Radio Marti: The Voice of Cuban Dissidents / Ivan Garcia

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Iván García, 24 February 2015 — One summer during a stay in Camaguey — a province 340 miles east of Havana — the owner of a house where I was staying listened from early morning to Radio Marti, a network created in 1985 under the administration of Ronald Reagan with the goal of providing Cubans with information uncensored or manipulated by the Castro government.

The woman told me that since 1985 she has been listening to radio soap operas, news and a morning program geared to a rural audience. When I travelled to other provinces, nearly all the people with whom I spoke said they got their information from or followed big league baseball on Radio Marti, which is probably heard more in the countryside than in the capital.

There is a logical explanation: the regime jams the station’s broadcasts less here. In Varadero, located on the Hicacos Peninsula and along the northern coast of Cuba, Radio Marti’s programming can be clearly heard.

Given the new geo-political dynamic between Cuba and the United States — two Cold War adversaries — various voices within the U.S. Congress are questioning the effectiveness and impact of the “Martis,” as they refer to an entity that includes a radio station, a television channel and a website.

Among the conditions for normalizing relations with the United States, Raul Castro asked that the media conglomerate be dismantled. Since the first broadcast in 1985 the government in Havana has used electronic jamming to block its radio and television signals. And readers cannot access the Marti Noticias website from Cuba.

Using the radio as a vehicle for informing citizens in totalitarian countries, where news, films and books are controlled by a dictatorship, is nothing new. During the Soviet era, the United States created Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty, broadcasters which disseminated information the Kremlin was trying to suppress.

The so-called “asymmetrical war,” which according to the regime is an attempt by the United States to destabilize Cuba, is something of an exaggeration.

With Fidel Castro’s arrival in power in January 1959, revolutionary propaganda became a powerful instrument of social control. One year earlier, in February 1958, Radio Rebelde (Rebel Radio) had already begun broadcasting from the Sierra Maestre, which contributed to the dissemination of the insurgents’ message.

A few months after becoming president, Fidel Castro completely did away with a free press, nationalizing newspapers and magazines, and establishing Prensa Latina and Radio Havana Cuba — media outlets that would later have the task of selling the world on the alleged benefits of the Cuban system, alternating between true and false propaganda.

Official radio networks in the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Spain often make use of these tools to their advantage too, but the storyline is different. In spite of being government entities, Voice of America, BBC, Radio France International and Radio Exterior de España air dissenting opinions.

I speak from personal experience. I have been a regular contributor to Radio Marti since 1996. I have been a guest on its radio shows and have had articles published in which I criticized both Cuban dissidents and the government of the United States without any form of censorship.

If Radio Marti were shut down, dissidents and independent journalists would not have a feedback channel to reach those living in Cuba. If the government allowed dissident voices to be heard in the media, the station nestled in Florida would lose its reason for being.

Before returning home after attending a workshop on investigative journalism in San Diego in November 2014, I spent a few days in Miami. There I met producers, directors and journalists who work for the Martis.

I have had frank conversations with Karen Caballero, a presenter on TV Marti. I have debated with Alvaro Alba, Ofelia Oviedo, Hector Carrillo, Amado Gil, Jose Luis Ramos, Rolando Cartaya, Margarita Rojo, Omar Montenegro, Luis Felipe Rojas and Juan Juan Almeida about the future of network.

I had a very productive meeting with Carlos Garcia Perez, director of both Radio Marti and Television Marti, and with officials Humberto Castello and Natalia Crujeiras. I argued that this broadcaster’s radio programs are crucial in providing a platform for the opposition and an outlet for articles by Cuba’s independent journalists.

It is a shame that jamming by the regime prevents TV Marti from being seen on the island. Ideally, it should have a wider audience. We all know the power of images.

In my opinion any reorganization that the Martis might go through should be for the better. Giving a broader platform to independent journalists and alternative bloggers is something that should be considered.

Programs on leisure and recreation could be improved. International news programs could be made more attractive, especially in regards to Venezuela, a country of great interest to some sectors within Cuba.

Thousands of housewives are regular listeners of soap operas. The variety of programming could be increased to offer more shows for women. Sports shows always gets high ratings so it should be given more air time.

