Isbel Diaz Torres
HAVANA TIMES – Reflejos (“Reflections”), a Cuban website that publishes blogs authored on the island, has again shut down the page operated by the anti-capitalist and independent Proyecto Arcoiris (“Rainbow Project”), which defends the rights of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transsexuals in Cuba.
On this occasion, members of this autonomous initiative approached the headquarters of the State-run platform to find out the reasons the blog was shut down first hand.
According to the section of an official document highlighted with a yellow marker, this was due to a violation of user norms by an article written by activist Jimmy Roque Martinez.
Arcoiris had published an article by Jimmy titled Cuba’s Mariela Castro and Historical Reparations. Originally published by Havana Times, the piece made reference to the shameful episode of Cuba’s Military Units to Aid Production (UMAP).
Many Cubans have forgotten that that euphemistic acronym hid genuine forced labor camps, aimed at transforming all men who diverged from the norm, be it because of their sexual orientation, gender identity, religious convictions, political ideas or, quite simply, their appearance.
According to Vivian, the programs supervisor for the CubaVa Monitoring Department, the paragraph highlighted in the photo violates section 6 of the portal’s user norms (1) because it is slanderous of the revolution when it claims that:
“It’s been fifty years since the creation of the UMAP and not one of the people responsible have asked Cubans for any apologies. The highest officials behind the idea are still alive. The minister of the armed forces at the time is the country’s president today.”
The mere mention of a historical reality gives the censors a fit, when, what ought to be scandalous for them is the way in which the Cuban revolution was denigrated by these leaders and elites, who encouraged such abominations of horror and injustice.
The punishment chosen, the official informed us, was shutting down the blog for a month. This makes me think they actually think very little of what they understand the revolution to be, as they feel that, in a month’s time, all wounds caused by this offense will have healed. Before, they had shut down the site for a week. After the next act of “insubordination,” it will be taken down completely.
The UMAP operated in Cuba from 1965 to 1968, so, from 2015 to 2018, it will be 50 years since their creation and closure.
Several publications and films have dealt with gay issues in recent times (including the documentary Mariela Castro Marches: Cuba’s LGBT Revolution” which Jimmy mentions in the article). However, I am of the opinion that we must intensify our campaign until 2018, so that, before Raul Castro leaves office, the victims of that affront are officially acknowledged. It is a necessary process of historical reparation.
This will not be brought about by any institution, which, through dilatory practices, contribute to this ominous act of forgetfulness. It will only be achieved through direct pressure from the people who suffered these crimes, from their friends and relatives and by those of us who today struggle for our dignity.
The administrators of Cubava have made public statements saying they want to offer a platform to those who have no access to the Internet, and that the site is called Reflejos because the blogs there must reflect the true Cuba. It is therefore hypocritical that blogs with critical political content (La Jugada, Observatorio Critico, Bubusopia) are being purged, in classic Stalinist style. It seems it is now Arcoiris’ turn.
Many speak of political reforms in Cuba and, certainly, a number of freedoms are being granted in some highly restricted spaces. But, as long the right to freedom of expression cannot rely on mechanisms that protect it, a censor’s pen or phone call by a political commissar will always be able to neutralize critical and dissenting ideas.
Note: Section 6 of the portal’s user norms prohibits “transferring, publishing, divulging or publishing content that is illegal, counterrevolutionary, harmful, threatening, abusive, harassing, salacious, defamatory, vulgar, obscene, libelous, phobic, questionable because of racial or ethical considerations or in any way invasive of the privacy of others.”