The struggle for independent/alternative media in Cuba

Freedom of press is so easily taken for granted in the US, yet fought so hard for in Cuba. Cuba being a communist country, naturally doesn’t allow free or independent press. Any media outside of state run television and the state newspaper, “Granma”, are unregulated, and there for illegal. This poses a numerous amount of problems for those living in the country, however the people, as with many other unregulated businesses and jobs, have found their ways around the government to get themselves, and what the rest of the country, need or want. Getting information and stories out to the masses besides that of the government’s choosing is a crucial necessity for helping evoke a want for change, and we were lucky enough to speak to two major independent media platforms who were putting in the effort to do just that.

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El Toque, a group of journalists running an online “alternative” platform set on delivering stories and news to Cubans that cant be found in the state (government) run newspaper, “Granma”. While interviewing the group, we learned that independent media like theirs is actually illegal because it is not regulated. Because of this, like many technically illegal businesses, they do their work out of a house using the server from the public wifi park near by. However, the group acknowledges the issues with this and  spread their work, along with many other Cuban platforms, through something called “El Paquete”, or The Package, though the threat from the government doesn’t linger far from their minds, “The government can do whatever it wants.. but some spaces the government doesn’t have the tools to control yet… the logic of our legal system is you only can do what the government allows and the rest is forbidden, our logic is backwards…if it is not regulated, its forbidden..it is one of our worst problems, everyday we could be blocked because the government can do whatever it wants..(However) being a black market (El Paquete), it cannot be controlled”. El Paquete being USBs sold to Cubans by a group of people on a timely basis that contains not only independent Cuban media, platforms, and projects, but also TV shows, music, magazines, movies, and much more content that are usually banned access to, including content from the US. While first describing their platform, one member of the group heartwarming ended the introduction with,   “We talk about good and bad things with honesty”, as compared to the state run newspaper.

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On Cuba, an alternative media dedicated not only to its readers inside Cuba, but interestingly enough, those Cubans who have left the country. While interviewing one of the staff members for the media platform, she explained to us the importance of having a variety of information and stories being released to the public through On Cuba, as well as the importance for those stories to reach or be of relevance not only to those in Cuba, but their families abroad, “…you cannot predict a future of the country without taking into account these people (the family members abroad) that are still influencing what happens inside the country. So we want to talk not only about politics or official stuff, we also want to talk about people themselves, about their stories”. On Cuba also makes a strong effort to stay as neutral as possible, or to include stories and points of view from multiple sides, though this too can prove troublesome when stereotyping and misconceptions come into play from one side or the other; “When you talk about Cuba in the press you will find very polarized positions; theirs media content talking about the perfection of Cuba, and theirs a lot on the other hand talking about ‘the disaster of Cuba’. We are neither of these extremes, though this is also an issue because the two sides still punish (us). One side understands you are not with them, so they think you are on the other side”. A large part of why these people are doing what they’re doing, trying to avoid government intervention and starting the independent and alternative media platforms, is because they feel the people just arent getting what actually matters or is truly important and relevant through state run media, “In Cuban media the stories talk more about statistics and not about people; more about data and not about people’s stories. I hardly find in the media what I feel in the streets, or what I understand people to be feeling… I understand that we need, as a country, to move the debate and talk about these stories because they’re important”.

 

The “tangled ball of yarn” and where we may bat it to next

U.S.-Cuba relations. What they’ve been in the past and a glimpse of where they could be heading.

U.S.-Cuba relations is no new topic, and one of the many questions being raised right now is just what the Trump administration may do in regards to Cuba during his presidency. Fidel Castro’s analogy of the U.S.-Cuba embargo being a “tangled ball of yarn” is an all too perfect one for relations in general. The history between these two countries is a lengthy and complex one, so here is a general outlook on what may come, with focus solely on a few basic questions and information, and how they parallel with the secretary of states recent Q&A answers that have been really stirring up this topic of discussion.

Does the U.S. government have the right to prohibit American tourists from traveling to Cuba?

The answer to this question can initially lay in the statement, “freedom of movement is a Democratic ideal”. However, both the U.S. and Cuba have been accused of violating this ideal. The difference is, Cuba is not a Democracy, so there for this is not an ideal they have, or really should even be expected to have or abide by. The Cuban government is a communist political party, constitutionally defined as a “Marxist-Leninist”; a socialist state  guided by the principles and political ideas of Jose Marti, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Vladimir Lenin. However, there is a crime described in the Penal Code called Salida illegal del Pais meaning illegal exit from country. This stating also that there was/is a way to legally gain permission to leave the country. Emphasis on “legally gaining permission”. So while so far it may seem like the U.S. is in the wrong and Cuba is simply following the laws in place, whether they’re just or not, this argument can be take even deeper. Through the United Nations, there is the Universal Deceleration of Human Rights, which states that everyone has the right  to leave any country including his own. So yes, both countries are violating human rights, whether or not they are violating the rights laid out by their government. Which puts the U.S. even further into the wrong for not only violating one of our own Democratic ideals , but a human right as laid out by the United Nations, in an attempt to maintain pressure on the Cuban Government.

Is it okay for the U.S. government to continue to try to strangle the Cuban economy and cause an upraise to bring Democracy if it hasn’t worked for over half a century and has caused suffering to the Cuban people?

This is yet another question with a seemingly obvious answer, but since the beginning of the embargo that has been the main blow to the Cuban economy, many different factors and incidents have made this much more than a no brainier and worth the debate. El bloqueu, as the Cuban people refer to the embargo, is actually considered one of the oldest and most comprehensive against any country. Having started in the Eisenhower presidency the embargo lasted through nine presidents until 2014 when Obama announced his plans to normalize relations with Cuba and end the embargo.This embargo put restrictions on numerous necessary goods over the years, such as medicine, sugar, grain, petroleum, and various other environmental dimensions. It had intense effects on Cuba’s capital stock in U.S. manufacturing in the 1960’s, left Cuba highly vulnerable during the depression of 1990’s and caused trade to fall drastically with Cuba and increase drastically with the Soviet Union; from 68% in 1956 to 0% in 1962 with the U.S. and from less than 1% in 1958 to 49% in 1962 with the Soviet Union. Cuba estimates that the cumulative  cost  of the embargo was $116.8 billion in 2014. Obama had it right when he said, “When what you’re doing doesn’t work for fifty years, its time to try something new”.

Rex Tillerson’s Latin America policy Q&A

The secretary of state was eventually plainly asked, “Do you stand by PEOTUS Trump’s commitment to reverse the Obama Administration’s Cuba regulation until freedoms are restored to the island”?  Tillerman answered, “Yes. There will be a comprehensive review of current policies and executive orders regarding Cuba to determine how best to pressure Cuba to respect human rights and promote democratic changes“.  Seems like its going to be 54 years of something that doesn’t work .

How I’d like to see the administration proceed with relations with Cuba

I believe its pretty clear that I agree with giving up on the relations and embargo’s of the past. Cuba needs help economically and with human rights, but harshly projecting your form of government onto another that has rejected it for so long will do no good. How we choose to help the people of Cuba needs to be handled much more meticulously if we plan to make any progress with them or provide any real help to the people. Its as if America still views Cuba as simply another port for sugar trade for them to try and “free” from the Spanish as they did during the “American Imperialism age”.

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