Two Cubans from opposing ideological poles are seriously bent out of shape by foreign coverage of recent events in
Former dissident Raul Rivero, now living in
In his essay in El Nuevo Herald, he says there is a “dose of anesthetia” clouding everyone’s vision. For all his tough words, he doesn’t bring himself to say precisely who he’s talking about. But he is bothered by the coverage of “small gestures that do not respond to a will to liberate the structures of power” and that are “symbols of force and domination” rather than “signs of change.”
By “gestures” he means the public mention of formerly banned writers, the screening of a film that includes an interview with El Duque Hernandez, the screening of the movie Fresa y Chocolate years after the outside world saw it and acclaimed it, and coverage of rumblings inside the artists’ and writers’ union in favor of ending travel and Internet access restrictions, and legalizing the sale of houses.
Rivero ends with a call for human rights and the liberation of political prisoners.
Then from deep left field comes Juventud Rebelde writer Pablo Valiente getting on his high horse and voicing a susprisingly similar complaint. He says that foreign coverage of
A collection of “analysts, journalists, and soothsayers” are ignoring the fact that, according to Valiente, debate is nothing new in
Valiente claims that those who are covering the debate are expecting it to be like the opening of a Pandora’s box, unleashing something that will spin out of control. “What do they want? Political stripteases like those of the European ex-socialists?”
No one has been named in either of these critiques, so there is no one to defend, no examples of these writings to evaluate. But we can say a few things.
Maybe there is someone out there writing, as these writers suggest, that the current debate and the possibility of economic reforms are "slam-dunk" indicators that
If so, the prediction lacks foundation, to say the least.
As far as Valiente is concerned, I understand that there is lots of debate in
But something different and newsworthy is going on, at times in the pages of Valiente’s own paper. Until recently, I don’t recall people within the system calling for serious changes in economic policies, or Cuban media explaining that state enterprises are dysfunctional, or that domestic health care delivery suffers from the absence of medical professionals serving on foreign missions, or that official unemployment statistics are inaccurate. And the fact that Raul Castro has called on Cubans to debate would seem to indicate that the permanent debate and self-criticism lauded by Valiente had not been doing the trick.
The problem with Rivero’s complaint is similar. The Cuban government, like any government, has a large ability to make news. If the scope of discussion in speeches, media, and official institutions changes, that is going to draw attention and coverage regardless of whether we know where it will lead. There are hints of “big decisions” (Raul Castro’s words) that could affect Cuban life in substantial ways, especially in the economic sphere.
The main drama in
Nothing could be more clear than that the Cuban leadership is working to ensure that the Good Ship Socialism will be in shape to sail on for a long time, with a new generation of leaders at the helm. Its project is continuity, not transformation. Rivero seems to think that observers don’t point this out because we’re naïve. Speaking for myself, I don’t repeat it because I think it’s obvious, and I think everyone knows it.