Free Gorki Aguila!

Sometimes movements are launched from the unlikeliest of sources. They might begin when a tired seamstress refuses to give up her seat on an Alabama bus or when a simple Polish shipyard worker organizes a union and faces down an empire. In Cuba, Gorki Aguila may very well be such an unlikely source. Unlikely, not because he isn't courageous, he's arguably this generation's most courageous celebrity. No, unlikely because Aguila, the lead singer of the punk rock band, "Porno para Ricardo," would rather make music with his friends than discuss global politics. But destiny has a strange way of defining our rolls in life.

Earlier this week, this unlikeliest of heroes was yet again detained by Cuba's despotic authorities for the crime of  "social dangerousness." The charge may elicit memories of a bygone era of American innocence when Elvis was arrested for gyrating his hips too provocatively. But Elvis never faced 4 years in a Cuban dungeon.

Gorki Aguila faces a sentence of 4 years for his "crime" of free thought and unimaginably in Cuba, free expression. So while most of the civilized world has come to recognize freedom of thought and expression as a basic human right, Fidel's baby brother Raul still considers any criticism of his governance a punishable offense. Raul if you'll remember became the "Maximum Leader" when after 49 years of uninterrupted rule, the "Commandante" announced he was "retiring" to pursue a career in writing.

Quite the demotion from ruler of all he surveys to blogger. Not that there's anything wrong with blogging but somehow it doesn't seem the kind of retirement suited for a man who has spent his life repressing freedom of speech. Fidel publicly announced in LBJ-like fashion that he would neither seek nor accept yet another appointment as President of the island nation. "Publicly" is a bit of a stretch considering the dictator hasn't been seen in public since July 2006 and as should be obvious proving one is alive is rather easy. In the case of the elder Castro, however, it may turn out that the rumors of his demise are in fact not greatly exaggerated. Nevertheless, as the 81-year old tyrant's supposedly final act, he passed complete authority to a new generation; his 76-year old brother Raul who had been theoretically running the socialist paradise while Fidel was recovering.

Castro, Part II was supposed to be a "kinder, gentler" dictator (as if those words weren't an oxymoron) but the arrest of Aguila this week shows that the more things change the more they stay the same.

Certainly Gorki Aguila isn't Castro's only victim, merely the latest. In a brutal dictatorship that has spanned fifty years, there have been innumerable victims. There are hundreds sitting in Castro's jails and thousands who served stints over the years for similar "offenses;" Millions sitting in far away lands separated from loved ones; Thousands lost at sea trying to escape Castro's despotic rule. And millions suffering daily repression on the island prison. Courage comes in many forms and is hardly exclusive to Aguila. But Aguila has become for many the embodiment of the struggle for freedom and self-determination. As seemingly carefree as he is outspoken, his identity is not forged by any particular political persuasion as much as it is the struggle of the proverbial "everyman." Silencing a political opposition party is one thing; silencing a rambunctious musician with incorrigible wit and good humor is quite another.

His courage and resolve, however, are far from commonplace. He has been beaten, harassed, intimidated, jailed and has even had his daughter threatened. The sinister, cowardly Cuban system fears any challenge to the group think. And as anyone even remotely familiar with Aguila knows, he is most certainly not a group thinker. So through it all, he has continued to defiantly speak his mind and, more importantly, make a caricature of his oppressors. He has succeeded in making the dictatorship appear ridiculous, which is far more dangerous to the power structure than being seen as incapable. 

So while we debate the  merits of our presidential candidates, Raul Castro worries about critical punk rock lyrics. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the state of your government when you believe a harsh word from an angry rocker is a national threat but such is the absurdity of totalitarianism.

Having terrorized and imprisoned an entire population for decades and bankrupted a once thriving, vigorous economy, the Castro brothers have systematically drained all hope from Cuba. Imagine the prospect of a future full of sacrifices to a failed ideology that refuses to acknowledge the right of every human being to freedom and self determination. Imagine your brother, father, sister, son or friend dragged away by an unaccountable police the way Gorki Aguila was recently taken. Then imagine having absolutely no recourse. Despite ignorant assertions to the contrary, there are no freedoms in Cuba; no freedom of speech; no freedom to assemble; no freedom of religion. There are plenty rotting in Castro's gulags that are evidence of the sad truth that anything short of blind allegiance to Castro and the communist party is not tolerated.

In 2008, a man is going to prison simply for speaking his mind. The only thing more preposterous is that it will not invoke moral outrage in a country of free men. Regardless of political, social or personal views there exists a fundamental right to have and, further, express those views. In essence, to live in freedom and self-determination. Ultimately, the Castro regime rests on terror and there is a simple human obligation to oppose it. 

We should accept no less

Gorki Aguila will appear before one of Raul Castro's kangaroo courts and may very well be imprisoned for the next four years. While he is hardly the first or only political prisoner in Castro's jail, his conviction would underscore exactly how frivolous the persecution is in Castro's Cuba.

