Cuba TV Shows Taboo Topic

Dmitri Prieto

Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — An especially interesting feature appeared on the evening TV news in Cuba on June 5th. A reporter was trying to find out “on the ground” how prices were being set in hard-currency stores in Havana.

There were reports that some prices had illegally shot up, so the TV crew decided to go to several stores to film the products on the shelves and compare the prices.

But the reporting crew wasn’t allowed into any of the stores.

On TV they showed how the guards at the stores refused to let the journalists and the film crew enter. When the managers were questioned about this (though none of those managers appeared on screen), they referred to mysterious “guidelines” and “directives” prohibiting “any filming” inside the stores.

The astonished journalists were able to convey all of this on TV, but at no time did any “superiors” appear to give any explanation about why there was censorship by bureaucrats at establishments selling goods to the public. It was as if they didn’t exist.

This is something for which they’re notorious. Not only are citizens and the independent media restricted, but the government press (“of the whole people,” according to the constitution) has its hands tied as well when it comes to access to information related to the public domain.

Those of the bureaucratic class have their businesses well protected from public scrutiny.
This made me think back to what happened to several colleagues of Havana Times when they tried to go to a large landfill south of Havana.

But I also have the optimistic testimony from some law students whose professors sent them to do critical work in constitutional law concerning access (a constitutionally protected right) to hotels on the island by Cuban citizens. That was a few years ago, when it wasn’t “fashionable” to admit ordinary Cubans into hotels that charged in hard currency.

The young female law students tried to get a room, and the front desk clerk asked them for identification. When they pulled out their Cuban IDs, the clerk then said they couldn’t stay at the hotel.

The women then showed him a copy of the Constitution of the Republic and their law school IDs, and asked him who had dared to order him to violate the constitution. The management staff later appeared with folders of bureaucratic documents of all types – none of them really legally valid.

Bureaucracies protect their businesses well.

In the case of hotels, however, months after the “experiment” that I wrote about, Cubans were allowed to do what the constitution guarantees.

How long will it take for our other rights to be respected to that same degree?

Dimitri Prieto-Samsonov

Dmitri Prieto-Samsonov: I define myself as being either Cuban-Russian or Russian-Cuban, indiscriminately. I was born in Moscow in 1972 of a Russian mother and a Cuban father. I lived in the USSR until I was 13, although I was already familiar with Cuba-- where we would take our vacation almost every year. I currently live on the fifth floor of an apartment building in Santa Cruz del Norte, near the sea. I’ve studied biochemistry and law in Havana and anthropology in London. I’ve written about molecular biology, philosophy and anarchism, although I enjoy reading more than writing. I am currently teaching in the Agrarian University of Havana. I believe in God and in the possibility of a free society. Together with other people, that’s what we’re into: breaking down walls and routines.

2 thoughts on “Cuba TV Shows Taboo Topic

  • Grady, “beacon of socialism”? Penlight at best. While it is fashionable for leftist to criticize the US and European press, it is that very press that has provided you with the overwhelming majority of ammunition you use to criticize capitalism. The media does indeed bring its biases to the front page but those biases have tended to be left-leaning. Cuba, because of its many self-inflicted failings, fears an independent media most of all. Through media, investment and vacation decisions are often based. If the world really knew, for example, how often even the 5-star hotels in Cuba really change the linen in the rooms, what would happen to Canadian bookings. If Spanish investors had the facts reported to them regarding the actual repayment history of the Cuban government, those luxury golf courses hoping to be built would go wanting. Cuba does not want us to know because for Cuba the truth is ugly.

  • It should go without saying that free and dynamic press scrutiny, of anything and everything that is taking place within society, is indispensable for functional democracy. This is true, whether society exists under a capitalist or a socialist state power.

    How can problems be addressed and worked out with the participation of the people, if the people cannot be and are not well informed? Problems would always be addressed under socialist state power, if the political leadership were all knowing and all wise–but the leaders are not. Even the political leaders need a dynamic free press.

    Those in power–bankers and monopoly capitalists in the US and other capitalist countries; the political and economic stratum in Cuba and other socialist countries–always seem to shore up their power by laying hands on the mass media. Cuba, as a beacon of socialism before the whole world, needs a free and dynamic press most of all.

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