Fernando Ravsberg

Who decides what Cuban university students can and cannot read?  Photo: Raquel Perez

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.

Access Denied. The censors say Cartas desde Cuba was blocked becuae it had “inappropriate” content.

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.

We committed the sin of expressing doubts about Cuba-US relations.  Photo: Raquel Perez

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.”


4 thoughts on “Cuba’s UCI University Blocks Our Blog

  • You put your finger on it. Fernando’s blog is leftist, pro-Cuban revolution, yet critical of specific aspects and will discuss actual problems the Cuban people are concerned about. His articles cannot be dismissed as “Miami mafia rants”. That makes it much more dangerous.

  • the shows and press from the Miami Cuban emigree media are straightforwardly anti Cuban Revolution, radical in their dissident discourse. The goverment knows that moderate, temperate discourses such as the one in Letters from Cuba are potentially more harmful because they would be more welcome amongst Cuban youth. They Miami discourse is a bit a thing of the past, discredited by too much hate and violence and it finds it hard to evolve; Cuban youth relates a lot more with the discourse of the mildly dissident letters from Cuba, Havana Times and other similar bloggs. It is not fundamentalist, it is inclusive, it does not rant at institutions that most Cuban still find it hard to criticize radically, therefore it is more likely to get through to those minds and hearts and it is thus more dangerous.

  • “When someone points to the moon with a finger, idiots look at the finger.”

    That’s a great quote! It reminds me of a story the forbidden Cuban writer Reinaldo Arenas wrote in his brilliant novel, The Color of Summer.

    http://www.amazon.com/Color-Summer-Garden-Earthly-Delights-ebook/dp/B000P2A418/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1422631199&sr=1-1&keywords=color+of+summer+arenas

    The story concerned a prisoner held in El Morro castle, which was still used as a prison in the 1970’s. The man had been given a life sentence, which meant he was certain to die in that horrible place. Every night, the man would collect drops of water from wherever he could, carry them in a spoon, hold them up to the small barred window in the communal cell, and capture the reflection of the moon in the droplets of water. Then he would carefully carry his moonstruck water to a large steel drum and drop it in. Night after night he would repeat this task. When he was too sick to do so, he asked Arenas to help him, which he was happy to do. (Arenas had been imprisoned on a charge of “corrupting youth”. ) Eventually, the prisoner had managed to fill his drum with water. On a night of a full moon, the prisoner climbed into his drum of moon-struck water and drowned himself.

    Idiots look at the finger.

  • WAYNE, a frequent commenter here at HT asked me in a comment he wrote for the current post titled “Cuban Dissident and Exiles Show Unity in Miami”, “Freedom and democracy”……what the hell does that REALLY mean?” I hope he reads this post. Censoring blogs because someone does not agree with the opinion expressed? C’mon, who still thinks that works?

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