HAVANA TIMES — My blog, Cartas desde Cuba (“Letters from Cuba”), has become something of an ideological hazard for students at Cuba’s University of Information Sciences (UCI). That, at least, is what I gather from their decision to block our page for several days, to prevent students from reading us.
During this time, curiously enough, the censors allowed students access to Miami’s New Herald and other pages operated by the Cuban émigré community, all of which are openly anti-Castro. Apparently, they consider them less harmful to the ideological purity of their students.
Some years ago, I criticized the inconsistencies of Cuba’s information policy and a Cuban colleague of mine replied with a smile: “What information policy?” And it’s true: censorship seems to be devoid of all logic; as though it depended on what mood the official working that day woke up in.
They blocked us in the middle of the diplomatic meetings between Cuba and the United States. The measure was applied following comments that refer to the risks that the country could face in the future. We committed the cardinal sin of raising doubts, mentioning dangers and asking ourselves questions.
I wrote the post From Cuba Under Siege to Cuba Tours thinking about the young, who hold the future of Cuba and its culture in their hands. They are the ones who will have to face the challenges and skirt the dangers that living in harmony with such a powerful neighbor entails.
Those young people, however, were forced to read the article using proxies or by passing the article along through USB drives, as they do with the banned episodes of the Cuban sitcom Panfilo, the private lectures of economist Juan Triana or the criticisms voiced by the Communist Party Secretary of Santiago de Cuba, broadcast only within that province.
It’s funny that they should try and prevent access to certain web-pages in a university aimed at teaching the young to make use of new technologies. No one, we can safely assume, would be better equipped to overcome obstacles blocking access to cyberspace than these kids.
I don’t know whether the decision was made by the official censorship apparatus or by the “extremist on duty” at the UCI, the one who hopes to transform it into the University for the Censorship of the Internet. Whatever the case may be it, it is rather alarming.
If it was an official response, the measure is frightening, for it reveals that tolerance towards open debate is dwindling, despite the fact that the president himself, General Raul Castro, said that the best solutions come out of the exchange of different opinions.
If it was an individual’s decision, it is even more frightening, for it implies that anyone has the power to censor the information Cuban university students read. It means that a local cadre without any real power can decide what young people can and cannot read.
What’s contradictory is that, while Cuban television was interviewing me and airing my opinion about the Cuba-US bilateral meetings on their news programs, the UCI was using filters to prevent these opinions from reaching their students.
I smell a rat in this whole affair. Let’s hope it’s a mere misstep by the censorship apparatus, because it would be tragic if Cuba were decentralizing censorship in order to give local censors more elbow room.
The spread of censorship creates situations as ridiculous as when classical tangos were banned in South America because of their subversive lyrics or a young man was arrested for carrying a book about cubism, when authorities thought it was a pro-Cuban political tendency.
When I was a teenager, a political prisoner gave me a leather book marker as gift. When the prison censor gave it to me, he said, laughing: “these intellectuals sure say stupid things.” On the marker, she had burnt the phrase: “When someone points to the moon with a finger, idiots look at the finger.”