The official press: “Made to conceal, not to publicize” / Cubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez

A joke making the rounds: Napoleon said, “With Granma, nobody would have found out about my defeat at Waterloo:” (Photos: Internet)
A joke making the rounds: Napoleon said, “With Granma, nobody would have found out about my defeat at Waterloo:” (Photos: Internet)

cubanet square logoCubanet, Luis Cino Alvarez, Havana, 26 January 2015 – “Cubans are seeking a new conception of the press within socialism. All that can be predicted, without a doubt, is that it will be a democratic press, lively and original,” wrote Gabriel García Márquez in 1975.

That Gabo — always so unreal, so optimistic when it came to opining about his friend Fidel Castro’s Revolution. Such a quest does not show signs of obtaining results in any near future. It is easier to imagine the ascension into the heaven above Macondo of Remedios the Beautiful with a band of yellow butterflies*, than to reap, within olive-green socialism, a journalism free of shackles, sparkling, with bubbles that the Genius of Aracataca** would foresee 36 years ago.

Even Gabo himself had to admit that the Cuban press “seemed to be made more to conceal than to publicize.”

Another brilliant writer, who could never be said to be complicit with the enemies of the Revolution – the Uruguayan Eduardo Galeano – was more precise in describing the Cuban press when he said that “it seems to be from another planet.”

The official Cuban press, which manipulates, distorts, enshrouds and when it speaks truths, does so only halfway, only as far as is convenient, has nothing to do with the real Cuba. It seems to speak of another country, a virtual one, where everything functions in a manner quite distinct from how it is in reality.

Fidel: Omnipresent in the official Cuban press
Fidel: Omnipresent in the official Cuban press

In recent years there has been much talk about the need to create a credible journalism, one more analytical and critical. The task turns out to be a chimerical one. The press is forced into being the concubine of Power. They endowed it with the chastity belt of “informative politics.” Journalists are “ideological workers,” forced to constantly reiterate their loyalty to a stubborn and myopic regime which, as it racks up failures, divorces itself evermore from the interests of the people.

On repeated occasions, the “fearless leaders” have referred to “the need to reconcile the informative politics of the press with the interests of the country’s direction” and they have warned that “disagreements can be of form but never of principles,” because above all, “the defense of the Revolution” must take precedence.

Thus, official journalists find themselves confined to the sad role of mere propagandists and mouthpieces of worn slogans. Even those more honest among them, who can’t seem to hide their doubts and dissatisfaction, only go so far as the “danger” signal if they allow themselves to express any complaints during debates about informative politics. They all know how to have it both ways.

When, at the beginning of his mandate, General Raul Castro attended the VIII Congress of Cuban Journalists (UPEC), he said that some of the problems discussed were “older than Gutenberg.” But they are going to be resolved… and I say no more,” he said, smiling enigmatically. And he left everyone “in that.” Like halfway to an orgasm.

"To taste a better cup": What a farce! Cubans drink coffee mixed with ground-up dried peas.***
“To taste a better cup”: What a farce! Cubans drink coffee mixed with ground-up dried peas.

The years have passed and our problems have not been resolved. To the General-President’s exhortations and chidings to official journalists have now been added those of Vice-President Díaz Canel. The result: Nothing. The official media — except for issuing some occasional critique that goes no further than the medium levels of government — continue to be as irrationally exuberant and attached to the inertia of the sermon as ever.

The idyllic and bubbling journalism inside olive-green socialism of which Gabo dreamed, now almost four decades ago, has not materialized.

The bad news, as General Raúl Castro has warned on various occasions, is that we should expect neither miracles, nor magic.

Translator’s notes:

*Refers to Remedios La Bella (“Remedios the Beautiful”), a female character in García Márquez’ novel, “100 Years of Solitude,” who resides in the town of Macondo, and who one day ascends into heaven, body and soul. Remedios is in love with a man who is constantly surrounded by a band of yellow butterflies.

**Aracataca is the birthplace of García Márquez.

Related articles: Al Qaeda Coffee; Coffee with Roasted Peas; Out of Coffee.

Translated by Alicia Barraqué Ellison