Havana Times and Some Low Blows

Circles Robinson, editor

Photo: Caridad

HAVANA TIMES — It seems that within a line of attack against other Cuban bloggers and audivisual projects, it is becoming fashionable to include slander against Havana Times.

We received a first shot from Cubadebate, and now another one has been posted on the Rebelion website, an attack written by journalist and former Cuban State Security agent Percy F. Alvarado Godoy.

Both articles focus their accusations on blogger Yoani Sanchez and the Estado de Sats project, while accusing Havana Times (HT) of promoting them.

For people who don’t know us, HT is a digital publication for discussion and analysis concerning Cuban life. It is formed from the wide-ranging viewpoints of its columnists and contributors, as well as from readers’ comments, which are also diverse.

True to this principle of pluralistic inclusion — and although the editor of Havana Times does not have any personal relationships with the Estado de Sats team — our site did publish an interview with its founder and several articles that mentioned of its meetings. In addition, one of our collaborators interviewed Yoani Sanchez, and on another occasion we published a second interview with that blogger.

We are of the conviction that only by giving space to a diverse spectrum of voices is it possible to have a full view of the complex reality, which is a position in accordance with the paradigms of professional journalism. This is why HT distances itself from those (be they supposed official leaders or those of the opposition) who try to kidnap the “truth,” monopolizing it for their own benefit.

Therefore, we will continue announcing and covering the activities of the Estado de Sats as well as other media, autonomous projects and other governmental and non-governmental institutions and organizations, as is the desire of the contributors to HT.

At the same time, we will continue to allow for various comments and criticisms of those articles in the spaces provided after each of them.

Returning to the article by Alvarado Godoy, in the blog of an HT contributor there appears the essay “Appeal Against Censorship in Cuba,” in which the author presents his opinion on that subject. At the end he includes a public letter and a list of signatures of people who reject the practice of censorship in Cuba.

At the same time, it should be clarified that HT did not draft the petition or distribute it for signatures, though many of this website’s members and collaborators may have sympathized with the idea that censorship covering the media in Cuba should be lifted.

Another “toxic” point among these spurious rumors is the attempt to tie HT to the US Interests Section office in Havana (USIS).

I do admit that in 2003 I entered the USIS. This, though, was through its front door as a US citizen in order to renew my passport, since the Cuban government (my employer between 2002 and 2009) requires its foreign technicians to keep their documents updated.

Photo: Caridad

As to other relations with the US, I confess to the accusation that I was born in the US — as if this were a crime — though this was no obstacle to my working for the Cuban government for 7 ½ years or to my being a voting delegate at the last congress of the Union of Journalists of Cuba (UPEC), in July 2008.

As for HT’s relationship with the Cuban authorities, we should note that Havana Times began as a project endorsed by UPEC president Tubal Paez, who — during the official introduction of the site at the UPEC headquarters in December 2008 — publicly offered his “support” for the project.

The main roots of HT go back to my active presence in the annual UPEC Press Festivals and in that organization’s congress, where journalists critically discussed the problems of the profession and the quality of information produced and disseminated to national and foreign readers.

Concerning the financing of the website, I have reiterated on various occasions that HT is self-funded by me with personal and family contributions. My hope was, and is, that one day HT could be a small non-commercial effort with its headquarters in Havana, like it was during its initial nine months of existence.

In short: the online magazine Havana Times is a wide-ranging publication open to various opinions about Cuban reality and to the frank discussion of proposals for the present and the future of the nation and the world.

It is made up of people possessing their own diverse opinions. We respect the opinions of others and do not seek to impose on others some monolithic line, which is a position difficult to understand for those accustomed to the media polarization on the issue of Cuba.

In the end, it’s worth remembering that wise phrase from of Don Quixote when he said to his faithful squire: “Let the dogs bark, Sancho. It’s a sign we’re on track!”



24 thoughts on “Havana Times and Some Low Blows

  • The probability is that you are unable to accurately define communism.

    Even a casua reading of HT would show that it presents a huge percentage of anti-revolutionary articles and comments that put the lie to the hysterical U.S inspired charge that Cuba has no freedom of speech and the thought that predominates the U.S public that anyone speaking out against the goivernment will be shot, jailed or otherwise silenced .
    I value HT for providing a website to which I frequently direct the dumbed-down people of the U.S. to show them CUBANS freely criticizing their government .

