Cuba's cultural counter-revolution: US gov't-backed rappers, artists gain fame as "catalyst for-
Posted by sashimi on July 26, 2021, 3:40 pm
current unrest" |
Max Blumenthal, 25 July 2021
Lede: Painting itself as a grassroots collective of artists fighting for freedom
of expression, the San Isidro Movement has become a key weapon in the US
government's assault on the Cuban revolution.
"My people need Europe, my people need Europe to point out the abuser," Yotuel,
a Spain-based Cuban rapper, proclaimed in an EU parliament event convened by
right-wing legislators before handing the mic over to Venezuelan coup leader
Juan Guaidó. Days later, Yotuel held a Zoom call with State Department officials
to discuss "Patria y Vida," the anti-communist rap anthem he helped author.
As the dust clears from a day of protests across Cuban cities, the Wall Street
Journal has dubbed "Patria y Vida" the "common rallying cry" of opponents of
Cuba's government, while Rolling Stone touted it as "the anthem of Cuba's
Besides Yotuel, two rappers who collaborated on the song are among a collection
of artists, musicians and writers called the San Isidro Movement. This
collective has been credited by US media with "providing a catalyst for the
Throughout the past three years, as economic conditions worsened under an
escalating US economic war while internet access expanded as a result of the
Obama Administration's efforts to normalize relations with Cuba, the San Isidro
Movement has invited an open conflict with the state.
With provocative performances that have seen its most prominent figures parade
through Old Havana waving American flags, and through flagrant displays of
contempt for Cuban national symbols, San Isidro has antagonized the authorities,
triggering frequent detentions of its members and international campaigns to
By basing itself in a largely Afro-Cuban area of Old Havana and working through
mediums like hip-hop, San Isidro has also maneuvered to upend the racially
progressive image Cuba's leftist government earned through its historic military
campaign against apartheid South Africa and the asylum it offered to Black
American dissidents. Here, the San Isidro Movement appears to be following a
blueprint articulated by the US regime change lobby.
Over the past decade, the US government has spent millions of dollars to
cultivate anti-government Cuban rappers, rock musicians, artists, and
journalists in an explicit bid to weaponize "desocialized and marginalized
youth." The strategy implemented by the US in Cuba is a real life version of the
fantasies anti-Trump Democrats entertained when they fretted that Russia was
covertly sponsoring Black Lives Matter and Antifa to spread chaos through North
As this investigation will reveal, leading members of the San Isidro Movement
have raked in funding from regime change outfits like the National Endowment for
Democracy and US Agency for International Development while meeting with State
Department officials, US embassy staff in Havana, right-wing European
parliamentarians and Latin American coup leaders from Venezuela's Guaidó to OAS
Secretary General Luis Almagro.
San Isidro has also welcomed support from a network of free market
fundamentalist think tanks which make no secret of their plan to transform Cuba
into a colony for multi-national corporations. Days after protests broke out in
Cuba, San Isidro's leadership accepted an award from the Victims of Communism
Memorial Foundation, a right-wing Republican think tank in Washington that
includes Nazi German soldiers in its count of historic deaths at the hands of
Behind their branding as cosmopolitan intellectuals, renegade rappers, and avant
garde artists, San Isidro's has openly embraced the extremist politics of the
Miami Cuban lobby. Indeed, its most prominent members have expressed effusive
support for Donald Trump, endorsed US sanctions, and clamored for a military
invasion of Cuba.
The cultural collective has nonetheless made inroads into progressive circles of
North American intelligentsia, working to weaken traditional bonds of solidarity
between the Cuban revolution and US left. As we will see, the rise of the San
Isidro Movement is the latest chapter in the emerging playbook of intersectional
A "forgotten group of people": Afro-Cuban protest participation captivates US
The scenes of an overturned police car in Havana's October 10 neighborhood, mobs
pelting police officers with molotov cocktails, and the looting of commercial
centers this July 11 ripped the cover off the resentment of a class of citizens
that has fallen through the cracks of Cuba's beleaguered special economy.
Following years of deepening economic deprivation, Cuban have experienced
blackouts and food rationing brought on by former President Donald Trump's
intensification of the 60-year-long US economic blockade of Cuba. A sudden
collapse in tourism due to the Covid-19 pandemic together with the government's
elimination of Cuba's dual currency system exacerbated the economic chaos.
Cristina Escobar, a Havana-based journalist and one of the most widely watched
news personalities on Cuba's state broadcasting channel, described the protest
rank-and-file to The Grayzone as the byproduct of sustained marginalization.
"There's a group of people in urban places like Havana that have the following
characteristics," Escobar explained. "They're usually from rural poor areas and
have moved to the city looking for better opportunities; usually not white with
all the gradients there, and live at the margins, receiving whatever state
benefits that are available. They often work in informal economy, they feel
disaffected and don't have involvement in patriotic ventures because they're the
victims of the special period of poverty."
While Cuba's social safety net has prevented this demographic from slipping into
the misery familiar to slums of IMF-managed states such as Haiti or Honduras,
Escobar says "they are a forgotten group of people, disintegrated, without roots
in society. They are expressing the inequality they experience and
unfortunately, they are not doing it peacefully anymore."
US corporate media has seized on the images of Afro-Cuban protesters to paint
the demonstrations as an expression of explicitly racialized discontent. In an
article headlined, "Afro Cubans at forefront of [Cuba's] unrest," the Washington
Post quoted anti-government NGO's and activists associated with the San Isidro
Movement denouncing Black Lives Matter for its statement of solidarity with the
Left unmentioned by the Washington Post was the role of the US government in
backing many of these same NGO's and activists in a bid to weaponize the Cuba's
underclass. At the forefront of Washington's strategy are two traditional CIA
fronts: the US Agency for International Development (USAID) and the National
Endowment for Democracy (NED).
-- Cont'd at https://thegrayzone.com/2021/07/25/cubas-cultural-counter-revolution-us-govt-rappers-artists-catalyst/