"Dissident rappers trigger lyrical battle for Cuban hearts and minds" - Politics Forum.org | PoFo

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#15160385
There's something about Cuba that really brings out the most buffoonish elements in the American foreign policy establishment. From the Bay of Pigs to exploding cigars and poisoned ice cream, there is apparently no idea so outlandish that the CIA won't give it a go.

Which brings us to the latest effort: a few years after they were caught funding "dissident rap" in Cuba through USAID, it seems they're at it again, and with exactly the sort of ham-fisted corniness you'd expect from a bunch of middle aged conservatives sitting in Langley, Virginia.

Enter "Patria y Vida", a new song produced by some Cuban exiles about how "my people demand freedom". The video opens with an image of 19th century Cuban hero José Martí that burns away to reveal George Washington, another revolutionary. But don't worry, the FT assures us that it has caused "quite a stir". :lol:

Financial Times wrote:Dissident rappers trigger lyrical battle for Cuban hearts and minds

Communist government fires back at criticism with salsa counter-offensive

It is one of communist Cuba’s most hallowed slogans, deployed by Fidel Castro in the 1959 revolution and repeated countless times since: “Patria o Muerte” — Fatherland or Death.

So when a group of Cuban rappers, some living abroad, launched a lyrical challenge to the sacred phrase, subverting it to “Patria y Vida” — Fatherland and Life — and calling time on the revolution to a chorus of “It’s over”, the Havana government mobilised to defeat the insurgents, including with their own musical riposte.

The rap pulls no punches. The video opens with an image of 19th century Cuban hero José Martí that burns away to reveal George Washington, another revolutionary. “No more lies, my people demand freedom, no more doctrines,” run the lyrics. 

“‘Fatherland and Life’ is a phrase of light, a phrase of rebirth,” Yotuel Romero, one of the rappers, told the Financial Times from Spain, where he spends part of his time. “Cubans who live abroad and those on the island have found hope in these words, hope for a prosperous Cuba . . . where we can live with our rights respected.”

“The song has definitely caused quite a stir,” said Ricardo Herrero, director of the Washington-based Cuba Study Group, which promotes US-Cuba dialogue. “It’s a very potent song with lyrics that have resonated with a lot of Cubans, particularly outside the island.”

Most of the musicians involved — Alexander Delgado and Randy Malcom from the reggaeton band Gente de Zona, singer-composer Descemer Bueno, as well as Yotuel — are Cuban exiles who until recently were regular visitors to Havana.

Two dissident rappers living on the island, El Funky and Maykel Osorbo, members of the San Isidro artistic collective, also feature. In November, San Isidro and its supporters gathered outside Cuba’s culture ministry to lead a rare public protest on the island after one of its members was imprisoned.

The rap furore comes at a sensitive time for Cuba’s communist government, which is struggling with serious food shortages and long queues for basic supplies. Pandemic restrictions and a tightening of the US embargo under the Trump administration have devastated tourism, an important source of dollars, and crimped the flow of remittances from overseas.

Official Cuban media were quick to blast the rappers as US-loving traitors and mercenaries. President Miguel Díaz-Canel joined the attacks, tweeting: “#FatherlandorDeath shouted thousands last night . . . They tried to erase our slogan but Cuba has sent it viral #CubaViva”. 

This week, the authorities unveiled a musical counterblast: the rather awkwardly titled “Patria o Muerte por la Vida” — Fatherland or Death for Life — featuring five officially sanctioned performers, led by songwriter Raúl Torres, singing a robust salsa rebuttal to the rappers against the backdrop of a Cuban flag.

“You can cash in by licking the arrogance of the empire,” go the lyrics, referring to the US. “You can cash in by singing that you’re against poverty from a satin sofa.”

So far, YouTube users seem to be siding with the rappers, who had almost 3m views as of March 5 compared with 670,000 for the regime-sanctioned retort.

Politicians abroad have weighed in too. Dita Charanzová, a Czech conservative in the European parliament, organised an internet seminar to support the rappers.

“Being Czech, the fight of Cubans for democracy reminds me a lot of our fight . . . against the communist regime,” she said. “Music and art played a fundamental part in the resistance.”

