Don’t Call Me a Traitor, Because I’m Not

Rosa Martinez

Photo:Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — All around the world people are writing stories and articles on the internet telling about their lives and those of others, as well as discussing what’s happening in their neighborhoods, provinces and countries.

Cubans are one of the few peoples on the planet who can’t do this freely, at least not the way we’d like.

Firstly, the vast majority of Cubans have the misfortune of not having internet access. Secondly, when we write about our island, it seems we’re obligated to be either for or against the government, no other position is accepted.

This means that if you harshly criticize the socialist regime that has ruled here for more than 50 years, you’ll find immediate support from the anti-Castro folks abroad, regardless of what you say is being half true, half false or simply fabricated.

Likewise, those people who for some reason — political or not — write posts criticizing capitalism and praising the achievements of the Cuban Revolution are often doomed to hearing insults and curses.

For some time, Havana Times and it writers (some of them) have been branded “hirelings of the empire.”

I won’t stop to explain to our readers that we’re a self-funded site, (one that doesn’t receive funding from the US or Cuban governments), as the editor has explained previously in interviews.

Photo:Caridad

What I do believe is worth recalling is those people who write logs for this site are only interested in telling their stories, which may be the same ones as thousands upon thousands of other Cubans, or they may be shared by only a few. The point is that these stories and articles express the reality of Cuba – something that’s not found in the official Cuban media or in the “independent” sites of right-wing extremists.

Obviously some of our contributors have pro-capitalist ideas, though we also have some who advocate socialism – people like me.

I support socialism now and I’ll always support it …I’m not ashamed of that. Though I’ve never lived under capitalism, I know that it isn’t the solution to the human misery around us.

Clearly I’m not so blind or naive to believe that our model is the one that will solve all the problems of our society — assuming there’s a system that can do that — but I am confident that the updating of the model can accomplish that.

And if this doesn’t occur, I’m even more confident that the Cuban people will be able to find their own way, with the help of all of us – those on the right and on the left, those who trust in Raul and those who don’t, those who trust only in themselves and those who don’t trust anyone.

As a Cuban, I want to be able to talk about not only the positive aspects of my country, but also its shortcomings when I deem this necessary.

I want to give my opinion about how to achieve a more equitable society that’s more developed economically, as well as to criticize the weaknesses of the revolution, if by doing so I can help I strengthen the system.

This is something that I want to do and that needs to be done, but without those who believe themselves to be “revolutionaries” calling me a traitor – because I’m not.

 


12 thoughts on “Don’t Call Me a Traitor, Because I’m Not

  • October 29, 2012 at 4:03 pm
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    Hello Luis,

    I didn’t call Rosa a traitor but she was writing about being called a traitor by others without seeming to understand why. I think we both see the perspective of where the label came from which was not dealt with in her article.

    As for the Haroldos and Elios in one place, there are far more of one than the other. I’m accustomed to seeing this in mainstream media here. It’s the current model used by corporate media to give the appearance of ‘fair and balanced journalism’. Previously, we had a broad spectrum of publications, each with a specific point of view.

    I’m NOT suggesting that HT is equivalent to the corporate media I am familiar with. It is following the same model, however, with its “open-minded ” banner.

  • October 27, 2012 at 7:55 pm
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    Easy Lawrence.

    I think HT is a great site about Cuba – it’ll be the only place you will gather both at the same time people like Haroldo and Elio – Circles is a very nice guy (I don’t know about you, but he’s never mistreated me) and Rosa certainly isn’t a traitor. Like Luxemburg, she follows the axiom ‘The truth is revolutionary.”

    Of course, there are often more just plain complaints than constructive criticism, because the latter is much more difficult to do.

    You just have found memories from your positive experiences in Cuba and see the disgustingly acid (and for a Latin-American like myself whose brothers suffered big time because of US interests, pretty offensive) tone of Moses’ comments and get pissed off.

  • October 26, 2012 at 3:39 am
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    You write that I “would know what Cubans really believe and desire for their country” if their government “permitted open and transparent democratic elections”. You, of course assume your country – and mine – have “open and transparent democratic elections”.

    Polls in both of our countries indicate, without exception, our fellow citizens want better health care, better education and a state of perpetual peace, not war. Yet, our “open and transparent democratic elections” have not given us any of this. Cuba excels in all these categories, save living in peace which the US will not allow.

    Thus, why would you assume that IF Cuba had the kind of “open and transparent democratic elections” that you envision, they would have what we don’t have?

