Ivan Garcia,25 May 2015 — Cubans are not as uninformed as you think. Everyone knows that the Internet is a luxury. According to the latest report from the International Telecommunications Union (ITU), broadband is almost nonexistent, with a penetration of less than 1%, and only 3.4% of households had internet access in 2013.
Less than 15% of Cubans have computers. Although ETECSA recently announced that the number of mobile phone users had passed 3 million, Cuba remains behind in Latin America, with only 17.7 users per hundred inhabitants and no 3G technology or smart phones.
According to the Census of Population and Housing, over 93% of households have one or more televisions and 100% have radios. The state controls information flow with an iron fist, and Radio Martí, the Miami-based broadcaster that provides feedback about the spectrum of opposition within Cuba, is electronically jammed, making it inaudible in many areas of the country.
So based on statistics, it would seem difficult for Cubans living in difficult times to inform themselves. But the numbers obscure the data. The devil is in the details.
In a personal survey of 50 people of both sexes, between 17 and 80 years of age, 85% had frequent or occasionally access to an illegal cable antenna, or rent the “package,” a clandestine audiovisual compendium circulating in Cuba, or have read articles by independent journalists in the Journal of Cuba, El Nuevo Herald, and Journal of the Americas, outlining critical analysis against the Castro regime.
If you navigate by Facebook, you’ll be amazed at the high number of Cubans who log in, even though an hour of Internet time costs a third of the minimum monthly wage.
Leyanis, a young woman with silicone breast and hip implants, spends about 40 CUCs a month on social networks. “My monthly salary as a food-packaging technician is 500 pesos (about $22). But in the underground economy, like many other Cubans, I ’score’ extra money. I use my Facebook account to contact friends living abroad. Political news doesn’t interest me. ”
Countless prostitutes access the internet to promote themselves or try to hook up with a foreigner. When you ask them about dissident leaders or inquire if they are aware of some opposition project, they respond with a forced smile.
“Antonio Rodiles, Laritza Diversent, Manuel Cuesta Morúa? I don’t know who they are, I’ve never heard of them,” admits Camila, a hundred-dollar-a-night prostitute who owns an iPhone 6, has two computers at home, and connects to the Internet three times a week.
28 of the 50 respondents remembered hearing something vague in passing about the Ladies in White, or Elizardo Sanchez, or Yoani Sanchez, usually in the pejorative terms used by the official press.
There is a great contradiction. When you talk with any Cuban, not less than 80% of them acknowledge that the system is shot, the economy does not function. And if they could, they would temporarily or permanently leave Cuba. Their favorite destination, paradoxically, is the United States, the enemy for 56 years of the olive-green autocrats.
The less glamorous dissidents, like Hildebrando Chaviano or Yuniel Lopez, elected in their neighborhoods to aspire to be municipal delegates of the National Assembly of People’s Power, thanks to their work in the community, have created strong links with their neighbors. Human-rights activists in the mold of Sonia Garro or the independent journalist Luis Cino, are respected by their neighbors, who nevertheless keep their distance out of fear.
Local dissidents still have not found the formula for connecting with the average hurting Cubans. They have failed to capitalize on popular anger.
It is very easy to avoid pointing the finger of guilt at citizen fear or repression at that distance. True, there is fear and repression. But opponents on the island have no legal means of communication that allows them to disclose their political projects. Nor they have editorial spaces on radio and television.
Since May 16, 1938, the Popular Socialist Party, the Communist Party at the time, had its own press organ. It was called “Today” and except for the years when it was closed by the government in power, it was printed until October 3, 1965. In the 40s it also had a radio station, 1010 or Mil Diez. And besides books, it published magazines such as Noonday and Dialectics.
Now dissidents can only meet in the rooms of their own homes, and when they decide to hold a peaceful action on the street or in a park, they are repressed, beaten, and arrested.
While the best-known dissidents travel halfway around the world and participate in international forums and events, in Cuba they are nearly invisible and their leadership is nil.
Of the 50 respondents, 46 were unaware of dissident projects like Manuel Cuesta Morúa’s Citizen Hour, or the Campaign for Another Cuba led by Antonio Rodiles, which calls for ratifying the UN Covenants on civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights that the regime signed in 2008.
Both projects seek to empower civil society and the ordinary Cuban who watches the game from the stands. But they have not yet succeeded.
Photo: Taken from Wikipedia. The station Mil Diez (Radio 1010), “the radio station of the people” was founded thanks to a popular collection of 75,000 pesos. It moved to 314 Queen Street, in the heart of Havana. It aired for the first time on April 1, 1943 and the last time on March 12, 1948, when it was closed by the government of Ramon Grau San Martin. During its five years of existence, it was not only a propaganda vehicle of the PSP, but also a means of cultural dissemination. It helped launch various styles of music, such as Cuban jazz, danzón and the tango.
The following performed on Mil Diez: Benny Moré, the Matamoros Trio, Celia Cruz, Bebo Valdés, Olga Guillot, Elena Burke, Omara Portuondo, César Portillo de la Luz, José Antonio Méndez, Leonel Bravet, Aurora Lincheta, Miguel de Gonzalo, Pepe Reyes, Olga Rivero, Pacho Alonso, Frank Emilio, Barbarito Diez, Myriam Acevedo, Zoila Gálvez, María Cervantes, Alba Marina, Miguelito Valdés, Chano Pozo, Manteca, Orlando Guerra (Cascarita), the orchestras Casino de la Playa and Arcaño and his Marvesl with Arsenio Rodríguez, Félix Guerrero, Roberto Valdés Arnau y Rey Díaz Calvet, among others. The director of the station orchestra was Enrique González Mantici, and the musical director of Mil Diez was the incomparable Adolfo Guzmán. Among its announcers were two of the best of Cuba: Ibrahim Urbino and Manolo Ortega. (Tania Quintero)