Cuba: The Limits of Truth

Veronica Vega

Woman reading a magazine. Photo: Juan Suarez

HAVANA TIMES — As I’ve said before, I am a run-of-the-mill Cuban without an Internet connection and I am unable to actively participate in the debates that take place in Havana Times.

From what I read in the comments sent to me via email (some of which are incomplete, for my Gmail account truncates some messages), I realize that what dictates the opinions expressed by participants is often not directly related to the topic addressed but the life experiences of the person commenting.

This is neither new nor strange, of course, but the subjective characteristics of what I am referring to are rather subtle.

Reading people’s comments attentively and as free from prejudice as I am capable of, I discover that even the frankness of the opinions expressed is conditioned by posturing and by individual interests.

Those who left Cuba and now feel the freedom to express themselves which they never had (or waived) in Cuba will often make far more direct criticisms, using pseudonyms. Those who do not fear being denied the right to visit the island (either because they’ve decided never to come back or because they have no loved ones here), will often reveal their true identities.

Todos serán inclementes con quienes no llaman a las cosas por su verdadero nombre, pondrán sin temor “culpa” junto a “gobierno”, hablarán de nuestra falta de valor, de la necesidad de deslindar responsabilidades, de organizarse, rebelarse.

Others who live abroad but are committed – to a greater or lesser extent – to preserve certain government privileges, will protect their freedom to the point of expressing opinions that never reach any one shore, looking for some kind of balance between past and present. They will speak of reconciliation and even forgetting and weave intricate arguments to avoid the thorny issues of Cuba’s disastrous situation, the government’s direct responsibility for it and the complicity of those who contribute to this state of affairs but do not suffer it directly (inside Cuba and abroad) and of those who suffer and contribute to it because of fear, inertia or lack of awareness.

Foreigners attracted by the issue of Cuba, be it out renewed sympathy for the revolution or in order to nourish the myth they once knew, will voice their opinions through the relativisms of that freedom they’ve chosen. Those who in Cuba are authorized to speak will temper their opinions, even when these rub up against the delicate terrain of government measures and the urgent need for democracy. Some Cubans who are constantly immersed in this world and are predictable in their pronouncements will attempt to disguise the fact that such services pay for their access to the Internet and perhaps other benefits.

Others express their opinions within the molds of an ideology and will not budge from their positions, not even when faced with solid arguments. They will be highly critical but always employing terms such as “bureaucracy”, “institutions”, “officials.”

There are complex positions in which the conscious or unconscious premise is defying anything that smells of imposition, dogma or domination, any criteria that suggests a mental prison (even when rebelliousness seems to be its topmost limit), no matter whether it yields lucid, debatable or absurd judgments. What is truly regrettable is that the commentator’s interests focus more on this personal premise than on finding a solution to the problem being debated.

And then, of course, there’s us, those who do not express opinions or express these through articles that are truthful or cathartic, lukewarm or trivial, inopportune or misguided. We avoid exposing ourselves through the intricacies of language, through abstractions and appeals to the divine, weariness or the fact this virtual dump cannot solve what affects us in Cuba directly on a daily basis.

There are also those who content themselves with a virtual debate (with or without a consensus), as this sustains the semblance that a online site that the immense majority of Cubans does not know or read is an indication of growing freedom in the country.

It is not my intention to diminish or offend anyone with this analysis, but to regard myself as part of a human community whose actions are limited by their perception, experience and egotism – a fact history more than demonstrates, and as we are able to see anywhere in the world today. And I affirm that truth is always more profound.

I wonder what kind of debate we would have if everyone exposed what they are protecting from the word go, where everyone was aware of their unavowed commitments, and whether that could be a point of departure for change, beyond cyberspace, in the tangible Cuba.

7 thoughts on “Cuba: The Limits of Truth

  • The Castro oligarchy has a huge internetphobia! The “Bad Old USA” has reached out to help them with cheaper, faster internet service but they said NO!

    United States: New Rules Regarding Telecommunications Service To Cuba

    Last Updated: December 2 2009

    In early September, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and
    the Commerce Department Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) published
    long-awaited regulations implementing the Cuba policies announced by the
    White House in April 2009. In a sweeping departure from prior U.S.
    policy, these presidential policies – which are intended to promote the
    freer flow of information to the Cuban people – significantly reduce the
    licensing requirements and other barriers for telecommunications
    providers to offer services to Cuba. In addition, they authorize the

  • Here you go Freudiviry dear! Something for you to ponder!

    WASHINGTON POST: U.S. Telecoms Eager to Build a Business Presence in Cuba – By Cecilia Kang -April 15, 2009
    Under President Obama’s plan, U.S. telecom companies would be able to build undersea cable networks that connect the two nations. Cellphone carriers would be able to contract with Cuba’s government-run wireless operator to provide service to its residents and offer roaming services to Americans visiting the island.