    FYI, The U.S. is at war with Cuba and has been for over 50 years. If you can point out any nation in history that has allowed the propaganda and propaganda spokespeople of an avowed enemy free rein , go to it.

  • As editor of an open forum magazine, Circles has to remain reasonably neutral, in order not to degrade the open forum. You should be patting him on the back for an arduous and gutsy job, not trying to insert a knife. You are nit-picking, without saying anything of substance.

  • Mr Daugherty, I do understand your points that to be an open forum a forum needs to be open, and that in order for its contributors to be able to write what is on their minds it must be open to their contributions.

    Being open doesn’t in itself make the forum “effective” though, at least to those of us who wooden-headedly believe that the effectiveness of such a political undertaking should be measured in terms of some greater good than just whether it facilitates the self-expression of those who happen to contribute to it.

    Calling my responses here an attack on Circles Robinson is to fall into the same error he made in his article above. Havana Times is not Circles Robinson, Havana Times is the publication. In other words, Havana Times is not the person of the editor but the ensemble of the contributions which make up the website. This is well understood by others, for example Mr Alvarado who in his article was correct in identifying Havana Times the website with its published contributions supporting Estado de SATS and the anti-censorship appeal. Havana Times is as it publishes.

    Mr Robinson feels he has been attacked with “low blows” because he identifies criticism of Havana Times and some of the entities it (i.e its group of contributors) supports with personal criticism of himself, but on the other hand he also rejects personal responsibility for the contributions to the website on the basis of its pluralism. That is, Havana Times is him when it’s being “attacked” but an open forum without responsibility when it’s a case of being responsible for its positions. I just hope Mr Robinson is able to sort out his conflicting attitude to the website to one where he can accept the legitimacy of criticism of the website’s de facto political positions without misconstruing the criticism (as he did in this case) as slander and taking it personally.

    I actually have a lot of sympathy for Mr Robinson, whose own writings are always very clearly among the best on the website, and I believe that the Havana Times experiment was worth trying and wish that it had been more successful. But any open forum tends to attract those who think alike with its core group and repel others, and thus over time tends to acquire a distinctive political and social identity. In the case of Havana Times, this process has produced the identity which Mr Alvarado described as anti-Cuban and which I described as left-liberal oppositionist. That Mr Robinson doesn’t wish to identify himself personally with the political positions that de facto define his site (e.g. its strong support for Estado de SATS) is at once his misfortune, the cause of this flap over Mr Alvarado’s article and a marker of the failure of the site as a political project.

  • Mr. Cheeseman, it is apparent that you have heard everything that has been said in response to your attack on HT and Circles Robinson; and it is apparent that you cannot understand or accept that, in order to have an open and effective forum, all viewpoint must be allowed, no encouraged to be expressed.

    Some of the writers who find publication in HT horrify and disgust me. But I myself may horrify and disgust many Marxists, in Cuba and worldwide, because I call Engels and Marx agent provocateurs and destroyers of socialism through state monopoly and a cult-of-personality, secular religion. You cannot seem to understand that, in order for me and others to write what is on our minds, we have to have a “Y’all Come” magazine and blog such as HT through which to write it.

    It is your kind of wooden-headed, bureaucratic socialism that has undermined and discredited socialism thus far. May I invite you to continue to say what you please through the pages of HT, whether you understand the value of the forum, or understand it not.

  • I quite agree that Circles Robinson is entitled to run a pluralist website whose composite line is a lot more anti-socialist than he is. Mr Robinson is even entitled to his belief that because he personally isn’t anti-Cuban that his website isn’t part of “la blogósfera anticubana.” But, on the other hand, people like Percy F. Alvarado Godoy are not obliged to share that delusion.

    Mr Alvarado’s comments regarding Havana Times were expressed civilly in his article and were not factually false, as my earlier post pointed out. Poor Mr Robinson’s hurt feelings reflect not “slander” on the part of opponents like Mr Alvarado but rather his own unenviable position of being responsible for a website generally hostile to Cuban socialism and supportive of the US empire’s regime change apparatus despite himself not generally sharing that hostility or support.

    Because the Cuban pro-government critics of the site are not factually wrong and have nothing to be ashamed of they are not going to be abashed by Mr Robinson’s tears in print. Therefore this micro-conflict will continue and the contradiction will be resolved in the course of real life one way or another: Mr Robinson will either cease to have an “anti-Cuban” website or else cease to be offended when it is pointed out.