The increasingly bitter musical war reflects a move by a new generation of Trump-supporting Cuban-Americans in Miami such as Alex Otaola, a social media influencer and internet TV host. He has sought to ban from Miami Cuban or Cuban-American cultural figures interested in improving relations between the two countries, preferring a hardline boycott policy.

“Latin music is becoming ever more popular and Miami is at the centre,” said a western Cuban music promoter who asked not to be named. “At the same time there is this new and even more hostile atmosphere toward any reconciliation there with Cuba that is very hard to escape,” he said.

It is unclear whether the musical battle will resonate with ordinary Cubans, most of whom are preoccupied with a daily struggle to find food and basic goods.

Several who spoke to the FT by telephone said they knew of the issue due to the government response, but added that most people were staying at home to avoid coronavirus and there was little talk about it in food queues.

Yurislaidis Lopez, a 32-year-old living in Marianao, a working-class suburb outside Havana, was unmoved by the video and its anti-authority message. “I’m not sure what they do to other people, but in my neighbourhood the police keep us safe,” she said.

“What everyone is talking about where I live is that for the first time in years the man on a bike with a box of piglets on the back hasn’t arrived. We raise them for the new year.”
#15160398


Not bad

When I visited Cuba 2 years ago, I met with the Cuban family of a good friend of mine from the UK. Her father is a Santeria priest and a very interesting fellow. They invited us for a wonderful dinner which was pleasantly interrupted several times as people kept knocking on their door to speak to him. Her younger brother who was 26 y.o. offered to be our tour guide while in Havana, he took us to Buena Vista Social Club and because he knew them we did not pay for anything. He took us everywhere and we also met his friends from uni, we all went out together and got drunk almost every day while in Havana.

They all hate the communist regime with a passion, and can not wait for liberalism, they do not just hate the communists they are totally outraged by the condition of their country and it is not really difficult to see why.
#15182566
Yes @wat0n, my thread on the US covertly agitating for regime change in Cuba has aged poorly in the light of ...*checks notes*... the US political class overtly agitating for regime change in Cuba. Who could have ever guessed this might happen.
#15182573
Heisenberg wrote:Yes @wat0n, my thread on the US covertly agitating for regime change in Cuba has aged poorly in the light of ...*checks notes*... the US political class overtly agitating for regime change in Cuba. Who could have ever guessed this might happen.


Too bad that one of the cries by the Cuban protestors has been precisely Patria y Vida

But it's all a conspiracy I'm sure.
#15182605
wat0n wrote:Too bad that one of the cries by the Cuban protestors has been precisely Patria y Vida

What's your point? There were also massive counter-protests.

wat0n wrote:But it's all a conspiracy I'm sure.

Yeah, crazy to think that the USA might have a vested interest in using the protests in Cuba for its own ends. I'm sure when Marco Rubio goes on Fox to call - yet again - for regime change, it's out of innocent, selfless concern for the people of Cuba.
#15182612
Patrickov wrote:This is not a valid argument.

But "the protesters chanted the slogan from the rap song" is a valid argument, of course. Lol.

Patrickov wrote:Dictatorial governments can easily brainwash or pay minions to host ingenuine demonstrations.

And I'm the conspiracy theorist. :lol:
#15182614
Heisenberg wrote:What's your point? There were also massive counter-protests.


Was attendance optional?

Heisenberg wrote:Yeah, crazy to think that the USA might have a vested interest in using the protests in Cuba for its own ends. I'm sure when Marco Rubio goes on Fox to call - yet again - for regime change, it's out of innocent, selfless concern for the people of Cuba.


You mean like the current government was maintained in power by the Soviets (Russia afterwards) and also China and Chavez (when oil was expensive) for their own ends?

Who cares? What matters is that Cubans don't get to choose who rules over them. And now we know there is a larger opposition than most people acknowledged to this state of affairs.

I doubt this will make the government fall this time around, but the revolutionary narrative has been heavily undermined for good.
#15182620
Heisenberg wrote:But "the protesters chanted the slogan from the rap song" is a valid argument, of course. Lol.


The moment you used the term "counter-protest" you implicitly admit that the protests against the Cuban government is genuine.


