Who Writes for Cuba’s Granma Newspaper?

Isbel Diaz Torres

There’s good press and bad press, but also the old press...for various uses. A sales stand at the Tulipan Farmers Market in Havana. Photo: Isbel Diaz Torres

Looking a little more closely at Granma newspaper, I discovered that in reality we don’t know who’s writing to us every day. Many of the articles go unsigned.

The first thing I should clarify for those living outside the island is that Granma is the official daily of with the largest circulation in the country. It’s distributed all across the island after a single edition comes out around 1:00 in the morning.

By the way, it’s not “the official organ of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC),” as one often hears, but the newspaper of the party’s Central Committee. Thus the paper itself is an example of the high degree of centralized control that our society suffers.

It’s not a bad thing that the PCC’s Central Committee has a newspaper, the problem is that they claim it to be the sole holder of truth. To make matters worse, the two other national publications, Juventud Rebelde and Trabajadores, have historically reproduced (sometimes verbatim) the words of “Daddy Granma.”

It should be recognized, though, that those two publications were highlighted recently for their diversity and freshness, with inquisitive, updated and risk-taking materials for which people are always thankful.

I have friends working at each of the three newspapers, people who I respect for their deep commitment and devotion to their human, professional and patriotic values. The same applies to the professors in the faculty of Social Communication at the University of Havana where many future journalists graduate.

But this knowledge of the high quality of many of the professionals in Cuban journalism places me in an obviously conflicting position when having to deal every day with the lack of important news or any diversity of opinion reflected in their periodicals.

To make up for these shortcomings, efforts are sometimes made by including countless international items taken from the Internet. But wouldn’t it be better to ensure access to the Internet so that people could read these for themselves online? That would leave room for the many issues at home that remain to be dealt with every day under the bylines of our journalists.

As I said earlier, I noticed that a number of news articles are not signed in Granma, without counting the sheer volume of materials that are taken from international press agencies (which on some days are “reliable sources” and other times are “allies of the empire,” depending on what the article says).

For example the Wednesday (November 2) edition of Granma had seven unsigned articles:
1. Canada joins the US in retaliation against UNESCO for recognizing Palestine
2. Raul receives the King of Lesotho
3. The world midweek
4. Prominent communist Argentinian leader Fanny Edelman dead
5. Cuba and India: A historical relationship withstanding the test of time
6. Israel freezes funds for the PA, accelerates construction in occupied territories
7. Charangon de Reve tours the cities of Guantanamo and Santiago

Who wrote all this? Does it involve the technical issue of a lack of space for their signatures? Are the articles taken from the Internet and then rewritten for the Cuban public? Are those articles by the same authors in the same issue? Do they represent the voice of the Central Committee?

It’s hard to believe that the Central Committee convened to draft a story about the tour of the Charangon de Reve in the eastern part of the island, with all due respect for the high quality of that popular Cuban musical group.

Finally, it occurred to me that one big problem of our press — among many others — may also be that the authors don’t have their own styles; there are no personalities. Sometimes you can read the whole paper and it seems like it was written by a single person, such is the level of “equilibrium” in the language.

The funniest thing is reading “Letters from the Readers,” which are published once a week. In this section the “people’s letters” are reproduced in the same dry official style as the newspaper reports, which contrast comically with the complaints and criticisms, often discussing heartfelt and highly emotional concerns.

Incidentally, in the section titled “Letters to the Editor,” those letters themselves are signed, but this time only with the initial of the person’s first name and their full last name. In the Havana phone book alone, there are 500 households listed under the surname “Garcia.” So does a letter signed by “A. Garcia,” for example, give us any information?

This common practice of anonymity in the press is suspect at best. One cannot criticize or make demands on anyone in specific when the information taken from them isn’t signed, in the end it could turn out that their grievance wasn’t true or, in the best case, they didn’t express important nuances to fully understand the situation being discussed.

However this is of course very useful when you want to manipulate information in a certain way, or when you don’t want people to really know what’s being said.

The criticisms made by Raul Casto during the last congress of the PCC have generated some movement within the press, but it still can’t be assumed that anything will come of it. Perhaps one decision from above isn’t enough, as was suggested by Alfredo Guevara at a recent conference.

Apparently the dual position of president/party secretary — who on the one hand recognizes the weaknesses of the press and other hand threatens to be ruthless with those journalists who make mistakes — can be confusing to the editors of newspapers. To me at least it’s not completely clear how a journalist can make a mistake.

Is it that there are some things that can be criticized and others that can’t? Or is it that the little phrase “don’t give the enemy any ammunition” still valid?

Anyway, it’s apparent that change in the press will be a gradual process and not resolved in a single blow – if at all. For now, they could start by having their articles signed and at least gain a little credibility.

Isbel Diaz

Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.


7 thoughts on “Who Writes for Cuba’s Granma Newspaper?

  • January 30, 2012 at 11:01 pm
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    “It’s not a bad thing that the PCC’s Central Committee has a newspaper, the problem is that they claim it to be the sole holder of truth.”

    Only they don’t, in reality. The author is unable to distinguish truth from his own hostile fantasy.

  • November 17, 2011 at 2:06 pm
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    I know of one Writer that works for Granma, His name is Jean-Guy Allard. He is a French Canadian from Shawinigan, Canada who once wrote for The Journal de Montreal. He retired to Cuba several years ago and now contributes to the Granma newspaper.

    wikipedia link.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jean-Guy_Allard
    An odd pairing one might say, but not really in the sense that many people who Live in Quebec (a province in Canada that includes the City of Montreal) have always had intense Socialist leanings.

