is an element that is not repeated and that was essential for the spread of the intoxication campaign around 11J: confinement. On the other hand, the country has been equipping itself with structures, mechanisms and legislation to deal with the new formats of cognitive warfare and fake news . For all these reasons, I see it as difficult for an attack to take place against the country with the same characteristics, but we need to be vigilant”.