Officials are Losing the Public Relations Battle in Cuba

Díaz-Canel on Sunday in La Coloma, Pinar del Río. (Office of the President)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, October 3, 2022–Amid the restlessness and hardship which has settled in the streets of the Island, the Cuban government has put in motion the communications machinery to regain political and social ground, not just within Cuba, but also abroad. It took the most ideologically forward step on Sunday publishing a declaration by Casa de las Américas in which it accuses the “media” and “voices” on social media of taking advantage of the devastation caused by Hurricane Ian “to shape the opinion that our ills and the difficulties facing them are the result of the Government of Cuba’s ineptitude.

The ones Miguel Díaz-Canel calls “haters,” those who “take advantage of these circumstances to make other types of statements, that are counterrevolutionary; they try to commit vandalism, such as closing off streets, throwing stones against economic or social sites; that is outside of the law,” reports the official press. And these situations, threatened the leader, will be met with the rigor of the law.

The article, titled Ante la Cuba virtual, la Cuba real [Before the Virtual Cuba, the Real Cuba], leads with questions that attempt to respond to rhetorical ones. “Are ‘the people’ really confronting ‘the government’? Is Cuba a ‘failed state’ incapable of solving a crisis?” asked the declaration. The conclusion is “that the overwhelming majority of people identify with their leaders, participate in the country’s recovery, and defend the threshold principle in the new constitution approved in April 2019, “Cuba is a socialist state of laws and social justice, democratic, independent, and sovereign,” stated Casa de las Américas.

The article offers, as evidence of popular support for the regime, the yes votes in the referendum on the Family Code last Sunday the 25th, despite the fact that the abstentions were over 26%, the highest since 1959. Immediately after, it continues, a category three hurricane arrived. “It is painful and difficult, for any country suffering such a contingency, to rise up again, attenuate suffering of those affected, attempt to recover from the damages, and move forward,” it adds, and continued by saying the U.S. embargo — which it insists on calling a ‘blockade’ — makes the difficulties worse for Cuba.

The declaration maintains that to report, be it in the press or on social media, on the protests of thousands of citizens who for the past week have been requesting electricity is politicizing their suffering and inciting street violence while insisting that there not be a loosening of the embargo.

“They want to capitalize on the logical suffering of citizens deprived of basic services with the hope that nature will provide, at last, what the many desperate attempts at destroying the Revolution have not,” stated the text, which also mentions the missile crisis, Che Guevara, and Fidel Castro, who they say ‘shined like few statesmen in history’.”

The article reviewed some of the themes which in the last few days the government sought to defended ideologically. One of them is the “expressions of solidarity” from the world, especially from the U.S. to Cuba. On Sunday, The New York Times published a declaration in the form of an advertisement paid for by The People’s Forum, a pro-castroite group, which urges the government of Joe Biden to ease the embargo so the island can “rebuild.”

The ad highlighted that the damages following Ian are many and asked Washington to allow, even for just six months, the Island to access its markets to purchase construction materials.

“It is unconscionable . . . to engage in collective punishment against an entire people. . .Don’t let outdated Cold War politics prevent. . .people from helping the Cubans,” insisted the text.

The declaration by Casa de las Américas states that Hurricane Ian also affected the U.S., a theme which links to an article in Granma dedicated to hurricane damages in Florida titled Los tiempos relativos de la recuperación [Relative recovery times]. The article emphasized the magnitude of the destruction in the neighboring country as evidence that the Island is not the only one harmed and suggests, in a false tone of solidarity, that mutual support should flourish on these occasions.

“The fact that in the state of Florida there were more than 70 fatalities as a result of the strong pounding by Hurricane Ian, in addition to consternation and regrets, warned of how necessary it was to replace that country’s climate of hate and hostility with respect to Cuba, and to allow the contribution and collaboration in mitigating risks, and solidarity assistance after the disaster,” states the article, which reminds readers of the U.S. government’s rejection of assistance offered by Cuba during Hurricane Katrina which ravaged New Orleans in 2005.

While Cuba continues waiting, as if for a godsend, for a gesture of detente–which the Miami exile community watches carefully — authorities announced what its allies can send. One of them is Venezuela, which has sent 40,000 food packages, 50 transformers, power lines, and more than 22,000 square meters of zinc sheets to repair rooftops on two ships en route to Cuba, Carmita and Karola Sky.

“These will launch a maritime bridge extended by the ‘bolivarian‘ government over the waters of the Caribbean Sea, for the solidarity operation. . . but the operation will not end there. This is just the beginning,” stated the article.

Furthermore, on Monday, 19 cases of water purification tablets left Argentina, enough to treat 950,000 liters of water. According to calculations from the chancellery, this can serve 2,000 people for 90 days. “This input is fundamental to collaborate with the Cuban government’s response to the needs of the population of Pinar del Río, the city most damaged by the climate phenomenon,” stated the Argentinian chancellery.

Assistance is also expected from Mexico, announced by Andrés Manuel López Obrador, according to Miguel Díaz-Canel’s own account on Twitter.

The president has not stopped traveling to Pinar del Río, where he traveled for the third time on Sunday, with his military uniform. Though, his contacts in the streets are ever more complicated and the military must control the area for Díaz-Canel to approach the uneasy population without videos appearing, like those from last week in Mayabeque, where he was booed by residents of the area and was rebuked by a woman who ended up yelling, “They mock the people.”

In the last few days, the government announced different measures that, he maintains, will contribute to alleviate the situation of the people following this disaster. Among them are the approval of state funding to cover 50% of the price of construction materials, water tanks, and mattresses sold to the affected population. Furthermore, those who do not have enough income can access bank credits and request subsidies for the purchase of construction materials.

Specific provisions have also been approved by the Ministry of Labor so anyone who cannot work during the recovery may continue to receive 60% of their salary, among other measures related to Social Security.

It is to be seen whether they will comply with these announcements in time and in form, something which rarely happens, but seeing the unending protests, whether large or small, the government is losing the battle which matters most: public relations.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


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