Cuba’s Official Press Treads Carefully With Panama Papers / 14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez

In Iceland, citizens took to the streets to demand the prime minister take responsibility after the leaked documents. (Twitter)
In Iceland, citizens took to the streets to demand the prime minister take responsibility after the leaked documents. (Twitter)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, 5 April 2016 – The name of Cuba has not appeared among the so-called Panama Papers, but the official press is displaying caution over leaked documents that reveal fortunes hidden by politicians, athletes and entertainment figures. The national media has mentioned those touched by the scandal, such as Argentina’s president Mauricio Macro, while hiding evidence that points to Vladimir Putin and the Venezuelan government.

In Monday’s first newscast, the report on the exhaustive investigation into the documents from the Panamanian law firm Mossak Fonseca lasted less than a minute. The unveiling that exposed billionaires’ offshore accounts involving 140 politicians in 50 countries presents the ossified Party propaganda with the dilemma of joining the diffusers of these 15 million leaked documents, or keeping its distance before the involvement of numerous allies.

The Panama Papers involve not only doubtful transactions by political leaders such as the prime ministers of Georgia and Iceland, the King of Saudi Arabia and the president of Ukraine, but also reveal the shady dealings of close friends such as Russian president Vladimir Putin and Syrian president Bachar Al Assad, figures close to the Havana establishment and beneficiaries of favorable coverage in the local media.

The Plaza of the Revolution prefers to tread carefully before the avalanche of names of heads of states and governments — newly inaugurated or already retired –mentioned in the documents leaked by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The monopoly maintained over the written and broadcast media allows Cuba’s Department of Revolutionary Orientation (DOR) to present the version of the scandal that is later repeated in chorus by its reports inside and outside the island.

However, the plot has just begun and there may be other names. The ICIJ has warned that the investigators will demonstrate which of those involved have no legitimate way to maintain offshore accounts and thus have committed a crime or violation of the law. For now, all those mentioned are in the eye of the hurricane of the public diatribe, but it is up to the organs of justice to determine their guilt.

The threads of the skein, now being untangled by 370 journalists and 107 media companies in 78 countries, start with the documentation from an anonymous source delivered to the German newspaper Süddeutsche Zeitung, and also involve the soccer player Lionel Messi, King Juan Carlos’s brother Pilar de Borbon, and the movie director Pedro Almodovar. It is expected that in the coming weeks the scandal set off by these leaks will cause resignations, judicial proceedings and who knows if there might be a suicide.

Cuba’s official daily Granma will juggle to hide the fact that Adrian Jose Valasquez Figueroa, former head of security at the Miraflores Palace in Caracas, opened a bank account in the Republic of Seychelles a few days after Nicolas Maduro’s victory in the presidential elections. The faithful former captain of the Bolivarian army now lives in the greatest luxury in the Dominican Republic with his wife Claudia Diaz Guillen, a former nurse to Hugo Chavez. A story that will not be mentioned by the official press.

However, the Panama papers are more than a scandal of public figures who hide their money and evade tax obligations. Above all it is a test of truth and transparency in a world where there are ever more walls, secret codes and masks. This massive leak of documents also restores hope to journalism, a profession in crisis that has managed to stand out through perseverance and teamwork.

Hiding the revelations, silencing the names of those involved, will only end up sinking the official Cuban press, incapable of reflecting its own reality and that of others.