Heisenberg wrote:And I'm the conspiracy theorist. :lol:


You are a Communism and Authoritarian Dictatorship apologist.
#15182621
wat0n wrote:Was attendance optional?

Now, there must be some mistake. This sounds a lot like a conspiracy theory, and I know that, as a Very Serious Person, you would never engage in conspiracy theories.

wat0n wrote:You mean like the current government was maintained in power by the Soviets (Russia afterwards) and also China and Chavez (when oil was expensive) for their own ends?

This is incredibly weak stuff. What is your point?

wat0n wrote:Who cares? What matters is that Cubans don't get to choose who rules over them. And now we know there is a larger opposition than most people acknowledged to this state of affairs.

Yes, "who cares" that the US is actively working to destabilise Cuba, again, with the aim of installing a right wing client government? As long as it gets the current government out, who gives a damn what comes next? There's resources to be had!
#15182632
Heisenberg wrote:Now, there must be some mistake. This sounds a lot like a conspiracy theory, and I know that, as a Very Serious Person, you would never engage in conspiracy theories.


How so? The Cuban government can retaliate against someone who refused to participate.

Heisenberg wrote:This is incredibly weak stuff. What is your point?


The current Cuban regime has its own history of being a client state and their patrons also have an interest in keeping the government where it is.

Heisenberg wrote:Yes, "who cares" that the US is actively working to destabilise Cuba, again, with the aim of installing a right wing client government? As long as it gets the current government out, who gives a damn what comes next? There's resources to be had!


Resources like sugar? But who cares if it turns out most Cubans actually do want to replace the current government and believe they are better off being US clients as opposed to being a Russian or a Chinese one? Even more so since they are not getting the sort of subsidies they used to get during the Cold War - now, that was a good clientelistic relationship for the Cubans.
#15182638
wat0n wrote:How so? The Cuban government can retaliate against someone who refused to participate.

Uh huh. All demonstrations against the Cuban government are entirely organic, and to say otherwise is a "conspiracy". But it's fine to baselessly assert that any counter-demonstrators must have been coerced by the government.

wat0n wrote:The current Cuban regime has its own history of being a client state

That might have had something to do with the embargo and the relentless attempts to overthrow the government, which started almost immediately after Batista was forced out in 1959 and have continued ever since.

wat0n wrote:But who cares if it turns out most Cubans actually do want to replace the current government and believe they are better off being US clients as opposed to being a Russian or a Chinese one?

If Latin American history is anything to go by, what "most Cubans actually want" won't be the driving factor if Cuba becomes a US puppet state. You'd think a guy from the home of Augusto Pinochet might be a bit less credulous about this stuff. :lol:
#15182639
Heisenberg wrote:Uh huh. All demonstrations against the Cuban government are entirely organic, and to say otherwise is a "conspiracy". But it's fine to baselessly assert that any counter-demonstrators must have been coerced by the government.


What would happen to those who refused to attend the "spontaneous" pro-government demonstrations in the Soviet Union?

Heisenberg wrote:That might have had something to do with the embargo and the relentless attempts to overthrow the government, which started almost immediately after Batista was forced out in 1959 and have continued ever since.


It doesn't matter. A client state is a client state.

Heisenberg wrote:If Latin American history is anything to go by, what "most Cubans actually want" won't be the driving factor if Cuba becomes a US puppet state. You'd think a guy from the home of Augusto Pinochet might be a bit less credulous about this stuff. :lol:


Funnily enough, Chile did not cease to stop being aligned with the US after the fall of Pinochet. Why wouldn't Cuba be able to do the same?

No, what the people from their client states want is not really an US concern. But what makes you believe Cubans may not prefer being an US client over the current status quo?
#15182642
wat0n wrote:What would happen to those who refused to attend the "spontaneous" pro-government demonstrations in the Soviet Union?

Would you care to provide actual evidence that the counter-demonstrations were coerced? There were supposedly 100,000 people at one of them. I find it a stretch to imagine the Cuban government could credibly threaten to massacre that many people.

wat0n wrote:It doesn't matter. A client state is a client state.

No, I'm sorry, the historical context absolutely does matter. :eh:

wat0n wrote:No, what the people from their client states want is not really an US concern.

