HAVANA TIMES — On Tuesday, I heard commentator Serrano, on Cuba’s evening news, read the statement issued by the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX) in connection with the crisis of Cuban migrants unfolding in Central America.
Once again, I was able to see how the government manages to keep people quiet and prevent them from questioning their predicament or demanding their rights. This isn’t accomplished at gunpoint, no. They use a different weapon: disinformation.
For a drama that has been unfolding for days, the statement leaves a lot to be desired. It reports that “over a thousand Cuban citizens have been arriving in Costa Rica from neighboring countries in an attempt to reach the United States.” Look at the subtle handling of numbers: it’s not the same thing to say “more than thousand Cubans” than to say more than 1,500 or nearly 2,000.
The statement makes no mention of the real situation these people are in, nor does it condemn the actions by Daniel Ortega’s government – in fact, it doesn’t even mention these.
The people of Cuba don’t appear to deserve to be informed about the tear gas, Nicaragua’s refusal to grant the migrants passage and their menacing riot troops guarding the border, as though trying to hold back a bunch of common criminals. Cuba washes its hands of the whole affair by saying these people left the country legally, and reminding listeners that they can come back home if they so choose.
According to MINREX, “Cuban authorities have been in constant contact with the governments of the countries involved, with a view to finding a prompt and adequate solution that will take the wellbeing of Cuban citizens into consideration.” The note, however, makes no mention as to whether the government has been in “constant contact” with those Cubans mired in Costa Rica.
It is insulting that a government should make no mention of the physical and psychological integrity of its citizens, particularly when they find themselves in such a painful situation.
It is an insult to people’s intelligence that the note – meant to inform them of the situation – blames only the Cuban Adjustment Act and the wet foot/dry foot policy that affords Cubans certain privileges in the United States.
True, those laws encourage such forms of migration, but we have to look at the root of the problem. It would not be difficult, it would suffice with asking a few basic questions.
Why are Cubans stampeding out of the country? Why do they opt to risk their lives, and those of their children, leaving their families and homes? Why do both people with low levels of schooling and professionals leave?
No questions, it’s best to pass over the news like a hot potato. That’s why they devote four paragraphs to condemning the Cuban Adjustment Act and the Parole Program for Cuban medical doctors.
Thus, by employing misinformation in a nationwide news program, they prevent average people from asking questions. It looks like a simple tongue-twister, a play on words, but it’s very serious business. The people who turn on the TV and watch the news or buy Granma to read its “articles” have their reasons to do so.
It is the disinformation they are fed that makes them believe they will find the truth in either of these.
The government knows very well what it’s doing, which is why the Internet remains so out of reach for most Cubans (which cannot be blamed entirely on the country’s technological backwardness). This is the reason Wi-Fi services are so expensive, not only because of the profit it garners for the State-run ETECSA, but also because, at the prices set, who will think of using the Internet for anything other than contacting relatives? Is it likely someone will spend their money to look for information on the web, when it can be found more easily, cheaply and reliably elsewhere?
Disinformation creates states of opinion and, even though some doubt this, most of the time people react in favor of the government. That is to say, people swallow up the tripe they are fed.
This is why my neighbors, after watching the news, say only: “those people are deceived and leave the country without thinking it over,” “those crazy mothers, subjecting their children to such ordeals” and “how damaging the Cuban Adjustment Act has been!”
I can’t say with certainty that this whole migratory crisis was orchestrated by the Cuban government, I don’t have the means to confirm it, nor am I an expert on the subject. What I can say is that Monday’s and Tuesday’s Round Table program made no mention of this current and thorny issue. They could have well devoted an hour to explaining the situation in depth, as well as its causes and possible solutions, but they opted to focus on a different matter: the development of digital television in the country.
Clearly, disinformation is a powerful weapon that kills the bug of curiosity and manages to leave people alienated and powerless.