Wikileaks and Empty Archives / Yoani Sánchez

Several weeks ago, in one of those tedious reflections they read on every newscast, I heard about Wikileaks. I know it seems incredible that a blogger, someone who uses the web as a means of expression, would not already know about this site with all the disclosures. But nothing is strange on this “island of the disconnected,” not even that we learn years later about things that have been the subject of intense discussion in the rest of the world. I remember the first mention of Julian Assange’s site in our official media was accompanied by a certain complicity on the part of the article writers, a hint of laughter anticipating the damage that the publication of these classified documents could cause the U.S. Government. But when the name of Cuba began to appear along with reports about the interference of Venezuela and the testimonies of coercion against their own medical personnel, the enthusiasm of the newspaper Granma turned to annoyance and the initial applause gave way to silence. Not even the Maximum Leader referred to Wikileaks again.

What happened in recent days will significantly change how governments manage information and also the ways through which we citizens get a hold of it. But also — let’s not fool ourselves — those regimes that are based on silence and the lack of transparency, will reinforce the protection of their secrets, or avoid putting them in writing. Meanwhile, the exposure of the cables, memorandums and correspondence between diplomats and departments of state is being noted by authoritarians everywhere, and they are learning not to leave written evidence of their orders to silence, suppress or kill. This lesson has already been practiced for decades, if not, when the day comes that those Cuban archives will be declassified, I will be searching them to see if they record the name of the person who decided to execute the three men who hijacked a ferry in 2003 to emigrate. Where is the paper that confirms the psychological pressure put on the poet Heberto Padilla to push him to a mea culpa that still weighs on the conscience of some? In which drawer, shelf or file do they keep the signature of the person who ordered the sinking of the tugboat 13 de Marzo, that killed the women and children who were washed overboard by the Coast Guard’s water cannon?

There are so many who don’t keep records, who have an unwritten culture of repression and who have paper incinerators that smolder all day; bosses who only need to raise an eyebrow, crook an index finger, whisper into an ear a death sentence, or a battle on an African plain, or a call to insult and assault a group of women dressed in white. If some of them would emerge in a local Wikileaks, they would get the maximum penalties, be made examples of with the strongest punishments, without worrying about whether to fabricate a charge of “rape” or “bovine slaughter.” They know that “seeing is believing” and therefore take care that there is no material containing surprising revelations, that the real framework of absolute power will never be visible.

December 10, 2010