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    No blogger, no Obama

    No blogger, no Obama / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
    Posted on March 29, 2015

    No blogger, no cry.
    Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo

    1 In the beginning was the Blog. 2 But blogs were formless and empty. 3
    Repression was all over the blogosphere. 4 And the citizens saw the
    blogs were good. 5 So that lacking other channels of expression, the
    Cuban civil society occupied blogosphere as a tool for dissent. 6 Won’t
    you help to share these blogs of freedom? 7 Redemption blogs, redemption
    blogs to emancipate ourselves from the State.

    As early as in the summer of 2005, I opened a blog for publishing a
    literary and opinion magazine that three Cuban writers decide to edit in
    Havana: Cacharro(s) —in English, Junk(s).

    Lizabel Monica, Jorge Alberto Aguiar and I were posting our texts in
    cyberspace, hoping for a reader abroad to save us from the silence
    within. We couldn’t imagine that in a couple of years our initial
    experiment was to be ignored in the history of Cuban blogosphere, when
    our efforts to escape not only censorship, but also the mass media
    mediocrity of the Revolution, were displaced by new voices with high
    public impact both from the cultural and political fields.

    This happened when the Consenso —Consensus— digital magazine became
    Contodos —With All— and opened the website Desdecuba.com, directed by
    Reinaldo Escobar, Manuel Cuesta Morúa, Miriam Celaya, Dimas Castellanos,
    among others, including a webmaster who, in April 2007, started a very
    simple WordPress blog called Generation Y. The trademark Yoani Sánchez
    was born, as well as the first virtual revolution in the time of Castro.

    This was the genesis of an independent movement of citizen journalism
    which challenged the lack of transparency of the public sphere in Cuba,
    a country still without private Internet today.

    Cuban top-level intelligence commanders like Ramiro Valdes have stated
    that the Internet is a “wild horse” that “must be tamed” before offering
    it to the people. After many promises and postpositions, including a
    submarine fiber-optic cable that connects us with Venezuela since 2011,
    Cubans are still waiting for a miracle.cu, although the vice-president
    Miguel Diaz Canel has warned our press not to be objective but “loyal to
    Fidel, Raul, and the Revolution”, while Fidel himself determined that
    the “internet is a revolutionary tool”.

    Elaine Diaz, blogger of La Polemica Digital —The Digital Polemics— known
    as critical of certain official measures, but at the same time a
    professor of journalism at Havana University and now a Nieman Fellow at
    Harvard University, in her degree thesis about the Cuban blogosphere
    “scientifically” established in terms of topics and chronology that none
    of the renowned dissident bloggers were pioneers at all, thus diluting
    this phenomenon in an ocean of other blogs practically discovered by
    her, up to nearly 3,000 today, which outnumbers by far the dozens of
    local independent bloggers.

    Diaz quotes only those blogs that can be quoted in Cuba without risking
    her research position, like Patria y Humanidad —Homeland and Mankind—
    since 2006 administered by Luis Sexto, a winner of the National
    Journalism Prize; and La Isla y la Espina —The Island and the Thorn—
    since 2007 administered by Reinaldo Cedeño, both defined as open to
    “foreign authors” and to “hot heated debates” but, of course, within the
    temperature limits of political discipline on the Island.

    Diaz recognizes that the Union of Cuban Journalists (UPEC) and no less
    than the Ideological Department of the Central Committee of the Cuban
    Communist Party, authorized more than 1,000 official journalists to open
    blogs from their workplaces or privileged home connections, in order to
    —as Milena Recio wrote in her article “Cuban blogs: an entrenched
    identity”— reproduce in cyberspace the same battlefield logic of the
    street propaganda, to “counteract the distorted and opposite speeches
    from hegemonic mass media” against the Revolution.

    The very Code of Ethics of UPEC rejects “hyper-criticism” in its article
    7, while in articles 8 and 9 reminds their members to “maintain a social
    and moral behavior in accordance with the principles and norms of our
    society […] to promote the best of our national values and the constant
    improvement of our socialist society”. And after paternalism comes a
    large list of punishments, which includes imprisonment, as happened to a
    journalist from the Communist Party newspaper Granma, Jose Antonio
    Torres, accused of espionage after one of his official reports.

    Diaz also proposes the “emancipatory and anti-capitalist usefulness of
    the new media and technology” in Cuba, and the need of “virtual symbols”
    for a country where it is “possible” the “horizontal dialogue”, beyond
    power hierarchies and all kinds of social exclusion: by race, by gender,
    by sexual preference, by economic status, etc. Although she omits to
    mention the cause of all discriminations in Cuba: the political
    intolerance and hate speech of the revolutionary government, summarized
    by Fidel Castro in his speech to Cuban intellectuals in 1961: “Within
    the Revolution, everything; against the Revolution, nothing.”

    Recently, this “dialogue” approach has been updated by the web Cuba
    Posible of Lenier Gonzalez and Roberto Veiga, former editors of a
    Catholic Church magazine that published some civil debates, where
    certain civil society activists managed to participate. Cuba
    Posible claims for the complicit concept of “loyal opposition” to the
    regime, if critics are to be considered legitimate. Besides, Gonzalez
    and Veiga urge the Cuban dissidence to commit suicide and stop all the
    support they receive from foreign NGOs, despite the detail that they
    both defended this viewpoint from Washington DC, invited in January 2015
    by a compendium of US pro-Castro NGOs, like the Cuba Research Center of
    Philip Peters.

