Some Yes, Others No / Yoani Sánchez

Miriam Celaya is second from right in the right hand photo. Images taken from y

I turned on the TV, in one of those fits of credulity which now and then assail me. I wanted to hear the evening news, to know some news, to feel closer to the reality of Syria, so distant and so near. But here information is not measured by its importance in the rest of the world… so, patience, great patience. First came a report about some agricultural crops whose growth we have not noticed on our plates; a story about the increase in beans, bananas or quarts of milk that are still playing hide and seek with our mouths. I endured it. I wouldn’t take my eyes from the screen until I had heard about the deaths in Homs, the declarations of the Arab League, and the deaths of two journalists resulting from a bombing.

The minutes passed, uninformed and anxious. Suddenly I see a photo in which the blogger Miriam Celaya and other acquaintances appear, surrounded with epithets such as “mercenaries” and “traitors.” The reason was their participation in a workshop on digital media, held at the home of an official from the United States Interest Section. Outside a group of restless official paparazzi were taking photographs of the event to illustrate their later telling of it, in their own way, on national television. Whenever something like this happens, I wonder why the Cuban government keeps open a representation of the United States on the Island if — as they say — it is a “nest of provocation.” The answer is contained within the question itself: they would not be able to govern without putting the blame for the growing discontent on someone else. And, in addition, if the thousands of people who line up each week outside this diplomatic site to emigrate felt that there was no other outlet for their frustration, most likely they would take to our streets, to our plazas. In short, the Foreign Ministry suffers a visible conflict of avoidance-approach, love-hate, get away from me-I need you.

I would also love to know what happens to American citizens who visit the corresponding Cuban office on the soil of our neighbor to the north. Are their faces also broadcast on the news, accompanied by insults? Diplomacy, despite what many think, occurs not at the level of governments or presidential palaces, but person to person. So every Cuban should have the sovereign right to visit the embassies of Iran or Israel, Bolivia or Chile, Russia or Germany. Given that these contacts are not a crime under the penal code, they should be allowed and encouraged. The job of the government would be to protect these exchanges, not to dynamite them.

Even more surprising, the next day on the same boring news show, I see images of Raul Castro meeting with two important United States senators. But in his case they do not present him as a “traitor” or a “worm,” but as the First Secretary of the Communist Party. I know that many will try to explain to me that “he can because he is a leader.” In response to which, allow me to remind them, the president of a nation is just a public servant, he cannot engage in an action that is prohibited or demonized to his fellow citizens. If he is empowered to do it, why is Miriam Celaya not. Why not invite this woman, an anthropologist and magnificent citizen journalist who was born in 1959, the year of the Revolution itself, to some public center to relate her experience in working in the digital press, rather than relegate her to some locale provided to her by “others.” Why not dare to allow her one minute — even if it is only in the worst hour in the middle of the night — to speak on the official television that censors and stigmatizes her?

The saddest thing is that the answer to all these questions will never appear in this dull newscast at one in the afternoon, nor in the morning, nor at eight o’clock at night, nor at…

26 February 2012