    I have to say I don’t share the optimism with which some posters here regard the Havana Times. It would be gratifying to believe that it might showcase and energise a constructive, loyal opposition, but instead I see the site as mostly promoting banal individualist and liberal positions without much insight … along with a lot of tailing after the empire’s political clients in Cuba, with tragically naïve defences of the likes of Yoani Sánchez and Estado de SATS or pitiable grooving along to the middle-aged adolescent rebellion of Porno Para Ricardo or, even worse, reprints of the faux-objective schtick of the bourgeois state propaganda machine BBC Mundo.

    In my pessimism towards his project I have no advice to offer Mr Robinson except that he might make more efforts as editor to improve the quality and tone of the submissions. In particular, the personally denigratory or even downright abusive tone displayed towards government supporters in many of the articles in itself rules out a respectful dialogue with the “officialistas” and could be improved without imposing political censorship. As particularly odious examples some of Haroldo Dilla Alfonso’s efforts spring to mind, which but for their scatological language would not be out of place on the Miami Herald anti-Cuba hate pages. But the vulgarly vilificatory histrionics of HDA’s prose seem ever less out of place here, so I guess it will instead end up being more of the same only more so.

  • There will always be those of a rigid mentality who think “you’re either for us, or against us,” and who only remember the first part of the quote “my country, right or wrong…” For anyone who has carefully and consitently read the HT for these past three years, however, it is apparent that Circles is attempting to foster a genuine Mesa Redonda where a variety of viewpoint are not only allowed, but encouraged; those most encouraged, of course, are positive viewpoints, those seeking to further democratize the Revolution, politically, economically and socially, though even negative viewpoints are allowed, since there are valid reasons why they are expressed. I have absolute confidence that one day, and sooner rather than later, HT will again return to Habana; this will not be due to “regime change,” but rather through the evolutionary process which is already taking place in Cuba. HT is one of the best reflections of this process, and makes it understandable to those of us on the outside, looking in, as well as those on the inside, looking out. As time goes on, may there be a healthy sysnthesis of both.

  • “Like a good communist”? Your arguments would be more credible if you didn’t stoop to name calling and insinuations.

    Just because Cuba doesn’t allow it, doesn’t mean there aren’t Cubans who choose to exercise their right to speak freely. Perhaps some of the writers do self-censor to a degree. But in the 3 years I’ve been reading havanatimes.org, I’ve noticed a growing tendency among the writers of telling it as they see it. And some of the writers have faced retribution from authorities including one who lost a teaching position at a Cuban university.

    And so far as havanatimes having received official sanction in the past, I’m guessing this ended when Circles Robinson had to leave Cuba after failing to get his residency permit renewed.

  • Uh, Richard, you just don’t get it. HT is an open forum which allows a Cuba-wide and world-wide discussion of problems and opportunities regarding the Cuban and world socialist transformation.

    Perhaps the only people who see HT merely as part of the counter-transformation are those with no ideas or programmatic points to discuss or exchange.

    I know that many writers for HT are anti-socialist. Many are pro-socialist. Many are somewhere in between. But the main value of HT is not the political orientation of those who write, or those who comment on what has been written, but the existence of the open forum.

    If people like you, and the PCC leadership could understand, and utilize the open forum of HT, rather than trying to discredit it, the world socialist movement would be better off.

  • The author admits this blog is “endorsed by UPEC president Tubal Paez”.

    Don’t all or most of the authors work for the Cuban government? If so, they either write for the Cuban government or write articles that will not get them fired from their job.

    So, whether HT is controlled/reviewed/edited etc by the Cuban government, it and its writers are careful not to exercise too much free speech.

    HT is at the very least self-censored if not reviewed, moderated or even controlled by the Cuban government.

    What about my comment about no free speech in Cuba. Like a good communist you avoid the truth when necessary.

  • Richard, if you have a shred of credible evidence that Yoani Sanchez or the Estado de SATS are paid political agents of the “empire” (US government?), please provide it.

    Otherwise, your reply should be dismissed as unsubstantiated smears by a pro-Castro die hard.

  • I am pretty sure that not all my comments find the approval of Circles. But that is not the point. Havanatimes has turned into the best source of information on Cuba you can find anywhere on the web. It allows for open discussion and is clearly independently-run but with immense commitment and dedication to the people of Cuba.
    Comments that the site is either pro or contra this or that go to show to me that some people cannot think out of the box. There are clearly posts on the site that I dislike, but then so what.
    It is an amazing project and I have no doubt that one day it will be run again from Havana as it should be.

