Cuba’s Official Silence in the Khashoggi Case

The Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohamed bin Salman (right), receives Salah bin Jamal Khashoggi (left), one of the sons of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, to personally convey his “condolences”. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 24 October 2018 — A journalist enters a consulate and never comes out again. All indications point to the fact that within those walls he was reduced to a pile of body parts that were destroyed to erase all the evidence. The assassination of Saudi Jamal Khashoggi, presumably ordered by the absolutist monarch of his country, has provoked a wave of indignation that has not yet arrived in Cuba.

Khashoggi, a deep connoisseur of power networks in Saudi Arabia and a contributor to The Washington Post, is one of the latest victims of the excesses by authoritarian governments to silence the press. The profession has taken on a new life and the journalist’s death has revealed how economic conveniences cause the few who dare to criticize Riyadh to do so quite tepidly.

In recent days there have been protests in front of Saudi consulates in various parts of the world, declarations of support from countless media, and diplomatic demands expressed to King Salman bin Abdulaziz and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. However, from Havana not a single complaint has come through the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, nor has there been a statement from the official Union of Cuban Journalists (UPEC).

In Europe, German Chancellor Angela Merkel has been emphatic in suspending arms sales to Saudi Arabia in response to the murder of the journalist, although analysts rationalize this firmness by the smaller volume of trade between Berlin and Riyadh. This Thursday, the European Parliament is also expected to hold a vote on a joint resolution of condemnation, the result of which is still unknown due to the fact that opinions on the issue remain divided within the bloc.

Washington, slower to respond, has announced that it will revoke the visas of those Saudi officials supposedly implicated in the reporter’s death and that it will also subsequently impose other punishments as the investigations progress.

In the midst of this clamor, the silence of the Plaza of the Revolution in Havana, and of UPEC, becomes more apparent. The reasons for such caution are as mundane and pragmatic as are those of others.

In 2016, Cuba signed an agreement with the Saudi Development Fund for 80 million dollars to export products from the Arab country and to finance infrastructure in the Island’s deteriorated hydraulic sector. Later Cuba received another credit of more of 26 million dollars for the Rehabilitation and Construction of Social Works Program of the Office of the Historian of Havana.

Everything seems to indicate that the Cuban authorities do not want to offend, with their demands, one of the few pockets willing to continue putting money in the island.

Castroism has always been motivated more by economic interests than by ideological affinities, hence its closeness to the caudillo Francisco Franco, its exchanges with Videla’s military dictatorship in Argentina and its willingness to receive Israeli businessmen with open arms, although its propaganda attacks that country with a constant stream of expletives.

At the moment there is no group of official journalists protesting in front of the Saudi Arabian embassy in Havana, because money has prevailed over ideals and because the murder of the journalist Jamal Khashoggi is a minor issue for a regime that, in exchange for investments, credits and donations, knows how to turn a blind eye.

For that reason, no guest will speak up for the silenced reporter on Cuban TV’s Roundtable program, no commentator on primetime news will point to the Saudi regime as responsible for his death, and in the Cuban foreign ministry no diplomat will be given the task of transmitting to the Arab monarchy a message of displeasure. For all of them, conveniences take priority over the death of a journalist who only wanted to do his job.


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