The Lying Cuban Press / Cubanet, Victor Manuel Dominguez

Archive photo An elderly man selling Granma. Headline: “Raul will speak tomorrow”
Archive photo An elderly man selling Granma. Headline: “Raul will speak tomorrow”

Montonous, grey, controlled, censored, demagogic, jingoistic, for more than half a century as spokesperson for phantom successes

cubanet square, Victor Manuel Dominguez, Havana, 31 March 2015 (Cuba Sindical) – The “Revolutionary” Cuban press, characterized as demagogic, monotonous, manipulative, with a grey design, poor quality paper, without stylistic and conceptual diversity, born of the mortal remains of a free press that was censored and later banned from the inception of the Revolution.

Always under state control, the role of spokesperson of governmental policy and ideology, the lack of objectivity is required, and the omission or disguising of what really is happening in the country. Faced with its pathetic role, several Cubans talked about censorship, rumors and secrecy in the national press.

The Tagline

“Still, we are lucky that we are not sentenced to jail for wiping our backsides with the image of Marx, Mao, Stalin, or the victorious face of a leader of the country on a first page, like the followers of Kim Il Sung used to be in Pyongyang,” Ernesto Penalver said ironically.

The former graphics worker for the newspaper Avance, the first media outlet closed by the revolution (1-19-1960), Penalver, at 75 years of age, resells newspapers in order to live. “Occupational hazard, sir. I cannot help but make the rounds. Although now I do it clandestinely and through the back door,” he said.

According to the septuagenarian typesetter, since the imposition by the Cuban authorities of “The Tagline” (12-27-59), a kind of opinion by the graphics workers who refuted, under each article, the supposed attacks against the Revolution, the end of press freedom that was seen coming.

“We did not write anything. The old communist agitators dictated and imposed it. After Avance, El Pais, El Mundo and the radio and television states CMQ were grouped together on March 31, 1960, into the Independent Front of Free Broadcasters (FIEL).

The unfortunate FIEL was the beginning of the end. Later would fall Diario de la Marina and the magazines Bohemia, Carteles and Vanidades, all with quality, without ideological restrictions, with diverse information, added Penalver. “In that year there was not a monkey with a brain in the press who would oppose Fidel. It was over.”

Newspaper and magazine vendor on Monte Street (photo by Victor Dominguez)
Newspaper and magazine vendor on Monte Street (photo by Victor Dominguez)

After getting up between five and six in the morning, Penalver says, he takes a swallow of coffee (if there is any), a bowl of Cerelac, if there is any left, and washes with stored water and unscented soap. Then he joins dozens of old people who stand in lines in order to buy and resell today’s national press.

Governmental Secrecy

“In Cuba we have good journalists, said a young woman who said she is named Isel. The only thing is that they are tied hand and foot, and above all, they are castrated of their opinion. Whoever steps out of the official line will never write a line in Cuba. At least in the national press. And examples abound to illustrate this point.

According to the young woman, the role of journalist hero and villain from the daily Granma in Santiago de Cuba, Jose Antonio Torres, first praised by Raul Castro in the newspaper itself and then accused as a spy and sentenced to 14 years in prison, is more than sufficient to discourage any kind of objectivity that questions the interests of the Communist Party and the revolution.

A worker from Water and Sewer Works who is tearing up Escobar Street from San Rafael to Malecon, asked if he likes the Cuban press, said, “I read between the lines. The truth is the opposite of what is said here. But, friend, what will I carry bread in or what are the kids at home going to use for whatever?”

Likewise, a lady who was buying the Cartelera supplement, with information about the month’s artistic events, said: “This is among the little that can be believed. Although sometimes you get to an exhibit or a theater, and the program is completely different. But at least it can be read.”

Later, regarding a question about the objectivity of the national press, she added, “Can print, television or radio press be believable when it talks about over fulfillments, advances, achievements, when the reality is inversely proportional to the report they give, as happens every day in this country?”

Also, she added, that hidden, almost non-existent, are the data about rates of violence in the country, the levels of drug use and prostitution, the alcoholism, thefts, some diseases, government corruption, other reports that could serve as a warning about the population’s behavior.

Another lady, who came from a battle royal to buy some potatoes at a Belascoain farmers market, said, “They don’t even blush when they talk about the victorious deployment of the potato harvest, knowing that people and they themselves have to fight and it’s not enough or to buy it from outside, from the scalpers, at two dollars a kilo. They are wholesale liars.”

Line of old people to buy and resell newspapers (Photo by Victor Dominguez)
Line of old people to buy and resell newspapers (Photo by Victor Dominguez)

In accord with many of those who spoke about the topic, the most read parts of the national press are the daily Juventud Rebelde’s complaints and suggestions section, Acuse de Recibo, and Granma’s letters to the editor, for being a kind of wall of lamentations where the people complain although nothing is resolved.

In these sections – a typical reservoir of calamities – are read complaints about mistreatment, dumps, collapses, blockages, withholding of wages, evictions, unfair penalties, illegal expulsion, lack of medicine, rallies, negligence, lack of control, corruption and fraud, among thousands of other acts that afflict the country’s citizens and are endemic within the Revolution.

Beyond publishing these bouts of complaint, only without solving them although the respective entities should respond to the people’s demands, Cuban journalists devote themselves to praising the phantom successes of the Revolution, and to pointing out the speck in the foreign eye of other nations at an international level, all the better if they are not members of ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America), CELAC (Community of Latin American and Caribbean States) or CARICOM (Caribbean Community).

Thus the press in Cuba, according to popular opinion, only serves for wrapping trash, plugging holes, stuffing mattresses, and, above all, as toilet paper in hospitals, recreation centers, work places, sports centers, schools, bus stations and homes. And maybe someone can read it from time to time.

About the Author

Victor Manuel Dominguez. Independent journalist. He resides in Havana, Cuba.

Translated by MLK