Bingo!

wat0n wrote:But what makes you believe Cubans may not prefer being an US client over the current status quo?

The fact that the government there is still standing, despite a 60-year embargo and the US spending millions of dollars every year funding "democracy assistance programs" in the country. I doubt that would be the case if it was as incompetent and unpopular as its detractors claim.
#15182648
Heisenberg wrote:Would you care to provide actual evidence that the counter-demonstrations were coerced? There were supposedly 100,000 people at one of them. I find it a stretch to imagine the Cuban government could credibly threaten to massacre that many people.


Massacre? They can simply impose heavy punitive fines or deny rations to those who don't show up.

Heisenberg wrote:No, I'm sorry, the historical context absolutely does matter. :eh:


Sure, and Cuba got a lot out of it until the USSR fell. Just as other countries, who are American clients, have gotten a lot out of the US.

Heisenberg wrote:The fact that the government there is still standing, despite a 60-year embargo and the US spending millions of dollars every year funding "democracy assistance programs" in the country. I doubt that would be the case if it was as incompetent and unpopular as its detractors claim.


Ah, but when people begin to protest then you say that it's all just because of US intervention... :)
#15182662
wat0n wrote:Massacre? They can simply impose heavy punitive fines or deny rations to those who don't show up.

Still waiting for some evidence...

wat0n wrote:Ah, but when people begin to protest then you say that it's all just because of US intervention...

What I find amazing is that the second protests erupt in a designated enemy country, the protesters speak for the whole population and the government has lost all legitimacy - but this same standard is never applied to the US or western Europe.

I have no idea what's behind the protests in Cuba. I'm sure a lot of it is genuine anger at the government. But I also believe that the US is very deeply involved, and most definitely doesn't have Cubans' best interests at heart. The two things can be true at the same time.

(It's very funny to me, by the way, that you claim to find it so hard to believe the US is actively working to destabilise Cuba. It's not even as if they try very hard to hide it. There's a live grant offer from USAID that makes direct reference to the "Patria y Vida" song I mentioned in the OP! :lol: )

Image
#15182664
Heisenberg wrote:Still waiting for some evidence...


That's how it used to work across the Iron Curtain. There is a reason why those regimes fell, in several cases peacefully, even though they could at the same time have large pro-government demonstrations.

Heisenberg wrote:What I find amazing is that the second protests erupt in a designated enemy country, the protesters speak for the whole population and the government has lost all legitimacy - but this same standard is never applied to the US or western Europe.


I don't think I said they speak for ALL the population. I'm sure there are many who side with the government. Yet the opposition seems to be large enough to get simultaneous large demonstrations in several Cuban cities.

Unfortunately, since there are no free elections we can't know which camp is larger.

Heisenberg wrote:I have no idea what's behind the protests in Cuba. I'm sure a lot of it is genuine anger at the government. But I also believe that the US is very deeply involved, and most definitely doesn't have Cubans' best interests at heart. The two things can be true at the same time.

(It's very funny to me, by the way, that you claim to find it so hard to believe the US is actively working to destabilise Cuba. It's not even as if they try very hard to hide it. There's a live grant offer from USAID that makes direct reference to the "Patria y Vida" song I mentioned in the OP! :lol: )

Image


Sure, just as Cuba itself has its own propaganda effort to destabilize other Latin American countries. So what? Does it mean the Cuban government shouldn't just let people peacefully express their preferences?
#15182667
wat0n wrote:That's how it used to work across the Iron Curtain.

That's really nice. We're talking about Cuba, though.

wat0n wrote:Sure, just as Cuba itself has its own propaganda effort to destabilize other Latin American countries.

I'm sorry, what? :lol:
#15182668
Heisenberg wrote:That's really nice. We're talking about Cuba, though.


What makes you believe it is any different?

Heisenberg wrote:I'm sorry, what? :lol:


You don't know about the long history of Cuban support for left-wing guerrillas and leftist political movements in Latin America, do you? :eh:

If USAID support for those anti-gov't rappers amounts to destabilization of Cuba, then so does similar Cuban support for leftist movements in the rest of Latin America.
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