  • I use to say that the situation in Cuba is the US responsibility since the beginning in 1868….. it is a long history to tale so I will not engage in this now…….. but…….. Cubans will be without internet as long the US wants….. think about this:

    Super WIFI is a relative new technology that has the capability to increase the covering area of a wifi service in several kilometers around the source …… with one of this super wifi in the US embassy in Havana and maybe a couple more in other embassies the whole Havana will have internet free….. If the US decide to lift the “Neutrality pact” with the no longer existing USSR allowing Cubans in the US to carry their own initiatives to bring Internet to Cubans in the island I am sure in short time the exile will organize and finance a net of boats around Cuba in international waters providing for free that super wifi to the rest of Cuba……. this system can be auto financed selling advertising to companies interested in Cuba’s internal market.
    But…… we need our Yankee neighbor to change its way and show real interest in helping the Cuban people.

  • Don’t be that hard on poor walter…… you have to think that it is very hard for some one that spent the life believing in something wrong to change its mind ……… and much more harder it is when the person is old and no longer understand the actual world.
    I have to thanks Walter for making me to learn the existence of this site….. I still remember years ago he used to surf from anti castro site to anti castro site alerting everyone about the existence of one very objective and really neutral site about Cuba….. that site was Havana Times….. I have to recognize that at this time the guys writing here (still same gang) were a lot more shy than today to let go out their opinions and critics about Cuba’s reality; I have to recognize also that most commentators were pro regime …… so, walter invited people opposed to regime to come here at that time was more a kind of trap than an invitation to dialogue …….. many of us accepted the invitation and came to participate …… but we was used to the freedom of speech in the free world sites….. we were used to bring links to testimonies, declassified files, World’s International Organizations statistic files, etc…….. and were used to call liars with the help of all this material to anyone daring to lie about the real Cuba, the one before and the one after 1959……. our language was not welcome, neither our links or stile………. after some censure most of us disappeared because it made no sense to lose time in a place where you can express your self…… Now a see this site has changed a lot……. I don’t see censure (as long as I been here….. 3 days), I see the guys writing here are the same but they writes no longer unreal pictures of Cuba (with the exception of some “elementary school “pioneers” like Elio), I don’t see as many castro blind followers as before…… and I don’t see walter no longer wandering the www asking the people to come here….. I don’t see him no longer praising this site neutrality and objectivity ………

    What happen walter?????…. you no longer believe this site writers are objective and neutral?????

  • This comment reflects an on-going theme I see throughout all of your comments here at HT. You seem to believe that comments critical of the Castro regime are less than civil or closed-minded. You seem to take a curmudgeonly view that those comments which disagree with your world view are somehow less well-constructed or thought out. The definition of ‘comment’ is “a verbal or written remark expressing an opinion or reaction”. Therefore, by definition, a ‘comment’ should reflect the ‘bias’ of the commenter. It is clear that you support the Castro dictatorship. It is also clear that you struggle to accept as valid those comments from those of us who don’t.

  • I appreciate Veronica Vega’s effort to analyze the dynamics of discussions on Havana Times. I think it is a decent start, but leave out some larger issues. I agree with the generalities of her assertions that individual’s political background and current situation tend to define how they present themselves and their ideas. But I disagree with what seems to be her second assertion, that the restrictive access to the internet in Cuba is responsible for there not being a more open or productive discourse. I would agree it is a factor, but since I do have access to the world wide web and visit many comments sections on all types of web sites in many countries and languages, I can assure Veronica that comments sections are typically defined by the not only the subject and site ownership, but mostly by the type of individuals that are drawn to the site.

    For example you can quickly tell when you sign on to a comments section whether the discourse is civil or antagonistic, biased or open minded, focused to the benefit of the original presentation or anarchic. In addition, another measure is whether the commentators respect and address the topic at hand or spiral off on tangents. In sum, I would argue that no matter how free and accessible the comments sections are, discussions that are relatively focused and intelligent are the exception, not the rule. If a Havana Times article gets a few responses that address the authors points, it is fortunate. However, this doesn’t always happen and my sympathies are with the author who has taken the time and courage to present their views.

    We should all remember that various attempts to misuse the internet are rampant all over the world; spam, virus, intrusive popups, scams, haters and government trolls and lurkers. Opening up the net to more Cuban’s will not prevent this mess, but will require users becoming web savvy.

  • The key point made by Veronica Vega is that our virtual debates on this online site are not read by the immense majority of Cubans. Access to the Internet is a rare privilege and e-mail is through the ETECSA telephone system which limits subscribers to 200 hours per annum and then cuts them off.
    We who contribute to HT should realise that our audience in Cuba is miniscule. As a totalitarian state Cuba does not wish to have alternative views and opinions to that which they impose revealed to their subject peoples.

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