Independent journalists in Cuba surely have entertaining stories. This is the 21st century. Never before have humans had access to so many sources of information as today. To reach them means having to be innovative.

The government of Raul Castro prohibits the free flow of news and information. It fears Radio Marti. That’s why it is censored.

Travel Notebook VIII

Photo: Cuba Day, a Radio Marti news show that airs Monday through Friday from 3 to 4 PM. Produced by Ofelia Oviedo, it is directed by Tomás Cardoso, Omar Lopez Montenegro and journalist Cary Roque. Freelance journalist Iván García is often invited to report from Havana. In his last appearance on Friday, February 6, he talked about what Cubans can expect from talks between Cuba and the United States (TQ).

Musings of a Blind Man (3) / Angel Santiesteban

At this point in the historic events that have taken place in recent days between Cuba and the United States, it is not worthwhile to have regrets, but rather to understand the reasons for these events, and try to find a positive view of them.

I dare say that President Obama has passed the ball to the Cuban rulers. Now they have in their court what they have been long been clamoring for. We shall see what they are capable of doing with it. Most likely, the Castro brothers will not know what to do with the new possibility that can only lead to the path of liberty and democracy. This is something that they are unwilling to concede, albeit knowing of the great chance that the Republicans will assume power in the next U.S. elections and will revoke Continue reading

With Raul Castro, Are the Poor Poorer? / Ivan Garcia

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Iván García, 26 February 2015 — José lives with his wife and five kids, crammed into a nine by twelve foot space with a wooden platform, in a shack in Santos Suárez, a slum south of Havana.

The tenement is a precarious spot where the electric cables hang from the roof,  water runs down the narrow central passage from the plumbing leaks, and a disgusting smell of sewage hangs in your nose for hours.

That shack forms part of a group of ramshackle settlements where more than 90 thousand Havanans live, according to Joel, a housing official in the 10 de Octubre municipality.

There are worse places. On the outskirts of the capital, shantytowns are spreading like the invasive marabou weed. There are more than 50 of them. Houses made of sections of aluminium and cardboard, without any sanitation Continue reading

Cuban Civil Society Open Forum Holds Third Meeting / 14ymedio

Meeting of Cuban Civil Society Open Forum. (14ymedio)

Meeting of Cuban Civil Society Open Forum. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 25 February 2015 – The Cuban Civil Society Open Forum held its third meeting this Wednesday with 25 people attending, among them activists, opponents and members of civic groups. The first point on the agenda was the approval of a document titled “Ethical Path for Cuban Civil Society,” which lays out the basic principles that should be supported. Also under discussion were internal organizational issues relative to the inclusion and representation of the participants.

A motion of solidarity with Venezuela (see below) was passed during the day and important agreements were made with regards to the attendance of Cuban civil society at the Summit of the Americas in Panama, to be held this coming April 10-11. Finally, those present were invited to make proposals about the elements and improvements that should be included in the next Elections Act, announced last Monday in an official note after the Tenth Plenum of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.

On this occasion there were new faces Continue reading

Seven Steps to Kill Orlando Zapata Tamayo / Luis Felipe Rojas

Orlando Zapata Tamayo

Luis Felipe Rojas — I published this post a few days after that needless death. Now I again denounce the death and express the same ideas about it. It’s my homage to my brother, Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

I am still experiencing the pain caused by that avoidable death, and I feel impotent because I didn’t attend the funeral honoring him due to political impediments, but that hasn’t stopped me from saying that in any case, what I present here seem to be the seven final steps that advanced the repressive machinery used to kill Zapata.

1. Setting up that para-judicial theater that imposed a sentence of 63 years on him for contempt.

2. The continuous beatings accompanied by obscene words and insults about his race and the region where he lived (shitty negro, shitty peasant). Continue reading

OLPL in “A New U.S.-Cuba Policy: Did Cuba Win?”


Fifty-plus years of US diplomatic stalemate and economic sanctions have failed to bring freedom to the Cuban people because they were not designed to bring freedom to the Cuban people, but to penalize a regime that started by sequestering Cuban sovereignty by violent and anti-democratic procedures (reestablishment of death penalty, radical hatred speech, citizen apartheid), by the illegalization of civil society and all forms of property (both private and public, including the press), and by tyrannizing every institutional power into a despotic State, plus the militarization of the nation to the point of demanding a nuclear attack against the United States from Cuban territory.

