Act of Repudiation
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    The New York Times, a Branch of Granma

    The New York Times, a Branch of Granma / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya
    Posted on March 11, 2016

    Cubanet, Miriam Celaya, Havana, 9 March 2016 – The New York Times (NYT)
    has just dedicated a new editorial to Cuba. Or, to be more accurate, the
    article, signed by Colombian Ernesto Londoño, makes a whole accolade
    about what he — and perhaps the executives of that influential newspaper
    — depict as the beginning of a process of freedom of expression on the

    And the unusual miracle of opening up which was announced triumphantly
    has been taking place just “since the United States began to normalize
    relations with Havana in late 2014.” So, magically, by the grace of
    Barack Obama’s new policy, “Cubans have begun to debate subjects that
    were once taboo, and to criticize their government more boldly.” (Oh,
    thank you, Barack. Cubans, always so incompetent, will be forever
    grateful to you!).

    Unfortunately, such sublime journalistic purpose is truncated because of
    the obtuse ignorance editorialists and publishers have about Cuban
    history and reality. In fact, from his first paragraph, Londoño’s forced
    rhyme to “illustrate” Cuban advances in matters of freedom of expression
    could not have been any more unfortunate: “In the past, when a Cuban
    athlete disappeared during a sporting event abroad, there was no
    official acknowledgement or any mention of it in the State media.”

    Then he refers to the recent extent of athletes defecting, starring with
    brothers Yulieski and Lourdes Gourriel — two young baseball stars who
    escaped the Cuban delegation during its stay in the Dominican Republic —
    as “an episode that illustrates how citizens in the most repressive
    country in the hemisphere are increasingly pushing the limits of freedom
    of expression”.

    This New York Times apprentice is either misinformed or totally
    clueless, because all Cubans on the island, especially those of us born
    soon after that sadly memorable 1st of January 1959, are aware of the
    numerous official statements of the National Institute of Sports,
    Physical Education and Recreation (INDER), a repudiation of what the
    Cuban government qualifies as defection of athletes who sell themselves
    to the powers of capital. Who in Cuba does not remember the deep voice
    and the indignation of the newspaper commentator and sports broadcaster,
    Héctor Rodríguez, now dead, reading passionately those intense pamphlets
    against the traitors?

    Such official statements have certainly not been released each time a
    desertion has occurred, but definitely every time they have turned out
    to be extremely outrageous and blatant, as with the recent case of the
    Gourriel brothers.

    Another noteworthy aspect is the NYT’s overvaluing of the role of the
    U.S. government “to reduce the culture of fear and the obedience that
    the State has long-used to control its citizens,” which has resulted in,
    “Today, a wider section of Cuban society is speaking with less fear.” It
    would seem that the efforts of opponents, dissidents, independent
    journalists and other civil society organizations, as well as the
    natural wear and tear of a whole society subjected to decades of
    deprivation and deceit by a ruling elite, has achieved absolutely nothing.

    Of course, nobody with a modicum of common sense would deny the
    influence any political change of a U.S. administration has on Cuba,
    especially when all of the Cuban dictatorship’s foreign (and domestic)
    policies have based their central axis on its dispute with the U.S.
    Personally, I am among those opponents who support a policy of dialogue
    and reconciliation, since the conflict of over half a century did not
    produce any results, and it is still too early for the Obama policy
    towards Cuba to be classified as a “failure.” In political matters,
    every process needs a time period to reach fruition, and we should not
    expect major changes in just 14 months of dialogue between parties to a
    half a century of conflict.

    However, to grant the new position of the White House the ability to
    open democratic spaces of expression within Cuba in that short period of
    time is wrong, irrational, and even disrespectful. Not only because it
    distorts reality and deceives the American public, but because it
    deliberately fails to acknowledge the work of many independent
    journalists who have pushed the wall of silence that has surrounded the
    island for decades, reporting on the Cuban reality, and who have
    suffered persecution, imprisonment and constant harassment for their
    actions, by the repressive forces of the regime.

