Public Message in Answer to a “Confused Reader” / Miriam Celaya

Mr. Calvet:

Welcome back to our arena. You are really proving to be an itsy-bitsy difficult reader. You’ll have to excuse me, but, with your comment to my March 21st post that you uploaded on the 23rd, you almost succeeded in confusing me. As I see it, your questions have the wrong focus from the beginning. For starters, why should Yoani or anybody else have to explain “reasons” to visit an embassy? Why can’t an average person have “contact” with foreign officials? Why are such things turned into crimes by the Cuban authorities? What would happen, for instance, if an American should walk into the Cuban consulate in Washington? Doesn’t the fact that Yoani (and others) go openly into those embassies tell you that we are convinced that we are not committing any violation? Don’t you know that the embassies that the Yeomen of the Cuban regime mention will not refuse entry to any Cuban citizen who requests it, whether he is a revolutionary, dissident, or completely oblivious to matters of politics? Do you have any idea of how prohibitive the costs of accessing the Internet are from the scarce and generally slow public sites, if such access is not denied, as can happen? Don’t you know that some embassies allow time to access the Internet not just to members of the independent civil society or the terrifying opponents, but also to individuals who side with the government? The interesting detail is that the latter don’t have the authorization of their very own government to enter these embassies. Curious detail, right?! And do you know, outspoken reader Calvet, why permission is not granted to them? Because the “rations” of Internet that the Cuban government offers –- and only to its most devoted supporters — are also carefully monitored by intelligence agents, which could not be possible if such connections were carried out inside a diplomatic environment. You got that? Or are you still confused about this?

In another paragraph, you consider Cuba’s “reasons” are proven truths rather than suppositions. They are outlined in an official TV video, and such “reasons” are actually those of the Cuban authorities, not of “Cuba”. That’s why you assume that there really are 90,000 cyber-warrior agents at the keyboards and that Obama has placed in our hands all kinds of equipment and technology to overthrow the Castros (it’s obvious you have never seen my old and dear second-hand cell phone, a present from a friend, on which I allow myself to send twitter messages barely once a week). You obviously believe in what the soppy words of a young official revolutionary blogger by the name of Elaine suggest, who appears in the government’s video babbling about her “not having Internet at home” and informing us that “her granddad is happy though he doesn’t have Internet”. That is to say, the underlying message is that alternative bloggers do have home connections and that, unlike the girl’s loving grandfather, we have a very consumerist concept of happiness. As if the government would allow us to have a home network! Look here: you and people like you are one of the “reasons” the Cuban government goes to the trouble of concocting such poor quality stuff.

To your disappointment, I can confirm that the slender, long-hair girl with the orange blouse and sunglasses in the video presenting her credentials at the checkpoint to enter the SINA is indeed Yoani Sánchez Cordero. Even better, I, Miriam Celaya González, am the woman in the brown skirt, black strappy knit top and also wearing sunglasses standing beside her. That day, we both went to collect our passports and visas (I suppose you know that visas are processed at the consular offices of the countries where one is expected to travel, and not at the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution), and, by chance, we happened to coincide with the SINA press officer, an extremely nice and caring Puerto Rican whom we got to know because that lady is interested in press matters (she is so rare!) and we bloggers carry out a special kind of press, known as civic journalism. Can you grasp the issue now?

But, since you brought up the point, and I am assuming that you are full of good intentions and that your doubts are sincere, I will add information that was not published in the video “Cuba’s Reasons”. Both Yoani and I were then in the midst of visa negotiations because we had been invited –- by academic institutions and not by the Federal government — to a trip that included universities in Canada and the United States. This was in the year 2009, that is, they are pretty old images, but they were the only ones that the front men for the dictatorship had on hand. The friends that invited us on this trip processed the invitation letters in our names and paid for the appropriate consular transactions to the Cuban authorities at the exorbitant prices that the system stipulates. Not only did such letters never come to be in our possession, though we went to the International Legal Counsel in Cuba to claim them, but, in addition, our friends were never reimbursed for the money they paid, though they tried to claim it by presenting all receipts and vouchers from the process. Got that?

I am glad that you saw the bloggers’ video “Civic Reasons” which I was honored to participate in, with friends whom I deeply admire and respect, and I am glad you came away with the impression (true and correct) that we have no link to what has been called the “U.S. interests.” Let me take this opportunity to point out that if the assumed grim imperialist interests are for Cubans to have freedom and democracy, I openly declare that I agree with them, which does not mean I am a “salaried” employee of that government or that I have “feelings of annexation” or any such label. I would also like to make it clear that “the Cuban dissident blogosphere”, as you refer to us, and this is what we are, does not constitute an organization, does not have a common agenda, is not affiliated by bases or statutes, but instead, we are part of a spontaneous phenomenon, individual in its character, so that neither Yoani Sánchez nor Ernesto Hernández Busto are “at the head” of something that has no head. It is an official maneuver of the Cuban government specifically to try to create a visible head in order to be able to decapitate it. Speaking for myself, personally, I am not subordinate to anyone. I just subscribe or co-write the documents and principles that I share. Is it really so difficult to understand this? Such inflexibility is not expected from someone who lives in a free society.

A sound suggestion, Mr. Calvet: dissociate yourself from all prejudice; watch videos, programs, or blogs with a critical eye, and think with your own intellect, though you don’t need to share my views. Long live diversity of beliefs! The easiest thing, as I see it, would be for all of us — Tyrians and Trojans — to orchestrate a campaign for free Internet access for Cubans on the island, especially now that the very supportive Hugo Chávez has pitched our way a fiber optic little cable, and our current capabilities can spread to very high levels. I invite all bloggers, the free and the bound, to unite our wills in a desire that should be common: free Internet. How much do you want to bet that the government and its paid bloggers will not support this initiative? I hope I have made clear (for the second time), at least to some extent, your great confusion.



Translated by Norma Whiting

25 March 2011