The 50-plus years to come of US diplomatic relations and capitalist engagement with Cuba can neither guarantee the advance of fundamental freedoms in my country, nor our liberation from the successive Castro generations, because a market economy is not a redemptive formula and it has already been implemented by authoritarian systems as a tool for tyrannical control of all basic rights. And this is a wicked word that President Obama, Pope Francis and General Castro have secretly agreed to postpone: the rights of the Cuban people. Continue reading

An Ethical Path for Civil Society / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya

Meeting of Cuban Civil Society Open Forum (Photo: Luz Escobar)

Meeting of Cuban Civil Society Open Forum (Photo: Luz Escobar)

cubanet square logoCubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 25 February 2015 — This Wednesday, February 25th, 2015, a new meeting of the members Espacio Abierto [Cuban Civil Society Open Forum] of the independent civil society took place with a broad representation of members of various pro-democracy projects throughout the Island, as well as independent journalists. A total of 25 participants took part in the symposium, where, in addition, views on issues of interest to the Cuban reality were exchanged.

On this occasion, among the most important points of the discussion adopted by full consensus was the document “An ethical roadway for Cuban civil society” which — as its name suggests — provides a guide for the basic principles governing the conclave, and a Motion of Solidarity with civil society and the Venezuelan opposition at a time when the repression tends to flare up with a statement that emphasizes leaders like Leopoldo López, who recently served a year in prison; Maria Corina Machado, a former deputy who was attacked Continue reading

Birds of Ill Omen / 14ymedio, Eliecer Avila

A young man with a tablet

A young man with a tablet

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14ymedio, Eliecer Avila, 28 February 2015 — A topic that is raised for discussion these days is the obsolete argument that some official voices never stop repeating at every opportunity they have to strain relations between Cuba and the United States or rather between Cuba and the Outside World. I am referring to the supposed “need” of implementing “appropriate measures designed to avoid the penetration that the enemy hopes to make into Cuban society.”

Just a few days ago, in the context of the first National Workshop on Computing and Cyber-Security held in Havana, with the physical or virtual presence of thousands of computer engineers, really absurd speeches Continue reading

Blindness Leads the Way / Rebeca Monzo

Rebeca Monzo, 8 February 2015 — After reading an article from the January 31, 2015 issue of the newspaper Granma  about Cuba and the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) entitled “Cooperation Leads the Way,” a ton of questions came to mind about the subject at hand.

It has been forty years since a UNDP office was established in our country with the objective to collaborate with the island’s government on the promotion of social development and public well-being.

From my meager understanding, the only party to have benefited from this has been the government itself, especially in terms of the favorable publicity it has received. They make up a negligible part Continue reading

New Electoral Law: New Wine in Old Wineskins? / Miriam Celaya

Meeting of the National Assembly (NeoClubPress)

Meeting of the National Assembly (NeoClubPress)

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After the Tenth Assembly of the Central Committee (CC) of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) the news about the next “enactment of a new electoral law; and the subsequent holding of general elections” has begun to circulate in the official media. Such an important announcement in a country where, for more than 60 years ago no general election has taken place, is mentioned almost tangentially, just nine words in an informational note on the above Assembly, whose “focal point” had to do with issues related to the preparations for the celebration of the April 2016 Sixth Congress of the single party.

So this is how the casual style of the announcement turns out so very misleading, downplaying a code Continue reading

Salaries for Doctors on the Island Will Increase / Cubanet, Roberto Jesus Quinones

cubanet square logoCubanet, Roberto Jesus Quinones, Guantanamo, 16 February 2015 — A rumor is keeping  the medical sector in Guantanamo euphoric, and it provokes immediate outbursts of joy in hospital corridors, in homes and in every place the supposedly good news is known. No one knows the origin of the rumor nor its hidden intent.

According to those who are in charge of spreading it, very soon the government will increase the salary for doctors. And, as happens with every rumor, there are always those who know everything about it and affirm that the new increase will be put into force to try to contain the exodus of physicians abroad by way of Continue reading