"A lie repeated a thousand times becomes a truth," stated Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels. This is a maxim that the Cuban regime has applied, religiously, for decades.
This practice is devastating, as it ultimately erases the past from the country's collective memory. The continuous falsification of a nation's history has ended up not only depriving the population of knowledge of any cognizance of its roots, but seems to have successfully programmed the new members of Cuba's leadership too.
What before, under the old revolutionary guard, bordered on pure and simple manipulation, now constitutes a kind of automatism that would be laughable if not for the magnitude of the disaster that has befallen the country.
Thus, at his presentation during the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of the Human Rights Council, Cuba’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodríguez, indulged in a speech whose first two paragraphs alone contained some genuine gems.
According to the leader, under the Republic workers had no rights, and 45% of children did not go to school.
The ability of Cuban dignitaries' to spin figures out of whole cloth is always startling (45% of the children did not attend school in a country where 78% of the population was literate?), as is their capacity to deny facts, such as those regarding the rights of workers, which the 1940 Constitution acknowledged, extensively.
His cynicism prevents Rodriguez from even noticing the contradictions he articulates. If the Cuba of yesteryear was such a horrible wasteland, how can one explain the massive immigration to it during the era? The official did mention it in passing, but only to say that they were brutally exploited.
Manipulation as a strategy
These incongruities demonstrate the limbo in which the Cuban ruling class exists, accustomed to engaging in unquestioned monologue.
But Bruno Rodriguez's arrogance is functional. It is precisely its ignorance and denial of the past that allows the regime to actually boast about a system that has condemned more than 15% of its citizens to exile, and that is saddled with one of the highest incarceration rates in the world.
The scenario is not innocuous. An impoverished population, subjected to arbitrary treatment and continuous harassment, can only find hope in escape.
The Cuban government can give itself a slap on the back with its calculations of the great number of developing countries that were generous in their endorsements. But this says little about its justness. Rather, it demonstrates the ability of Cuban diplomacy to exploit the tensions characterizing the international stage and to take political advantage of the medical services from which it has profited in recent decades.
A glance at the most fervent interventions in favor of the island regime suffice to give one an idea of the category into which they fall: Turkey, Venezuela, China, Nicaragua, North Korea, Russia...
Some awkward recommendations
In reality, Cuban leaders should ask themselves about the remarks offered by Costa Rica and Uruguay. These countries are currently administrated by governments hardly suspected of being "right-wing". And yet, both not only recommended that Havana ratify international agreements upholding Civil, Political, Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, signed at the UN in 2008, but also to create an independent national human rights institution, in accord with the principles of Paris.
However, at the last session of the UPR, the regime will probably recast and dismiss as "interventionist" these recommendations to truly democratize its institutions and halt the harassment of the independent press and human rights activists.
Once again the Cuban regime will strive to celebrate it social achievements (though there is less and less to tout) and advance unverifiable figures that make Cuba, on paper, an idyllic place. Goebbels' ideas are ever-pertinent: "the bigger the lie, the more people will believe it."