The “Crisis of the Sugar Missiles” / Yoani Sanchez

 sugar missilesThe Congress of the Journalists Union of Cuba (UPEC) has just been contradicted. Barely a few days after that meeting of official reporters, reality has put them to the test … and they failed. Yesterday, the news that a freighter flying under the North Korean flag, coming from Havana and found with missiles and other military equipment in its hold, jumped to the first page of much of the world’s press. In Panama, where the arms were detected, the president of the country himself sent out a report via Twitter about what happened. Knowing that in this day and age it’s almost impossible to censor — from the national public — an event of such scope, we awoke this morning to a brief note from the Ministry of Foreign Relations. In an authoritarian tone it explained that the “obsolete” — but functional — armaments were being sent to the Korean peninsula for repairs. It did not clarify, however, why it was necessary to hide them in a cargo of sugar.

At a time when newspapers are offering lessons that governments can’t get away with secrecy, the conformist role of the official Cuban press is, at the very least, painful. Meanwhile, in Spain several newspapers have challenged the governing party by publishing the declarations of its former treasurer; in the United States the Snowden case fills the headlines which demand explanations from the White House about the invasion of privacy of so many citizens. It is inconceivable that, this morning, Cuba’s Ministry of the Armed Forces and its colleagues in Foreign Relations are not being questioned by reporters calling them to account. Where are the journalists? Where are these professionals of the news and of words who should force governments to declare themselves, force politicians not to deceive us, force the military not to behave toward citizens as if we were children who can be constantly lied to?

Where are the resolutions of the UPEC Congress, with their calls to remove obstacles, abolish silence, and engage in an informative labor more tied to reality? A brief note, clearly plagued with falsehoods, is not sufficient to explain the act of sending — secretly — arms to a country that the United Nations itself has warned others not to support with the technology of war. They will not convince us of their innocence by appealing to the antiquity of the armaments; things that produce horror never entirely expire. But, as journalists, the most important lesson to come out of this “crisis of the sugar missiles” is that we cannot settle for institutions that explain themselves in brief press releases, that cannot be questioned. They have to speak, they have to explain… a lot.

17 July 2013