Archive for May, 2009

I just learned that several hotels, including the Meliá Cohiba and Meliá Santiago, have restricted the access of Cubans to the Internet. The news, completely true, which might surprise someone from outside the Island, is nothing unusual for those of us who live inside this black hole. This measure was not enacted lightly or by chance: it’s been known for months that the Cuban government is working to sabotage the individual initiative that independent bloggers have developed to defy official censorship, and that we have begun to penetrate, little by little, increasingly wide sectors of Cuban society.

First came the website desdecuba.com, blocked by the authorities; then the methods were systematic harassment through tracking the bloggers, police citations and direct or indirect threats. Far from stopping the blogger movement, it made it grow, the number of Cubans interested in creating their own digital space and fighting back against censorship grew, and the new Voces Cubanas portal was born, a platform housing a great variety of blogs administered from the Island. In recent months we’ve seen the beginning of bridges that have started to show, in spite of the monolithic totalitarian Cuban system, communicating sectors of a nascent independent civil society beyond the control of the government: something much more dangerous for the dictatorship than their own opposition parties. To accentuate the situation, international public opinion and a good representation of Cubans living abroad have shown their solidarity and support for the blogger phenomenon of the island.

Various niches of society within the Island are also questioning today’s Cuban reality and have started to break through the iron wall of fear and censorship. The performance of Tania Bruguera during the recent Havana Biennial, the alternative launch of Orlando Luis’s book at the last book fair, the mention obtained by the controversial and satirical short “Tormenta de Ideas” in the Gibara Low Budget Film Festival, are clear signs that these are new times and every day there are more groups pressing for urgent changes in Cuba. Now we Cubans here on the Island are making ourselves heard from our own official spaces, while the Internet—almost the only space that doesn’t belong to Castro—is the ideal vehicle for disseminating ideas and opinions and creating forums for public debate.

The regime knows this, so this time they have appealed to certain foreign firms engaged with the government, those who earn fat profits and extensive privileges flirting with the native landowners, to launch a kind of trial balloon: if the public meekly accepts the shady Castro-Meliá deal the limited opportunities that Cubans have to access the Internet will be gradually reduced until they disappear. This is just the tip of the iceberg of a censorship that would have adverse consequences for the nascent Cuban civil society. It’s essential, then, that we appeal once more for international solidarity to denounce this new move by the Cuban government which will do all that is necessary to avoid an outbreak on the Island of the worst pandemic that could befall the dictatorship: freedom of expression.


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