Isbel Diaz Torres
HAVANA TIMES — The Cuban Customs Office confiscated a shipment of the Venezuelan newspaper El Libertario, which had been sent to the Alfredo Lopez Libertarian Workshop (TLAL), one of the projects of the Critical Observatory Network in Havana.
According to the complaint lodged by the anarchist group, the parcel was sent via DHL but was confiscated by Customs Office officials on December 10 2012, though there was no notification of the seizure until this past January.
What TLAL has described as a limitation to “the freedom of the free flow of ideas and information (…) in Cuba,” has as the singular feature this time of hardcopy records* now in the possession of the young activists.
Typically, acts of censorship by officials of various ranks on the island are carried out with care taken not to leave evidence that can later be used for legal claims. Examples of this include numerous firings of members of independent collectives for what are always explained as administrative reasons, though it’s known that the basic motives for such dismissals are political.
In this case it is clear what goods were confiscated: a total of 17 copies of the El Libertario newspaper (4 copies of the February-March edition titled “Abriendo Espacios de Libertad”; and 13 copies of the May-June edition titled “Contra El Chantaje Electoral”).
However, as one can see, it’s not clear what the authorities were censoring, because instead of writing “El Libertario” (The Libertarian) they wrote “Literario” (Literary). In this case the difference is not at all subtle, because according to the note, “El Libertario is one of the most interesting, original and pluralistic journalism projects within the animated and rejuvenated Latin American anarchist circuit.”
The publication has served as an alternative source of information in Cuba about the situation in Venezuela and the social struggles that have occurred in that sister nation, contrasting with the sweetened and “politically correct” news in the Cuban media.
One of the most curious things about this seizure is it’s cause. In the account of the facts in the official document, it’s explained that: “Upon the physical inspection of the shipment, there were 17 newspapers whose content violated the general interests of the nation. Therefore this office proceeded to confiscate the materials in line with requirements established by law.”
Subsequently, the authorities pointed out that this was a violation of a specific regulation** issued by the Chief of the General Customs Office, who is not elected by the Cuban people but directly appointed by the highest levels of military power on the island.
It seems that since 1996 this is the individual who decides what “the general interests of the nation” are, without the need for further consultation.
The complaint by TLAL spellsout some of the possible causes of Cuban authorities having considered the Venezuelan newspaper to have violated the general interests of the nation:
1. Because our comrades in Caracas have developed a vision of the situation in Venezuela based on the perspective of the democratic movement there, which is antagonistic to the rule of the rich and a government of oil interests.
2. Because its editorial collective is aware — like few others — that Chavizmo is a simplifying and falsifying formula for erasing the recent history of that country’s militant social movements.
3. Because that newspaper systematically dismantles, with reliable and verifiable information, all the Bolivarian sweeteners, along with those of Cuban national television that anesthetize us.
4. Because the edition included three valuable articles about the situation here on our island: “Cuba: More Catholic Than the Pope?” by Argentine researcher Pablo Stefanoni; “What China Buys, Who Doesn’t Know!” by one of our comrades in the OC: and “Power and Falsification: The ‘Gaona Manifesto,’” by Rafael Uzcategui.
5. Because it shows that the nature of the nation is the friendly face of government efforts to create a harmonious community through coercion.
For TLAL, the national state “is not a place, an institution or a thing, but the daily sublimation of the lack of organized and metered freedom, which ensures that a part of the national community rules and other gladly obeys” explains the note.
In fact, other copies of the same issues were received in Havana about three months ago. “We’ve already read and circulated them,” reads the note from the anarchists, who also announced that in any case they will file a complaint related to this and they offered the complete digital collection of El Libertario newspaper to all interested individuals.
The complaint lodged by this project of the Critical Observatory Network ended with the vow that its members would “continue looking for ways for El Libertario to reach Cuba.”
(*) ACTA DE RETENCIÓN Y MODIFICACIÓN Nº01898, y la RESOLUCIÓN DE DECOMISO Nº 1366
(**) RES 5/96 APTDO 1RO JEFE AGR y en RES 5/96 APTDO 2DO JEFE AGR.