Cuba Bloggers Yes… But Organized

Fernando Ravsberg*

A bloggers meeting in Matanzas Province last weekend. Photo: Raquel Perez

HAVANA TIMES, May 3 — When they told me about the idea of holding a meeting of blogueros (bloggers), I thought it would be a good opportunity to join forces and gain ground.  As long as there is respect for the freedom of opinions that should guide all human beings.

I warned them of the possibility that an attempt might be made to “organize” them under the control of the same people who already ruined the credibility of the national press.

That there existed the danger of this effort being converted into the online version of the same failure – just as monotonous, uncritical and simplistic.

I got a bad feeling knowing that a commission had been created to exclude certain Internauts and that this body’s selection criteria was so narrow that it had left out Yasmin and her husband, an active couple in the blogosphere who also define themselves as revolutionaries.

After the event, journalism professor Elaine Diaz noted in her blog that the meeting lacked “life, authenticity, spontaneity as well as the slightest bit of courage,” which is what would have been required to invite activists from the Observatorio Critico, a group of the non-officialist left.

In defense of the event, there appeared Yohandry (the blogger who has the most access to official information), but all he did was to repeat the tired argument of the Cuban press: “If being ‘officialist’ means defending the revolution and socialism — even though we know that many things have to be improved — then that’s what I am – proudly.”

However, up until now the officialist media have only proven themselves to be masters at publishing praises of the “revolution,” while at the same time seeming unable to defend it effectively, says well-known Uruguayan writer Eduardo Galeano, who —curiously— Yoahandry likes to quote.

Officialist pride was reflected in the meeting’s final resolution: “We respect and promote critical thinking, which is necessary and useful to preserve our status as revolutionaries, with the premise that one cannot be revolutionary outside of the revolution.”

The phrase has a strong political overtone. For some members of the bureaucratic class, to be “within the revolution” means accepting all directives from above – though no one knows for sure at what link in the chain those decisions are made.

These bloggers condemn “the blockade by the US government, which creates the difficulties of connectivity and access to info-communications technology on the island,” but they avoid talking about the undersea cable that could be used to rupture the blockade.

The final resolution of the meeting doesn’t mention the fact that the fiber optic cable between Cuba and Venezuela should have been functioning a year ago. Its proper operation would increase the connectivity of the country by 3,000 times, thus facilitating Internet access to the Cuban people.

This was a project that cost tens of millions of dollars that were paid for by the workers who provide the money in the state budget – those who sow, those who build, those who work in Venezuela to ensure the provision of the oil that’s essential for the country. Yet the communications minister won’t even talk of the submarine cable. think people have a right to know what the government did with their money, so I went to the minister of Communications. After sidestepping the determined justifications from his press chief, I managed to get the minister himself to respond. However — in a patently bad mood — his only reply was that had nothing to say about the cable.

It seems then that the bloggers will have to turn to the approach of Cuban journalist Francisco “Paquito” Rodriguez, who called on all of them to work together to try to “find out what happened to the fiber optic submarine cable that was laid from Venezuela for more than a year ago.”

Despite working in the Cuban media, Paquito has no information with respect to this. “No one knows anything about it or when it will start working” he said. But he asserts that when the cable finally does begin operation “we bloggers will multiply like bread and fish.”

Francisco has one of the most popular blogs on the island: Paquito el de Cuba, on sexual diversity. His was another one of the notable absences from the meeting (though he had been asked, he politely refused the offer to take part in the organizing committee and went on a camping vacation).

The most astounding element in the final declaration of the bloggers’ meeting was their request to the government agencies to “reformulate the regulations that limit connectivity and access to the Internet by the country’s institutions, for the sake of a greater presence of Cubans in cyberspace.”

In this way they relinquished and abdicated all of their rights as citizens to participate in the reformulation of those policies that govern the use of the Internet. They left everything in the hands of the very same “government agencies” that have restricted access up until now.

When the meeting ended, I wrote to one of the organizers wishing them great successes so they offset the huge shortfalls, especially with regard to credibility – the principal ammunition of any communicator.

(*) An authorized translation by Havana Times (from the Spanish original) published by BBC Mundo.