    Nevertheless, the real latent danger in the biased NYT editorial is its
    presenting as champions of freedom of expression those who are useful
    tools of the regime in its present unequivocal process of mimicry: the
    pro-government bloggers, a group that emerged in the shadow of official
    policy as a government strategy to counter the virulent explosion of
    independent bloggers that began in 2007 and that two years later had
    grouped in the Voces Cubanas blogger platform, the access to which from
    Cuba was immediately blocked by the government.

    Blogger Harold Cárdenas, who is Mr. Londoño’s chosen example of a critic
    of the Castro autocracy, is actually what could be defined as a
    “Taliban-light,” equivalent to a believer convinced of the superiority
    of the Cuban system, disguised as a critic. If the Castro dictatorship
    has any talent, it is the ability to adapt to each new circumstance and
    survive any political upheaval, a quality that allows it to manipulate
    the discourse and elect its “judges” at each new turn.

    In the present circumstances of non-confrontation with the Empire,
    Hassan Pérez, an angry and hysterical beefeater, now disappeared from
    the scene, would be out of the question. Instead, someone like Harold
    Cárdenas is ideal: he is reasonably disapproving, moves within
    government institutions (so he’s controllable) and knows exactly where
    the line that cannot be crossed is. Additionally, sensible Harold
    remains safely distant from all the independent press, and he uses the
    same epithets to refer to it as does the government: “mercenaries at the
    service of imperialism,” or “CIA agents.”

    Another dangerous illusion is the alleged existence of a “progressive
    wing” within the spheres of power in Cuba, to which — according to what
    Londoño stated in the NYT — Harold Cárdenas is closely related. On this
    point, the utter lack of journalistic seriousness of the NYT is
    scandalous. The myth of a “progressive” sector as a kind of conspirators
    — which is actually a host of opportunistic individuals — close to the
    tower of power, waiting for the chance to influence changes in Cuba, has
    been spreading in the media outside the island for a long time, but, so
    far, this is mere speculation that has no basis whatsoever.

    In addition, it is unacceptable to limit the hopes of a better future
    for Cubans from the inferred recognition of those who are the currently
    close supporters of the regime. No change in Cuba will be genuine unless
    it includes as actors, in all its representation and variety, the
    independent civil society and all Cubans on the island and the diaspora.
    Nor will there be true freedom of the press as long as the dictatorship
    is allowed to select its “critics” while it punishes independent
    thinking of any fashion.

    As for the imaginary meetings at all the universities in the country to
    discuss the political future of Cuba, this is the most fallacious thing
    that could have occurred to Mr. Londoño, and it exposes a huge flaw in
    the credibility of the NYT. Could anyone seriously believe that the
    Cuban dictatorship would allow questioning of the regime within its own
    institutions? Could it be perhaps that Londoño and the NYT managers have
    shattered in one fell swoop the Castro principle that “universities are
    for revolutionaries”?

    But none of this is really a surprise. The prelude started in October,
    2014, when an avalanche of NYT editorials was written by Ernesto
    Londoño, noting that it was time to change U.S. policy towards Cuba, an
    idea I share in principle, but for very different reasons and arguments
    as those the NYT advocates. Two months later, the restoration of
    relations would be announced.

    By then, Londoño and his employers didn’t remotely have a clue of the
    Cuban reality; neither do they have any now. But what has become a
    conspiracy against the rights of Cubans cannot be construed as naive or
    as good intentions gone astray. Perhaps it is time that this Latin
    American, whose will has been tamed so appropriately to the old northern
    colonial mentality, that which considers the people of the subcontinent
    incapable of self-achievement, should write about the serious conflicts
    of his own country of origin — which, paradoxically, are being decided
    in Cuba today — if he at least knows more about Colombian reality than

    Meanwhile, it appears that the peddlers of Cuban politics have managed
    to weave much stronger ties with the NYT than we imagined. No wonder NYT
    editorials seem to have turned that newspaper into the New York branch
    of Cuba’s State and Communist Party newspaper, Granma.

    Translated by Norma Whiting

    Source: The New York Times, a Branch of Granma / Cubanet, Miriam Celaya
    | Translating Cuba –

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