14ymedio, Marcelo Hernandez, Havana, 19 November 2018 — These days the official press controlled by the Communist Party has sharpened its rhetoric after the decision by the Ministry of Public Health (MINSAP) to close the door on the Mais Medicos (More Doctors) in Brazil program. The Island’s press outlets have not spared insulting president-elect Jair Bolsonaro, who, under a humanitarian pretext by which in reality he sought to distance himself politically from Havana, conditioned the continued stay of the Cuban doctors on a series of measures that the Island’s authorities did not like.
The next leader of the South American giant combines characteristics that perfectly fit the mold of the adversary of Havana’s Revolution Plaza: defender of the military dictatorship, ultra-rightist and very critical of the Island’s government. His profile turns him into Ronald Reagan’s perfect successor for pro-government political forces.
“We get up and it’s Bolsonaro, we lie down and it’s still Bolsonaro,” complains Yanisbel, a Havana resident of 45 years who asserts that “recently it’s not worth it to turn on the television because it’s all the same.” The news reports are filled with interviews of Cuban doctors who describe their sacrifices and achievements during the mission in Brazil and also attacks on the “new political shift” of the — for years — allied country.
Granma, the official mouthpiece of the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), has taken great pains in reports, opinion columns and bulletins in which it highlights the “lack of morality” of the next Brazilian government for questioning Havana’s actions and proclaims that “foolishness won” with the departure of the Island’s health professionals from the Mais Medicos program.
Among such profusion of words and adjectives, the readers and viewers have noticed that something important is missing. “They have not told us the chicken of chicken with rice, and everyone knows it,” advises Duany, a self-employed barber who spent several days scrutinizing the topic with his customers. “The Cuban press has not counted on Bolsonaro wanting our doctors to make their whole salaries and to be able to bring their relatives,” he opines.
In a country where new technologies put official censorship in check it is increasingly difficult to hide information. “Everyone knows it, everyone talks about the same thing in the street, but the prime time newscast does not mention it,” complains Duany. “That makes the press lose credibility and contradicts all the calls to end secrecy that some official makes from time to time on television.”
“This is the typical case that puts editorial policy to the test,” says a young graduate of the Havana Communications Department who asked for anonymity. “The fact that the national press only reflects one opinion and one way of seeing the end of the agreement of the Ministry of Public Health with the Brazilian government is very significant.”
The young man rejects the idea that they have not interviewed “a single doctor among those who must return to Cuban who is not in agreement with MINSAP’s decision or who plans to seek the political asylum that Bolsonaro has offered.” Nor “have they broadcast statements from relatives here who do not agree with the low salaries or the family separations that the mission imposes.”
Instead of that, the official media has preferred to broadcast statements and stories as a very synchronized chorus and without different chords. “We fall again time after time into the same thing and later we are called to do journalism closer aligned with reality, but as if reality is not published,” complains the recent graduate.
Meanwhile, illegal parabolic antennas and other forms of information distribution are experiencing increasing usage. “People are waiting for Bolsonaro to be able to widen the political asylum offer to other Cuban professionals or make more flexible the travel visa from the Island to that country,” speculates Ricardo, a distributor of several of the illegal signal antennas.
“Some days ago what was most in demand was the telenovelas and the series but in the last week they have asked me to transmit all the news from Florida and any program that touches on the topic of Bolsonaro,” he explains to this daily. On the flat roof of his home in Central Havana, camouflaged behind a supposed dove cage, Ricardo has installed three antennas from which emerge yards and yards of cables that go to the living rooms of more than a hundred families.
In the official media, Bolsonaro’s counterpart is former Brazilian president Dilma Rousseff, who during her reign strengthened ties with Havana and provided the National Bank of Economic and Social Development with a loan of more than 680 million dollars to widen the Mariel port, the emblematic work of Raul Castro’s government.
“We have returned to the fable of the good and the bad, the hatchet man and the victim,” asserts Susana, a retiree who for more than a quarter of a century worked for the Ministry of Foreign Trade. “This is going to last, and we are going to have Bolsonaro for a while,” says the woman with a daughter who is one of the more than 8,300 doctors who are still on Brazilian soil.
“This is like a Brazilian telanovela, by chapters, but it’s already known who is the bad guy and who plays the part of the slave Isaura,” says the woman.
Translated by Mary Lou Keel
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