Jeane Kirkpatrick opened every meeting at the UN by naming the prisoners held in Russian gulags explaining, "Statistics don't bleed; it is the detail which counts." Bringing to light the frivolous persecutions of the Castro regime makes it harder for apologists here and abroad to defend his criminal regime. The statistics of those suffering in Cuban jails mean nothing until they have a face and a name. He may not be Rosa Parks or Lech Walesa but the statistics now have a face and a name and it's Gorki Aguila, punk rocker/freedom fighter.
Sometimes movements are launched from the unlikeliest of sources. They might begin when a tired seamstress refuses to give up her seat on an Alabama bus or when a simple Polish shipyard worker organizes a union and faces down an empire. In Cuba, Gorki Aguila may very well be such an unlikely source. Unlikely, not because he isn't courageous, he's arguably this generation's most courageous celebrity. No, unlikely because Aguila, the lead singer of the punk rock band, "Porno para Ricardo," would rather make music with his friends than discuss global politics. But destiny has a strange way of defining our rolls in life.

Earlier this week, this unlikeliest of heroes was yet again detained by Cuba's despotic authorities for the crime of  "social dangerousness." The charge may elicit memories of a bygone era of American innocence when Elvis was arrested for gyrating his hips too provocatively. But Elvis never faced 4 years in a Cuban dungeon.

Gorki Aguila faces a sentence of 4 years for his "crime" of free thought and unimaginably in Cuba, free expression. So while most of the civilized world has come to recognize freedom of thought and expression as a basic human right, Fidel's baby brother Raul still considers any criticism of his governance a punishable offense. Raul if you'll remember became the "Maximum Leader" when after 49 years of uninterrupted rule, the "Commandante" announced he was "retiring" to pursue a career in writing.

Quite the demotion from ruler of all he surveys to blogger. Not that there's anything wrong with blogging but somehow it doesn't seem the kind of retirement suited for a man who has spent his life repressing freedom of speech. Fidel publicly announced in LBJ-like fashion that he would neither seek nor accept yet another appointment as President of the island nation. "Publicly" is a bit of a stretch considering the dictator hasn't been seen in public since July 2006 and as should be obvious proving one is alive is rather easy. In the case of the elder Castro, however, it may turn out that the rumors of his demise are in fact not greatly exaggerated. Nevertheless, as the 81-year old tyrant's supposedly final act, he passed complete authority to a new generation; his 76-year old brother Raul who had been theoretically running the socialist paradise while Fidel was recovering.

Castro, Part II was supposed to be a "kinder, gentler" dictator (as if those words weren't an oxymoron) but the arrest of Aguila this week shows that the more things change the more they stay the same.

Certainly Gorki Aguila isn't Castro's only victim, merely the latest. In a brutal dictatorship that has spanned fifty years, there have been innumerable victims. There are hundreds sitting in Castro's jails and thousands who served stints over the years for similar "offenses;" Millions sitting in far away lands separated from loved ones; Thousands lost at sea trying to escape Castro's despotic rule. And millions suffering daily repression on the island prison. Courage comes in many forms and is hardly exclusive to Aguila. But Aguila has become for many the embodiment of the struggle for freedom and self-determination. As seemingly carefree as he is outspoken, his identity is not forged by any particular political persuasion as much as it is the struggle of the proverbial "everyman." Silencing a political opposition party is one thing; silencing a rambunctious musician with incorrigible wit and good humor is quite another.

His courage and resolve, however, are far from commonplace. He has been beaten, harassed, intimidated, jailed and has even had his daughter threatened. The sinister, cowardly Cuban system fears any challenge to the group think. And as anyone even remotely familiar with Aguila knows, he is most certainly not a group thinker. So through it all, he has continued to defiantly speak his mind and, more importantly, make a caricature of his oppressors. He has succeeded in making the dictatorship appear ridiculous, which is far more dangerous to the power structure than being seen as incapable. 

So while we debate the  merits of our presidential candidates, Raul Castro worries about critical punk rock lyrics. Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the state of your government when you believe a harsh word from an angry rocker is a national threat but such is the absurdity of totalitarianism.

Having terrorized and imprisoned an entire population for decades and bankrupted a once thriving, vigorous economy, the Castro brothers have systematically drained all hope from Cuba. Imagine the prospect of a future full of sacrifices to a failed ideology that refuses to acknowledge the right of every human being to freedom and self determination. Imagine your brother, father, sister, son or friend dragged away by an unaccountable police the way Gorki Aguila was recently taken. Then imagine having absolutely no recourse. Despite ignorant assertions to the contrary, there are no freedoms in Cuba; no freedom of speech; no freedom to assemble; no freedom of religion. There are plenty rotting in Castro's gulags that are evidence of the sad truth that anything short of blind allegiance to Castro and the communist party is not tolerated.

In 2008, a man is going to prison simply for speaking his mind. The only thing more preposterous is that it will not invoke moral outrage in a country of free men. Regardless of political, social or personal views there exists a fundamental right to have and, further, express those views. In essence, to live in freedom and self-determination. Ultimately, the Castro regime rests on terror and there is a simple human obligation to oppose it. 

We should accept no less

Gorki Aguila will appear before one of Raul Castro's kangaroo courts and may very well be imprisoned for the next four years. While he is hardly the first or only political prisoner in Castro's jail, his conviction would underscore exactly how frivolous the persecution is in Castro's Cuba.

Jeane Kirkpatrick opened every meeting at the UN by naming the prisoners held in Russian gulags explaining, "Statistics don't bleed; it is the detail which counts." Bringing to light the frivolous persecutions of the Castro regime makes it harder for apologists here and abroad to defend his criminal regime. The statistics of those suffering in Cuban jails mean nothing until they have a face and a name. He may not be Rosa Parks or Lech Walesa but the statistics now have a face and a name and it's Gorki Aguila, punk rocker/freedom fighter.