HAVANA TIMES — Shortly after arriving from Russia (yes, I was in Russia for a couple weeks, visiting relatives), I noticed that Cuban television has introduced an innovative new program – added a new section to the news, to be more exact – with the suggestive name of “Cuba Says.”
It is a brief editorial segment aired some days of week, in which journalists interview people on the street and government officials, as well as authorities from different local and business sectors.
This past Tuesday, they focused on how bad public transportation is in Cuba.
Everyone knows that Cuba’s transportation system (public transportation, that is, not the means of getting around rented out, lent or otherwise privately offered to government officials, the well-to-do or tourists) is in dire straits. What’s interesting for me is seeing a Cuban television program say what one has grown accustomed to hear on the street, and not without considerable courage and decorum.
It would seem the segment hopes to let some fresh air into the far from transparent universe of Cuban television (ideologically saturated with political diatribes and bourgeois pop culture).
As one would expect, the customer complains, the manager makes excuses, and people go on familiar (and not unfounded) rants about shortages and the lack of work ethic or scruples or organization.
What I don’t hear are concrete proposals. It is reasonable to assume that, if a driver employed by the State has some “under the table” dealings, the same thing could happen with a driver working in a co-op if faced with material shortages. The drive to make profits tends to edge people closer and closer to privatizing and individualist patterns of behavior.
In the case of transportation sector, a consumer cooperative could be the first step to overcome current difficulties, particularly for those people who have to travel regularly. No one even suggests this, however.
Generally speaking, the media impose a cognitive map of the situation in which you have people who know things, have studied everything in depth and happen to be the ones in charge. The thing is, they’re in charge and nothing changes. Those at the “bottom” can at least complain on television now.
It’s not a bad start. However, this same Cuban news program tells viewers that another seminar aimed at teaching Cuban officials to become “leaders” in is in the works.
I wonder how many Cuban officials are true leaders, in their own offices, even.
Transparency does not, in and of itself, create the feedback that we would need to build a truly democratic, libertarian society.
When the tide of complaints heard in Cuba’s evening news recedes, we are left with the same old familiar sediment of anxiety.