    Furthermore, as people in my country and yours are struggling to have a government that represents what they want, they realise it will not take place before the 1%-99% divide is addressed. Therefore, Cuba is one step up on us. Why would they go backwards to the pre-Revolutionary era?

    You write that your in-laws in Cuba don’t have freedom to choose who they want in elections. They DO have elections and the people DO decide who they want by personally selecting the candidates – an ability I don’t have. Of course, if who they want is not who other citizens want, they have to abide by the group decision.

    You write, “The rules of any well managed site should not be to present one side or the other but to simply facilitate the discussion.”

    If HT presented everything that came their way, this would be true, but of course that’s not possible, so in addition to facilitation, editorial decisions have to be made. We could assume the HT editor places all of the manuscripts in a box, blindfolds himself and picks out material but I doubt if that’s the case.

    We can assume the editor has a point of view as all editors do. Hoping for total impartiality is utopian. The best compromise is to understand what that point of view is and to use that understanding for evaluating the material being presented.

    You write, “This site is available for comment for anyone who chooses.”

    Comments are moderated. As such they are subjected to editorial decisions so the same applies to comments as to articles.

    You write, “I am grateful to Mr. Robinson for giving you this venue to express your anti American venom.”

    There is no imaginable reason why you should be grateful for this unless you enjoyed a discussion but you rarely engage in one. I am certain you are grateful to Mr. Robinson for giving YOU this venue to express your anti-Cuban venom. Since you view any criticism of your government as being ‘anti-American’, it’s only fair to view your criticism of Cuba’s government as anti-Cuban. It’s up to you to change yours. Leave Cubans to change theirs. They certainly do not need Americans meddling in their affairs. They’ve had a long history with that with horrendous consequences, on-going with the 50-plus year economic blockade.

    You ask if I spent “time talking to people waiting in line for bread? Did you talk to anyone in the vegetable market? They do not like the high prices and low quality?”

    I not only talked but WAITED in the bread lines with Cubans and always shopped in local markets. I assume you have not as you would know prices for subsidised bread and local produce is always in local pesos so quite reasonable for Cubans and spectacularly reasonable for me, of course.

    The quality of local produce – organically grown and just picked from gardens – is vastly superior to supermarket produce here which travels thousands of miles from California or Florida and is engineered to last the journey, not to taste good.

    I’ve eaten supermarket produce in California where presumably you are from, based on the names of the chains you use – neither of them here, thank god. Even though the veggies travel less, they come from the same seeds and taste the same as here.

    I shop exclusively at farmers markets wherever I am at. There are some excellent ones in California. Cubans would be crazy to want supermarket products, especially now when everyone and their brother have market gardens and supply produce in abundance in markets and street stalls.

    You ask me to “stop the name calling”. It’s ‘identifying and labelling’, not name-calling. I label both you and Granma as dispensers of propaganda. Only one of you is a Cuban source. The other is a foreign propagandist. Mostly you don’t write outright deceitful material, sometimes you do, and I label it as such.

    You are free to question my labels, of course, and we can discuss that, but you seem to want to suppress me identifying the nature of what you write – from the ‘handbook’, not the heart.

  • October 24, 2012 at 11:56 am
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    Lawrence, many if not all of your questions about what Cubans really believe and desire for their country would be answered if the Castros permitted open and transparent democratic elections. While I do not support the Chavez regime in Venezuela, I am obliged to acknowledge that the Venezuelan people have spoken and made their choice. I can not say the same for my inlaws in Cuba. This site is available for comment for anyone who chooses. Cubans who likely share your zeal for the dictatorship are unfortunately denied reasonable access to the internet to balance comments such as mine which oopose totalitarianism. The rules of any well managed site should not be to present one side or the other but to simply facilitate the discussion. I disagree with nearly everything you say and dislike your way of saying it but I am grateful to Mr. Robinson for giving you this venue to express your anti American venom. As you claim to have spent time recently in Cuba, did you spend time talking to people waiting in line for bread? Did you talk to anyone in the vegetable market? They do not like the high prices and low quality? They are not hopeful for a socialist coop to save the day. They want a Ralph’s or Safeway market just like you have, or at least the ease of access and quality. You should stop the name calling and tell the truth about Cuba if you know it.

