Warm, Warm… / Miriam Celaya

Repression of dissidents. Picture taken from the site Cubamatinal.

I recently read a document on the net that captured my attention immediately because of its suggestive title and the justice claimed in its content.  Grupo Concordia (havanatimes.org) in Contra la Censura en Cuba, dated February 27th of this year, has complained against certain official actions which states that “in recent months…have been carried out against cultural and informative communities and groups of the Cuban population”, and it describes some highlights in this escalation of censorship.

The document in question takes into account the date November 25th, 2011 as the beginning of the acts it denounces, when the First Cultural ArtEco Festival was suspended in San Antonio de los Baños: Art, Ecology and Community, organized by the Collective La Rueda (a “libertarian socialist” group) financed by the personal resources of their moderators.

Later on, it includes the case of the scheduled program for the project “State of SATS”, dated February 10th, 2012, sabotaged by political police agents when pressed to prevent the attendance of one its main guests, the American poet Hank Lazer, scheduled to participate in the show. Both he and his compatriot, musician Andrew Raffo, who would also be in attendance, were visiting Cuba for the celebration of “ten years of collaboration between the Universities of Alabama and San Gerónimo, in Old Havana”.

Finally, the “blocking of the email address of the Critical Observatory (observatoriocritico@gmail.com) during the month of February this year” is denounced.

Because of its importance, and the undeniable truth of the facts that are reported, I want to give my pledge to that document. I join the complaint, convinced that all Cubans and self-ruling organizations of civil society have the right to organize, discuss and promote their own projects in favor of changes needed to be implemented in the country. Censorship is incompatible with the democratic aspirations of large segments of the Cuban population, but also goes beyond cultural and informative groups. This is why I allow myself some remarks about certain elements that, from my point of view, limit the scope of the document:

  1. There are obvious omissions that should be taken into account in any serious document seeking to condemn censorship by the Cuban government against the citizens of civil society. The most outrageous censorship, for example, is manifested in the form of “rallies of repudiation” against civic activists, such as the Ladies in White and peaceful opposition groups, not since “recent months”, but over several years. At the same time, it is a dangerous practice that encourages hatred and violence among the legitimate children of one nation.
  2. One could extend the range of official condemnation to the blocking applied to other Web sites, of which the Critical Observatory is not quite the first victim, though that group has already had the civic mindedness to condemn censors’ practices. Websites such as Desdecuba.com and vocescubanas.com have been systematically blocked since 2008 and 2009, respectively, and from time to time are “hacked” by cyber-Taliban groups at the service of the Cuban government. Interestingly, among today’s victims, there are some who doubted the veracity of our reports of those facts, and only a few echoed our protest then.
  3. Many journalists and bloggers inside Cuba are deprived of their rights to go to connection sites, and are intercepted or detained by agents of the political police, even when it’s well known that they have to travel long distances as a rule, and with their own funds, to try to cyber-navigate only for a few minutes. This is another one of the many faces of censorship in Cuba.
  4. The latest edition of Gibara’s Festival del Cine Pobre was senselessly boycotted by Culture members, specifically by the ICAIC and by known “ideologues” servants of the government, despite the festival being a prominent, traditional and cultural event that has provided a venue for productions lacking in film financing and official patronage.
  5. For twenty consecutive years, permission to leave Cuba has been denied to the quasi-demonic blogger Yoani Sánchez, winner of several awards and also the recipient of punishments. The absurd Cuban immigration laws are one of the most humiliating forms of censorship that we Cubans have been enduring.

These are some important absentees from the list, facts which — according to my personal opinion — also “stand out”, even when the intention of the referenced document is not to present a complete listing. In fact, I would have liked to meet the criteria for such a peculiar selection, or perhaps such exclusions don’t exist, and the events I labeled as missing are included in the generic category of “many others”. Let’s lay aside all possible suspicion.

I don’t harbor any doubt about the rights of the entertainers who drafted Documento Contra la Censura to choose which events to include in their list and the time frames they consider appropriate. That is, if they assume that government censorship is reprehensible since last November onwards, then I have no objection. I’m on board too, because any censorship that curtails civil liberties is “reprehensible” at all times, even one that is directed against its own lines related to the official preaching, i.e., the left (note that I am only referring to “preaching, “assuming that the Cuban government is not of the left nor right, but “of itself”). And, of course, no one should demand a sort of droit de seigneur just for having been censured, reprimanded or threatened long before, or for not belonging to the ranks of believers-sympathizers of one or another ideology, or of none.

However, beyond the ideological difference of any group, it’s evident that numerous hurdles of mistrust need to be surpassed in the Cuban civil society. Reservations persist, instincts acquired through decades of exclusions, but sooner, rather than later, we will have to assume that civic activism is not confined to mere social or cultural aspects, since every independent or autonomous in Cuba is sheathed in an unavoidable political tone. On the other hand, politics is an element contained in the culture of any society.  Why avoid the term? The causes of the real renaissance of civic activism on the Island have an undeniable political sheen from the very moment they face  — intentionally or not — the monolithic power of over half a century of authoritarianism.  Each independent project –whether about puppeteers, musicians, poets, liberals, socialists dilettantes or “pure of spirit”- is a challenge to the government and, for that matter, has an implicit “politics” attitude.

At any rate, this Document is another positive step.  Machines do not necessarily work at the same temperature, nor are all obligated to assume the same risks.  As far as I’m concerned, I second any document that denounces any trampling on the part of the authorities and its agents against citizens.  I don’t care if those who do the denouncing are from the right, left, center, religious, political or “apolitical”, insiders or outsiders, believers or atheists.  Against censure, count me in.

Translated by: Norma Whiting

March 5 2012