Miguel Barnet: “Cuba’s Press Should Be Proud To Be Official”

By Cafe Fuerte

Miguel Barnet
Writer and anthropologist Miguel Barnet.  Photo: Granma.cu

HAVANA TIMES — Writer Miguel Barnet believes that the Cuban press should feel proud to be an official government medium.

Barnet, who will turn 75 on January 28, participated at an exchange held in the headquarters of Cuba’s Granma newspaper and expressed nothing but praise for the work of Cuban journalists, whom he urged to continue to support the government in their articles.

“Don’t worry when people say you work for an official government journal, feel proud and say: ‘I am holding the shield of the homeland.’ Granma ought to be more official, more revolutionary, more Fidelista and more honest,” the writer declared in response to the critical tone with which the foreign press refers to Cuban journalism.

The remarks by the author of Cimarron (Runaway slave) recalled a similar comment made on March of 1992 by then government official Carlos Aldana, who urged journalists to be “pro-government” and be proud of this during celebrations for Cuban Press Day.

Barnet’s presence at the ideological bastion of the Cuban press opened a series of exchanges with different personalities, in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the publication, founded by Fidel Castro on October 4, 1965.

Barnet is the current chair of the Association of Cuban Writers and Artists (UNEAC), member of the Central Committee of the Communist Party and Council of State and a deputy at the National Assembly. He is also the chair of the Fernando Ortiz Foundation.

Barnet’s Front Page Poem

The note published by Granma refers to Barnet as a man “who has placed his profound sensitivity at the service of journalism.” The exchange gathered Granma journalists and employees at the newspaper’s former printing press.

“The awareness that the people of Cuba have today, an awareness lacked by other peoples, is owed in great measure to the work of the Cuban press,” Barnet declared during the talk.

Barnet reminisced about his work with Granma and recalled that his poem Che, dedicated to the Argentinean revolutionary, appeared on the front page of the newspaper in 1967. The poem, which Pablo Milanes later adapted and made into a song, says: “It’s not that I want to trade my pen for your gun, but you are the true poet.”

He also reminisced about the “incredible times” he shared with Fidel Castro, Jorge Enrique Mendoza (editor in chief and founder of Granma) and journalist Marta Rojas at the newspaper.

Barnet also offered young journalists a number of recommendations: “The true journalist has to read up on everything. They have to be even more organic than the writer because, while the writer can focus on the issues that interest him and forsake all others, the journalist has to be conscious of how today’s political apparatus works – that, at least, defines the true journalist.”

8 thoughts on “Miguel Barnet: “Cuba’s Press Should Be Proud To Be Official”

  • OK, I see that. But then what Cuba is changing toward, and Raul has made it clear it is his goal, is the “Chinese model” in which a single party dictatorship dominated by the military maintains absolute political control. Foreign corporations can do business with the Cuban state monopolies, but the Cuban people remain oppressed and abused.

    That will be a tragic future for the Cuban people.

  • Remove the word “political” from your post, and perhaps what I actually wrote will make more sense. I’m not expecting the Cuban government to entertain “political” reform (ie: multi-party democratic elections) at any time in the foreseeable future. The US government can further negotiate a host of other reforms, but continuing to force a change to Cuba’s political structure will never be one of them. It is what it is.

  • Could you please list the items of reform you say have already begun?

    Raul declared there will be no changes to the Cuban system, that they will remain true to the principles of the Revolution. I don’t see how that statement is compatible with any sort of political reform.

    I would love for you to be correct, but I do not see any evidence of political reform in Cuba.

  • Did you read or hear about Raulito’s comments before the CELAC crowd in Costa Rica? Does he sound like the President of a piss-poor banana republic badly in need of foreign capital or an arrogant little despot who refuses to budge an inch. No amount of tourism, contact with the free world or Haagen Daz ice cream will cause that murderer to change. I am NOT suggesting we keep doing the same thing. I am suggesting we take the gloves off and quit farting around with these guys. Nobody knows how to subvert Latin American governments better than the US. We should just put all the smart guys we have in the same room and come up with a plan. How hard can it be to get rid of two old farts anyway?

  • I don’t “fantasize” about it, Moses. The process of reform has already begun, just as I have always promoted and preticted. You, on the other hand, would rather fantisize that nothing will change through respectful dialogue, nogotiation, and fully normalized relations. In the same breath, you’re therefore insinuating that everything can be accomplished by doing just the opposite…NOTHING. Moses, how has that worked out for your government? I guess there really are some that are so THICK that they would rather keep doing the same thing, and continue expecting a different result. Attaboy, Einstein. And for the record, I’m not a Castro sycophant… I’m pro Cuba. It’s what I want for the Cuban people that matters…with or without the Castros.

  • Amen. This guy Barnet really has his head up his ass!

  • Its guys like Barnet that are beyond hope. He and the rest of the Castro oligarchy will simply have to die off if real change in Cuba is possible. Castro sycophants like commenter Terry Downey, who fantasize about a Cuba that is reformed by simply increasing contact with the US through trade and tourism should take a long look at freaks like Barnet. Who in their right mind is against a FREE press? Most Cubans use Granma as a toilet paper substitute since the frequency of toilet paper shortages in Cuba seems to be increasing. Cuban journalists have the editorial freedom of a three year-old in a china shop. Barnet admonishes journalists in Cuba “to read up on everything”. Given the list of banned books and lack of access to the internet, everything to Barnet is a short bibliography.

  • When i was in Cuba in 2013 I saw a wall mural in Santa Clara criticizing “secretismo” in the Cuban press. This was not a hurried scrawl on the wall, but something that took time. I took it as evidence that someone in Cuba is not satisfied with their press.
    I can say that among the leftists I exchange messages with, only rarely do I see anyone forwarding an item from the Cuban press. While I do go to the Cuban press for human interest stories, I don’t go looking for analysis of world event.

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