The Crisis Comes to Propaganda

Normally, the billboards remain an average of three or six months, but the terms are lengthening. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Marcelo Hernández, Havana, 26 September 2019 — The ‘coyuntural’ — temporary situation — has reached propaganda. Government machinery aimed at extolling the Revolution and the dissemination of its slogans has always been a key piece in which resources are invested, but this time the shortage has everything and both the billboards that run through the Island and the official press are depleted.

“Normally a billboard may be in place for three to six months without change, depending on where it is located, whether it is a current issue or if there is some urgency,” an employes of the Communist Party Publisher in Havana told 14ymedio . “In the Cuban capital we have dozens of billboards, distributed in all the municipalities, but right now we are only succeeding in replacing the more central ones,” he admits.

In the municipality of the Plaza of the Revolution, a huge sign shows a pole vaulter next to a text rejecting of the Helms-Burton law, but the billboard has been there for so long that the red background has lost its brightness without anyone having done anything to fix it.

“What affects us most right now is that we don’t have the fuel to deploy workers on the ground, remove old posters and put up-to-date ones,” the employee adds. “But we are also having a hard time getting the varied inks that are needed for this, because there is no hard currency to buy them.”

Every year, when the Government presents the report of the impact of the blockade (i.e. the American embargo) on the national economy, a campaign is launched throughout the country, which this year has been greatly affected. “Nor have we been able to fulfill the advertising plan that we planned for the celebration of Havana’s 500th anniversary,” he laments.

In the newsrooms of the official press, another of the sources of the strong propaganda of the regime, the situation is not very different. The cuts in the supply of fuel have led to local and national media to reduce their coverage in the street and to ask their employees to use their own vehicles and pay for gasoline to travel.

“I am lucky, because a year ago I bought an electric motorcycle and with that I am managing to cover some events and news,” a photojournalist who collaborates with a Havana media tells this newspaper. “I am doing this from my pocket, because when there’s a breakdown or I have a technical problem, the newspaper does not give me anything, but it is that or staying at home; and then I cannot earn any money,” he says.

The head of the medium in which this photojournalist works has asked employees to make an “effort” to avoid having to reduce the frequency of publication. “The digital version is being privileged, but that also difficult to produce, because in the office we are not allowed to turn on the air conditioning and no one can work in that heat,” he explains.

Not far from there, the Youth Labor Army agricultural market on Tulipán Street is also a true reflection of the situation of the Cuban economy. This Wednesday afternoon, most of the stalls were closed and those that were still open only had green bananas. “Only two trucks arrived today,” says Heriberto, an employee of the establishment.

“Cooperatives and state farms are bringing very little merchandise because they don’t have the fuel to transport it,” he says. “Without oil and without gasoline there is no way to get the products out of the field and bring them here.”

A seller of dry wine and vinegar, who works in a small private business where they also make pickles and jams, explains to the media that the trips they made to look for containers and stock up on fruits have had to be reduced by half because they don’t have gasoline. “I’m selling today because my husband brought me the bottles on a tricycle, if he hadn’t I wouldn’t have been able to open.”


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