For Cubans, July 26th (Movimiento 26 de Julio) commemorates the day in 1953 some now famous young Cubans stormed the Moncada Barracks in the city of Santiago de Cuba to dislodge the Batista dictatorship. Though that uprising failed, it was the beginning of a movement that changed the world by putting in motion Castro’s leftist revolution and eventual rise to power.
Six years later, Castro overthrew Batista and created a one-party socialist state under Communist Party rule – the first in the Western hemisphere.
Sunday’s Movimiento 26 de Julio, marking the 62nd anniversary of the first offensive, was distinguished by the fact that it came on the heels of a month of historic rapproachment between the US and Cuba. As expected, the tone of this year’s holiday was less abrasive towards the US than in previous years.
The keynote speaker, Vice-President Jose Ramon Machado Ventura, called the re-establishment of diplomatic relations the culmination of a first step that began in December.
“Now begins a long and complex road toward normalization of bilateral relations that includes among other aspects the end of the blockade and the return of the Guantanamo naval base,”
Yet amid the ceremony surrounding Cuba’s re-opening of its US embassy in Washington and the moderate tone of Movimiento 26 de Julio holiday, Ventura recently went on record making what appears to be contradictory public statements that sounded like cold war rhetoric.
In a recent visit to Cuba, Google executives probed the government’s willingness to allow the search engine giant to scale up free island-wide WiFi broadband Internet access almost overnight.
Ventura responded to Google’s offer to install free WIFI antennas throughout Cuba:
“Everyone knows why there is no Internet in Cuba, because it is costly. There are some who want to give it to us for free, but do not do it so that the Cuban people can communicate, but in order to penetrate us and to do ideological work to achieve a new conquest. We must have Internet, but in our way, knowing that it is the intention of imperialism’s to handle it as a way to destroy the Revolution.”
In an interview with NPR, Dr. Andy Gomez, the dean of international studies and a senior fellow for Cuban studies at the University of Miami, suggests, “Change has started in Cuba, as we all know, but change still doesn’t have a very clear definition for the Cuban people.”
Ventura’s abrasive rhetoric sounds empty without support from the ideological battalions that once divided the world. The words are meant for effect rather than communication in a world where unreviseable allegiances have no vitality. The promise is that, despite contradiction and momentary relapses to the old playbook, recent events will give way to a new type thinking, without violence and rancor, and will come to symbolize a nation writing a new playbook.