Some days ago, the newspaper Granma published on its first page of news: Google’s censorship of a Cubadebate channel of videos for “copyright infringement,” and the following note: Miami: Billboard Dedicated to the Five Dismantled. The newspaper explained in the associated article: “For 24 hours the air of tolerance and freedom of expression was breathed in Miami. But no longer.” Then it talked about an organization located in that city, a minority (and the word was not meant sarcastically, quite the contrary), that exercised “the right of freedom of opinion,” and asked for the release of the five spies who are serving sentences in the United States.
The TV news and Granma exalted as they delivered the report. And that seems fine to me. We all have the right to express our opinions from wherever we are, where we want, and by whatever means we choose, or at least whatever we have access to. I will always be a defender of my opinion and of the opinions of others, even if I don’t share them.
Then, ultimately being thinking beings, one is obliged to wonder how much self-censorship is imposed on us? At least in Miami — for 24 hours — they could breathe “the air of tolerance and freedom of expression.” And in Havana?
To underestimate the leaders of Cuba’s government would be foolish; at times I have experienced their ignorance of freedom of expression and tolerance. Now, to the contrary, it turns out that they reclaim it and use the right to exercise it. However, when will we have the opportunity to publish, here, an article in defense of the 75 dissidents imprisoned after summary trials in the spring of 2003?
Where were those who have access to the media when the daughters and wives of those prisoners of conscience were beaten for demanding the release of their loved ones?
When can we publish a note of condolence for the death of the prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata?
Why wasn’t Guillermo Fariñas allowed to explain his reasons for maintaining a hunger strike, beyond the official lies?
Where was the tolerance they demand now when, just a few hours after trying to hijack a tugboat to get to Miami, young men were executed, though no hostages had been harmed? Hostages who appeared more like accomplices, as was known later, when they declared that it was a vile injustice to apply the maximum penalty to the offenders?
What did he say to the mothers of those young men when they went to the prison to bring their children personal hygiene supplies and they were informed that their sons had been shot that night?
When he couldn’t even remember the anniversaries of the victims of the sinking of the tugboat 13 de Marzo?
Who pays for the deaths of those innocents? And when?
Who could, on their personal printer — to even think about the possibility of a billboard would be insane with the current regime in power — print a poster with the faces of some of the many innocents executed in half a century of dictatorship?
How long will they prostitute words and not give them the same meaning when they are in favor or opposed?
When will they allow debate on the official website, the conceptually erroneously called Cubadebate?
When have we had, not 24 hours, but just a few minutes of that freedom of expression enjoyed in Miami, or by some who reside in that city?
In another official newspaper, Juventud Rebelde — Rebel Youth — a gentleman named Lazarus Fariñas, resident of Miami (I don’t know the reason he is found there, only that he abandoned Cuban soil like so many thousands of others), denounces in an article “the corruption of some Florida politicians,” and, contradicting the statement of the official notice of the Communist Party of Cuba, refers to “a lack of tolerance and freedom of expression that exists in Miami.”
First of all, I want to congratulate Mr. Fariñas for that freedom to denounce the political corruption and not subsequently having the police at the door to arrest him and take him to the dungeons of the State Security in Villa Marista, as a dangerous enemy who threatens the maximum power; and also because his family is not besieged, persecuted simply because of their blood bond, and because without the slightest justification he is not left without work and without the possibility that his children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews can aspire to attend university.
I want to congratulate him another time for having the ability to publish his point of view in the official Cuban press, something that many of us who have remained on the Island have not managed to achieve, and so, by necessity, we have had to turn to digital media and become bloggers, assuming we will be professionally marginalized, beaten, persecuted, subjected to harassing and fraudulent judicial processes and in many cases end up in prison.
(At that time facing a prosecution request for more than fifty years, the court has rejected my witnesses and accepts no compelling evidence: the recording of the supposed “witness ” to the prosecution where, before a hidden camera, he explains in detail how he has been pressured to declare and exhibit the gifts received in payment).
Mr. Lazaro Fariñas, I assure you that the day you do not agree with the official views of the Cuban government, not only will you cease to be published in the official press, but perhaps you will never set foot on your homeland again. If in doubt, try it. I suppose you have at least one edge that does not converge with the official attitude — think of the children of the tugboat 13 de Marzo, of the young men executed — some fiber of your being will be moved. Then write, try to publish it and you will discover (I cling to the thought that it is naive and romantic, not cynical), that the doors will not open to receive it.
We will be there as a group, waiting, ready to offer supportive companionship.
February 3 2011