  • October 23, 2012 at 12:45 pm
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    Moses,

    If you truly thought that Cubans should be allowed to have the society /government/ economy THEY choose , you’d devote a great deal more of your anti-revolutionary posts to condemning the 50 year U.S. war on Cuba .

    That war is intended to make Cubans suffer so much that they overturn their own revolution and return to a capitalist economy.

    You cannot both say that you support the right of Cubans to their socialist revolution and not call for an end to the war on it.

    Your understandable fear of the successful socialist society and the good example it would provide to other countries in the world (and especially in the Monroe Doctrine western hemisphere) is most likely what prompts your silence on the issue.

  • October 23, 2012 at 7:38 am
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    Rosa did NOT write that “Cuba is one of the few countries in the world where people are denied the basic human right of freedom of speech.” She wrote, erroneously as it turns out, that ” Cubans are one of the few peoples on the planet who can’t do this freely” on the Internet. I predicted in my comment to her that US propagandists would leap all over her statement. You’ve nicely validated my prediction. One thing that can always be said about propagandists – they are certainly predictable.

    You seem to have missed what Rosa wrote. For people who don’t have “freedom”, who are in “prison, mental as much as physical”, Cubans have the freedom to “harshly criticize the socialist regime that has ruled … for more than 50 years.”

    As Rosa wrote, if you do criticize the government, “you’ll find immediate support from the anti-Castro folks abroad, regardless of what you say is being half true, half false or simply fabricated.”

    That’s our ‘Griffin’ to a tee. In this case, it was “simply fabricated”.

  • October 23, 2012 at 7:10 am
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    If you “fully support” Rosa’s right to whatever system she wants, why are you and your government, through it’s 50 plus year economic blockade, working overtime to bring down the government Rosa has?

    The world knows about the “open and democratic process” Americans want. As Noam Chomsky is fond of saying, ‘it’s easy to know what countries are democratic. They are the ones the US says are democratic.’

  • October 23, 2012 at 6:48 am
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    Hello Rosa,

    In your last sentence you wrote, “those who believe themselves to be ‘revolutionaries’ [call] me a traitor … I’m not.” A common definition of a traitor is “a person who betrays a friend, country, principle, etc.” Betrayal is usually assumed to be a deliberate act of ‘treachery’, or ‘deception’ [google definitions].

    I suspect few, if any, accuse you of deliberate deception but perhaps you could be perceived as someone who is unaware of their traitorous behaviour. To know that, we need to know what was betrayed. I assume the charge refers to a principle or principles – those of the Revolution, the ‘second Revolution that freed Cuba from American imperialism.

    The Cuban government has been accused of betraying some of the principles of the first Revolution that threw off the colonialist yoke but I assume it is betrayal of the second one that you are being accused of.

    I think it’s safe to say, opposing American imperialism was the prime goal of the second Revolution and continues to be the uncompromising, long-standing principle of Cuba’s government.

    If you, or any of your fellow citizens, have done anything that compromises this principle of the Revolution, I feel you, and they, can legitimately be accused of betraying the basic principle of the second Revolution, albeit, not necessarily deliberately, but out of ignorance of the consequences of your acts.

    This is what I see over and over again in articles on the HT website. I have accessed HT now on a daily basis for a number of months after returning from a lengthy stay in Cuba. I started out as an unreserved fan of HT, feeling it ‘filled in the gaps’ from what was not in English-language Granma. But I now feel differently and I hope we can discuss why I do.

    I don’t find a great deal of reality in many of the political writings on HT. I recently wrote that reality on HT is as endangered a species as giant Pandas. I’m also concerned about the predominant anti-government content. I recognised the imbalance from the outset but felt it might be necessary to counteract the one-sided propaganda from the government side.

    I now feel it’s more than that. The ‘mission statement’ of HT as expressed in the ‘About us’ page says nothing about favouring one side or another, only about “giving space to a diverse spectrum of voices” in order “to have a full view of the complex reality”. Space is given to all sides but predominantly to the anti-government side.

    Questions I ask myself are, how representative is this of what Cubans think? How objective is HT in presenting different perspectives? Are Cubans that ignorant of the significant outside forces affecting their country? Are Cubans that naïve of the consequences of their opinions and actions? Are Cubans a nation of whiners, which is a constant impression I get reading what they write on HT? Is it mostly the younger generation that is like this, which most writers on HT seem to be?

