I’ve just returned from a short trip to Stockholm, Sweden, where I was invited by the government of that country to participate in the Stockholm Internet Forum, Internet Freedom for Global Development, which met on May 22nd and 23rd. While there, I had the opportunity to meet up with other Cuban activists living on the Island, with whom I participated on a Cuba seminar that took place at the Swedish Parliament, and a panel on freedom of the press in Latin America, at the press room attached to the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Neither one of these activities were related to the event program.
In just a few days in Stockholm we visited a local newspaper, the headquarters of Reporters without Borders, the offices of ECPAT, a nongovernmental organization fighting against child prostitution and pornography and the trafficking of children, and the headquarters of The Civil Rights Defender. We were also invited to the launching of the book We Must Take the Police Out of Our Heads, edited by the International Liberal Swedish Center, a report on the Island’s reality between 1998 and 2012 and the peaceful struggle for democracy, from the perspective of the analyst Erik Jennische.
Of course, I managed to walk around and learn something about the city, its people and places.
Some regular readers have written to me, asking me to comment on this blog what I consider my most important impressions in this experience, and how they could be used in the struggle for rights in Cuba. Personally, I was pleasantly impressed with the reception of Cubans who manage the magazine Misceláneas de Cuba, headquartered in Sweden, with whom we had the privilege of sharing through various meetings they set up for us, and I also met others whom I knew only through the mail up to then (as in the case of Hugo Landa) and the dozens of Cuban residents there and in other European countries that showed extraordinary solidarity with our Cuban struggle. Verifying the bonds that unite Cubans of all points of the diaspora is a source of inspiration and hope in the midst of the totalitarian drought in which we live.
On the other hand, the event’s sessions highlighted the technological backwardness and computer weakness in Cuba. In addition, many of the delegates expressed their solidarity with the cause of freedom of expression, information and news that Cubans are demanding. Some work strategies of various organizations and institutions in Sweden could be useful in the Cuban case, and we established links with them to implement proper agendas, in accordance with our reality.
A few yeomen of the guard were present among participants of this area, questioning our right to demand freedom when “Cubans have guaranteed free health care and education”. I will not repeat our answer to them, but suffice it to say that we did not see them again, nor did they try to boycott our public presentations, for their own good.
To those who have been so concerned about the funding of this trip, I will personally answer, not because they deserve it, but for the sake of transparency. I was invited by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Swedish government, which generously assumed all costs for travel, accommodation and food. I take this opportunity to publicly thank from this space the many attentions received from all Swedish organizations I had contact with, and in particular said Ministry.
Finally, I hope that, in future editions of this Forum, Cuban participants will have the opportunity to tell a different reality than we have at present. As for me, I will continue to do everything possible to contribute to make it so.
31 May 2013