  • Circles, the HT is a Blog which has on all side friends, somethimes we only differ about people and we do not know where the truth lays. Everybody is entitled to their own opinion and that is good so. All government in the entire world have is flaws and it is important to see bouth side of the coin. No reseration there and keep up with your good work and the Bloggers on HT. Greetings from Switzerland and Florida.

  • Estado de SATS ha recibido apoyo de otros sitios de la blogósfera anticubana para sobredimensionar su papel, particularmente del sitio Web Havana Times. El que recabó una recolección de firmas en el exterior, empleando post “Contra la Censura en Cuba”. Los artículos de Antonio Rodiles y otros integrantes de este proyecto [i.e. the Estado de SATS project] reciben también asesoría de la SINA, facilitándoles la divulgación de sus propuestas en la red.

    This is the mention of Havana Times in the article complained of.

    The “spurious rumor” linking Circles Robinson to the USIS is indeed spurious, in the strong sense that it does not feature in the original article which instead links the USIS with the articles of Antonio Rodiles and others in the Estado de SATS project.

    Mr Robinson’s response actually admits the truth of the article’s assertion of strong Havana Times support for Estado de SATS. Justifying that support as representing not Havana Times itself but the individual contributors it hosts under its pluralist editorial policy is not a denial. Those contributors together make up the website and it is the shared positions they display as a group which define the website’s line, notwithstanding the subjective imaginings of the editor that it doesn’t have a line.

    Havana Times can be said to support Estado de SATS and Yoani Sánchez because it routinely publishes articles supporting them and little or nothing critical of them. It’s that simple.

    The uncritical support of Havana Times for outfits like Estado de Sats and for the empire’s pet blogger Yoani Sánchez flows naturally from the site’s left-liberal oppositionist stance against the Cuban government, a stance which generates a sympathy for all government opponents along with a tendency to downplay or ignore the subversive activity of the United States empire in promoting a client opposition to further its imperialist goal of regime change.

    Nevertheless that imperialist regime change campaign is a fact and it’s a campaign backed by tens of millions of dollars per year, enough for the empire to purchase and support an array of political agents and propaganda outlets in Cuba. This is the larger political context in which the Havana Times is embedded and it can’t be wished away. Although not itself a mercenary project, by effectively pretending that the empire isn’t involved the Havana Times nevertheless serves as useful cover for the imperial campaign and earns its description as part of “la blogósfera anticubana.”

  • Now Circles knows how Yoani Sanchez and State of Sats feels like! You are either with the Castros or you are part of the c.i.a. , George Bush, batistianos, the miami mafia, bad old gusanos or any acronyms not approved by the Castro royal family!! Je je je! Welcome to the club Circles!!

  • HT is amazing. I believe Circles Robinson has made, and is making history. I only wish it were possible for a common working person like myself to donate monetarily through PayPal (which possibility, by the way, was blocked a few months ago by the US govt).

    May HT and Circles Robinson overcome all obstacles and continue to publish. And may the Cuban party come to its senses and utilize HT for an open discussion of both problems and opportunities.

  • Mr. Godoy shot the arrow and missed the target by large. He should shave pointed out the petty Cafe Fuerte website run by Wilfredo Cancio Isla who *did* receive money from the US Government when he was a staff member of El Nuevo Herald.

  • Rob, given the usual tone of my comments alone, I am pretty sure that HT is not a tool of the Castro regime. If they were, I would have been spammed out a long time ago.

  • If you have evidence that the content of the Havana Times has to be endorsed/approved by the the Cuban government or the official journalists union, please provide it. Otherwise, this accusation is nothing but an undeserved smear against Havana Times’ politically diverse group of bloggers and writers.

    Like JennyC, my appreciation for the diversity of opinions and perspectives offered by havanatimes.org continues to grow.

  • “I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it”

    Except there is no freedom of speech in Cuba and this is why HavanaTimes.org content has to be endorsed/approved by UPEC.

  • I value the open-mindedness and diversity of opinions and topics presented in this forum. Keep up the good work!

  • So, HavanaTimes.org is endorsed by the Cuban government? You are admitting that now?

  • In reading your post I am reminded of the oft-quoted, Evelyn Beatrice Hall, writing under the nom de plume of Stephen G Tallentyre “I may not agree with what you say but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. or as we say where I’m from “I got your back”. Keep up the good work.

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