  • November 16, 2011 at 11:11 am
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    Concerning Humberto Capiro’s assertions, I’d like to add some observations. During my first visit to Cuba in the summer of 1959, after Its triumph, but before The Revolution could implement many of its programs of social and economic justice, I witnessed unimaginable poverty: starving children begging on the streets, families living in structures more like jerry-built pig-pens than shacks, etc. For a fortunate minority, who lived in sections like the Vedado, Miramar and Playa, life was on the level of a First World standard of living. Also, there were others, in Centro, La Lisa, and Cerro, who lived somewhere in between, but there were other vast sections of the city where families lived in utter and dire misery. And yet then, as now, Habana was like a magnet, attracting immigrants from the hinterlands, especially the East, hoping for a better life than the even worse rural and provincial poverty. What I saw with my own eyes utterly contradicts Humberto Caprio’s assertions that pre-Revolutionary Cuba was the land of Milk and Honey!

  • November 15, 2011 at 8:46 pm
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    Yes,
    Humberto,
    Things were so good in pre-revolutionary Cuba that the Cuban people must all have suffered from a form of insanity to think they needed to risk their lives in a bloody revolution.

    Worse yet they are still under the illusion that the undemocratic state socialism as faulty as it is, is still preferential to feral capitalism.

    Tens of millions of people in the Third World die of starvation every year, are homeless, without any means to make a living or having a government that cares not a whit whether they live or die.

    Capitalism is dying in case you hadn’t noticed.

    25% of the people in the United States, the richest country on Earth, the most “successful” capitalist country to ever have existed, live in poverty and about half of that number in dire poverty. About half the people living in poverty are children.

    About the same number are unemployed or underemployed with no prospects for a job in the future.

    20% of those with jobs earn a below poverty level wage and the official U.S. poverty level of 12% is a lie, based on a figure that represents three times the amount needed for food and not based on health insurance costs, heating fuel, housing and many other factors that have accelerated far beyond what food costs have.

    The U.S. is no model for any humane society nor for any democratic society.

    The economic system is run in a top-down totalitarian manner.
    The people whom we are given to vote for and who are supposed to represent our interests are nominated by a handful of party people and are then deeply in debt to the wealthy and the corporations who finance their very expensive and circus-like campaigns. It is no more democratic than is Cuba’s government but Cuba with far less money feeds clothes, provides homes, education, healthcare and a far safer environment in which to raise children.

    Please tell us some more about how marvelous life was for the poor in Cuba before the revolution.
    You can get some very good stuff from the true patriots in Florida or from the U.S. State Department to present here.

    I know for a fact that before the revolution anyone with money could walk into grocery stores and walk out with a ton of beef if they so wanted.
    Of course a huge percentage of the people then couldn’t afford meat at all .
    Ah! the wonders of capitalism.

  • November 15, 2011 at 1:41 pm
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    As an official organ, much like the CONGRESSIONAL RECORD up here, its news is a real snooze! Who gives a flying fish if the Prime Minister of Burkino Faso is in town? OTOH, the whereabouts of Charangon de Reve is of more interest, as is, perhaps, the reports of certain ministers and secretaries being shown the door due to incompetence or, or tasting too much of “the honey of power,” or, worse yet, getting caught diverting the people’s assets to their own benefit. If not with GRANMA, then fortunately tp a certain extent with JUVENTUD REBELDE, and especially with such on-line publications as the HAVANA TIMES and numerous bloggers, “the times they are a’changing!” Still, until GRANMA becomes more lively, then it would be good if they only printed it on one side, so that it would not have to be modified via certain rigorous and laborious “bleaching” processes, described by Erasmo, in order to be used for certain more practical–and necessary–purposes!

  • November 15, 2011 at 11:40 am
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    Socio-Economic Conditions in Pre-Castro Cuba* – Introduction
    In the 1950’s Cuba was, socially and economically, a relatively advanced country, certainly by Latin American standards and, in some areas, by world standards.
    Cuba’s infant mortality rate was the best in Latin America — and the 13th lowest in the world.
    Cuba also had an excellent educational system and impressive literacy rates in the 1950’s.
    Pre-Castro Cuba ranked third in Latin America in per capita food consumption.
    Cuba ranked first in Latin America and fifth in the world in television sets per capita.
    Pre-Castro Cuba had 58 daily newspapers of differing political hues and ranked eighth in the world in number of radio stations.

    http://ctp.iccas.miami.edu/FACTS_Web/Cuba%20Facts%20Issue%2043%20December.htm

  • November 15, 2011 at 10:12 am
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    Very good article Isbel and one that expressed my thoughts about the bland, only the good news presentation of Cuba that we find in Granma.

    A democracy demands a fiery but considered back and forth and not a one-sided view of things.

    A possible solution : back during the difficult years after the loss of Soviet aid, there was a group in the U.S that solicited bicycles from the public to be sent to Cuba to help get people around in Cuba without using expensive vehicles and gasoline.

    Today the same sort of group can be organized in the U.S. to collect older computers -still perfectly usable if somewhat slower than the newest models- and send these to Cuba.

    With widespread availability these computers in conjunction with the largely unused Venezuela cable could enable widespread access to the internet even on a computer sharing basis..

    Granma and/or many alternative newspapers could be distributed electronically in a much less expensive and expanded form and there would be endless space for criticisms, comments and debates which, after all, are the essence of democracy. (I receive Granma International on my computer)

    This of necessity must involve the end of the U.S.’s 50 year war on the revolution and is the killer but it is worth considering when and if the war is ended by Washington.

    In fact were washington really concerned with democracy in Cuba it would be flying planeloads of computers and allowing cables from the U.S. to Cuba.

    It is only a secret to the dumbed-down and disinformed U.S public that the U.S has absolutely no interest in democracy.

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