Monday, July 27, 2009

Lights out (Updated)

It seems that the famous electronic signboard at the U.S. Interests Section in Havana has been turned off. [Update: The State Department explains why, here.]

Recent visitors to Havana haven’t seen it turned on, this link on the Interests Section’s site hasn’t been updated since March and has disappeared from the site’s main page, and now Marc Frank reports in the Financial Times that the signboard has been turned off with no announcement.

The signboard, a Bush initiative, started operating in 2006, streaming political messages and some that seemed nothing more than taunts, such as this one from March 2006:

Miami public schools adopted a new menu to attract more children to school breakfast. Eggs, sausages, pancakes, cereal, yogurt, milk, dried fruits, nuts, raisins, and cookies are some of the choices. The federal government pays for the breakfast of all children in Miami public schools.”

In time, that type of message was dropped and the signboard carried news headlines only.

A 2007 State Department report said that few Cubans saw the signboard, thanks to a sea of flags the Cuban government put up in front of the building, and that it had “lowered post morale.”

The signboard was one of many Bush Administration initiatives that served more to rally supporters in the United States than to have real impact in Cuba. If that’s the standard President Obama is applying, he can go much further.

[Thanks to Along the Malecon for the close-up photo above.]


Anonymous said...


here is key metric as you say:

"...served more to rally supporters in the United States than to have real impact in Cuba"

The sign was pay off to Miami folk, who like silly games. Most cubans I know on island could care less, (and if anything do indeed see it as a taunt).

Walter Mercado said...

I'm just surprised that the final message wasn't a groveling apology to the regime.

Anonymous said...

which regime mercado, the bush one? no apology necessary, it wasn't their fault they were so stupid to think any cuban in their right mind cared a shit about what that sign was saying.

leftside said...

Today's State Department Press Briefnig:

QUESTION: Would you – was this something that the Cubans had asked you specifically not to do in any of the meetings that took place? And then, was this kind of a sign of goodwill?

MR. KELLY: Well, I will note that the Cubans, for their part, did dismantle a few very negative billboards and graffiti around the U.S. Interests Section, which we do see as a positive gesture. But whether or not this was specifically raised in these talks, I just don’t know.
Q: Okay, so it was solely a U.S. decision to do this? It was not prompted or requested or anything like that?

MR. KELLY: I’m not sure. I’m not sure if – I’m sure it was requested, but I’m not a hundred percent sure.

Anonymous said...

well it certainly would be interesting if the regime "requested" the sign be turned off. Leaving aside questions of appeasing the regime for a second, could you apologists explain then why if the sign was ineffective/a sop to Miami "hardliners"/backfired did the regime "request" that it be turned off??

Walter Mercado said...

...and why did the regime feel compelled to waste scarce construction supplies building dozens of flagpoles to block it? If it was so transparently stupid, why not just ignore it, or better yet, broadcast the messages on the daily Mesa Redonda?