    In the comments sections, there is a significant, entrenched US propagandist element that is working non-stop to demonise the Cuban government. I don’t know how swayed young Cubans are by this but I worry when Circles writes me he welcomes their input. Unlike Granma, it is deceptive propaganda, always attempting to disguise its true nature and where it comes from.

    These are my questions and concerns. I thought I knew what HT’s viewpoint was and now feel I do not. It’s not enough to state that HT is “a self-funded site, (one that doesn’t receive funding from the US or Cuban governments)”. We need to know more about where the money is coming from and what the prejudices of the donors are.

    Circles writes in ‘About us’, that “HT is self-funded by me with personal and family contributions.” What is the political outlook of these people? I think we need to know this. We know who funds Granma and what their politics is, I know who runs corporate media in my country and what their politics is – expressed in daily editorials – but we really know nothing about HT except what can be divined from the content selected for the site.

    On this basis, I can only assume Circles is a traitor to the primary principle of the second Revolution – fighting US imperialism – perhaps not a deliberate one or even conscious of what he is doing. But we need to have an editorial or editorials that lays out his personal viewpoint and vision, not just ones claiming he’s neutral. Editorials can also comment on material he has included, putting it in perspective, telling us why it was chosen, etc. The evidence clearly indicates he, or his financial backers, are not neutral people.

    Rosa, you write that “those people who write logs for this site are only interested in telling their stories, which may be the same ones as thousands upon thousands of other Cubans, or they may be shared by only a few.” I feel we need to know which one it is – how representative these stories are. Cubans may know, but presented to us in English, this material is clearly intended primarily for overseas eyes. We have no way of knowing.

    You write that “these stories and articles express the reality of Cuba – something that’s not found in the official Cuban media or in the ‘independent’ sites of right-wing extremists. That’s why I started reading HT. But without knowing how representative they are, it may just be disguised anti-government propaganda.

    I should point out, it’s not just the facts in the articles, which I assume are true, but the way they are presented, without perspective. This is the primary problem with Yoani. She highlights every negative aspect of life in Cuba she can find. I could do the same with Canada – sometimes I feel I am when putting into perspective the negative writing about Cuba. It’s certainly made me aware of some of the more ugly things that exist in Canada that I’ve ignored. Every citizen can do this about their country.

    I would like to ask you, what am I expected to think when you write, “Cubans are one of the few peoples on the planet who can’t [access the Internet] freely, at least not the way we’d like”? According to Wikipedia, worldwide, two-thirds of the people on the planet do not have access to Internet.

    Is Rosa a whiner, an anti-government propagandist (US propagandists will likely leap all over that claim), or just plain ignorant – not harmlessly ignorant, but dangerously ignorant, suitable for calling a traitor?

    I stayed independent of the tourist infrastructure when I was in Cuba and bitched along with Cubans about Internet accessibility. But is superior bandwidth worth the price of freedom?

    To let you know what my viewpoint is I, like you, count myself a socialist. I am definitely NOT a Communist (big ‘C’). I strongly believe in participatory democracy, and an egalitarian society where ‘no one stands above or below anyone else’, with an equitable distribution of income to make this possible.

    I am NOT an apologist for the Cuban government as Circles outrageously accused me of. Once the outside threat ends, I would end my wartime solidarity, opposing the threat, and would work actively to support what I believe in, working against the government if it did not change. All the Cuba supporters I know will do the same.

    But I am a realist. If a powerful country treats you as an enemy and wants to annex you to its Empire, if you don’t want this to happen, you need to never lose sight of what you are up against.

    Thank-you, Rosa, for providing an opportunity to air my concerns. I invite a discussion of the points I have raised.

  • October 22, 2012 at 7:14 pm
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    I didn’t interpret Rosa’s support for socialism as meaning she supports the Cuban system. The Cuban system could just as easily be labelled state capitalism as socialism.

  • October 22, 2012 at 2:12 pm
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    How ironic.

    While admitting Cuba is one of the few countries in the world where people are denied the basic human right of freedom of speech, the author declares her preference for the Cuban system over all others, which she admittedly has no experience or first hand knowledge of.

    If only the Cuban people had freedom, they might see the reality of the prison, mental as much as physical, that the Castro’s have built for them.

  • October 22, 2012 at 12:16 pm
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    While I may disagree with your preferences with regards to economic systems, specifically in your choice of socialism over capitalism, I fully support your right to choose for you and your country whatever system that works best. Only through an open and democratic process will Cubans be able to solve for themselves the myriad of social, economic and political problems that face the island.

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