HAVANA TIMES, Sept. 12 — The disorders that afflict the Cuban press are definitively chronic. Yesterday on the national TV news I heard a special announcement that — instead of informing me — actually misinformed me.
The announcer reported: “A group of individuals have taken refuge in a sort of spiritual retreat in the Pentecostal church located on Infanta and Manglar streets. We can only say that these people have been there since August 21 and that among them are children and pregnant women, all summoned by a former-pastor of the church (who by a decision of that institution’s congregation no longer belongs to that house of worship).”
The announcer then spoke about the decision of the authorities and law enforcement officials to collaborate with the relatives of these “refugees” in terms of needed medical care, especially for the pregnant women and the kids, and to try to convince the mothers to allow their children to leave so that they could attend school.
This was the very concise and not very explicit announcement. In fact, it was brief to the point that I wasn’t left with a clear understanding of the real motives behind these people’s action. I wondered: does this have to do with the actions of some religious fundamentalists? Is this retreat a demonstration or a social protest in the face of something?
Late that night I was able to speak with a friend who lives in Havana and this is what he explained to me: That street is now surrounded by police, and everything seems to indicate that they’re trying to prevent other fanatics from joining in. As for the crux of the situation, it was rumored that the “pastor” had convinced them to take refuge there because the world was close to the end and a terrible Tsunami was about to raze the city of Havana. They were therefore retreating into the church because only those people inside would survive.
Convinced then that the motivation was absolutely the work of the exacerbation of these believers, I continued wondering: Why weren’t there any photos or film of the site? Why weren’t there any interviews of relatives or area residents with respect to all of this?
Perhaps the media couldn’t do that because it would fall into the category of “sensationalist journalism.” But then too, it also could have been because these believers could serve as examples for other types of protest demonstrations – ones where the motives aren’t exactly religious.
In any case, I remembered several years ago when a group of zealots in the United States carried out unfortunate acts of mass suicide. As the case was disclosed with hair and signs, the Cuban media placed the blame on the terrible capitalist system as a devourer of human beings.
But what is currently taking place in Havana has wound up showing that this event type can occur in any society, independently of the political, economic and social system that’s practiced.
Mums the word journalism in Cuba is an illness without a cure. You can only find the truth about incidents by investigating them on Internet sites.
What a painful situation for these individuals of faith. Let’s only hope they desist in their mindless decision. But what’s to become of our press? – so controlled, so biased and so very limited. Nowhere is the endpoint of these extreme positions, both of fanaticism and excessive secrecy.