    During the last decade, the Cuban alternative blogosphere has expanded
    and contracted like the cycles of a claustrophobic universe. Its main
    communication strategies and activists have renovated only to remain
    identical.

    With my blog of fictionalized chronicles Lunes de Post-Revolution —Post
    Revolution Mondays— and my photoblog Boring Home Utopics, I have
    witnessed most of this Cuban digital e-volution, with its pro-human
    rights achievements and, unfortunately, with today´s drawbacks in front
    of a State involved in a self-transition to capitalism without
    capitalists, but with accomplices of Castros’ agenda.

    Most of free-lance Cubans’ blogs are linked in the websites
    HavanaTimes.org and VocesCubanas.com, where can be found the
    famous Generation Y of Yoani Sanchez, blogs from visual artists like the
    graffiti performer Danilo Maldonado El Sexto (in jail since last
    December) and the photographer Claudio Fuentes, blogs dedicated to new
    media and technologies like the one by Walfrido Lopez, blogs from
    independent lawyers to give legal advice like the unregistered Cuban
    Juridical Association of Wilfredo Vallin, blogs from religious leaders
    like the Baptist minister Mario Felix Lleonart, blogs of digital
    publications like Plural Thinking Notebooks, Notebooks for the
    Transition, and the magazine Voices edited by me, community
    participation initiatives like Pais de Pixeles photo-contest, blogs of
    filmed debate projects which then are uploaded to the web to impact on
    public opinion, like Razones Ciudadanas/Citizens’ Quests.

    Thanks to the volunteer amateur projects TranslatingCuba.com and
    HemosOido.com many of these blogs are distributed beyond geographical
    isolation and the barriers of language.

    Mainly in Havana, much closer to the www than Cuban pre-technological
    countryside, events have been held to shift from the cyberspace to
    citizen mobilization, like the Blogger Academy where we teach the
    technical rudiments of self-publication, as well as the primitive option
    of tweeting by an international SMS sent from the Island, as local
    mobiles have no internet service in Cuba. Other events also held in
    private houses, like the two annual editions of Click Festival 2012 and
    2013, had the privilege to count on international experts on blogs, and
    consequently they were stigmatized by the governmental blogosphere as
    being part of a subversive conspiracy to disrupt social stability.

    Indeed, cyber-bullying is the less brutal answer of Castro’s political
    police to Cubans exercising our right to freedom of expression.

    Two inflexion points in this abusive battle of the government against
    their own citizenry, occurred in 2011. First, the Cuban TV showed a
    weekly series on Cyber-mercenaries where all independent activists were
    severely threatened to be prosecuted (coincidentally, Elaine Diaz was
    used an example of blogging correctly). Then a suspicious video leak
    occurred from State Security, where an officer later identified by the
    social media as Eduardo “Tato” Fontes Suarez, delivers a conference for
    the Ministry of the Interior to teach them how to manipulate the
    internet in the era of an American president “much worse the Bush”,
    implementing a clone blogosphere to reproduce Cuban official press and
    saturate the web with convenient contents. This includes the logic of
    creating authorized local versions of Wikipedia (like Ecured), Facebook
    (like La Tendedera), Twitter (like El Pitazo), etc.

    This should remind us of the theories of Evgeny Morozov on how
    disappointing is the excess of web optimism, because repressors also
    learn how to take advantage of the interconnected world to
    channelize and control social discontent to their own convenience.

    Unfortunately, after the 2013 migratory reform that for the first time
    in decades allowed Cubans to travel abroad without the humiliating “exit
    permit” or “definitive departure”, international recognition of Cuban
    civil society leadership has meant a national weakening of our networks
    and the dispersion of our already limited impact on the Island.

    All the peaceful movements and prominent personalities of Cuban civil
    society, that in the good old days of 2008-2011 seemed about to
    integrate in a unified opposition front with political implications, are
    now splintered in their respective personal initiatives among
    themselves. The more successful their international projections, the
    more isolated among themselves are their national projects. We Cubans
    are still lacking a culture of open polemics and understanding of
    differences. After more than half a century, Castroism has castrified
    even their opponents.

    Here are some sad examples, as they all are my dear friends and have
    been fighting quite a long time for a better future in Cuba:

    The Ladies in White split one more time, in a fractal procedure that
    keeps the movement stagnated in number of members, and with an
    exponential increase of refugees fleeing to the US. Once in exile, most
    Cuban dissidents quit social activism or, in the best cases, end up as
    secretaries in Cuban American NGOs. The legacy of their founding leader
    Laura Pollán is at risk for the benefit of the Ministry of the Interior,
    now that their new leader Berta Soler carried out a shameful repudiation
    against one of its former members, and then had to hold a referendum to
    ratify her life-long leadership. But Soler was expelled anyway by the
    daughter of Laura Pollán from her home headquarters in Neptuno Street in
    Central Havana, where Laura Pollán junior expects to direct a new
    foundation that will monopolize exclusive use of her mother’s name.

    The Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) is headless after the 2012
    extrajudicial killing in Cuba of their leaders Oswaldo Payá and Harold
    Cepero. Internal rearrangements have displaced from any position even
    the daughter and the widow of Oswaldo Payá, in a dispute for the
    redemptive legacy of the martyr, as well as the strategies that should
    be implemented by this now virtually an exiled movement.

    The Cuban Patriotic Union (UNPACU) always has nearly half of their
    activists in jail. On one hand, UNPACU fostered the creation of an
    independent branch that broke out of the Ladies in White, the Lady
    Citizens for Democracy. On the other hand, they are obsessed with
    detecting and denouncing —and sometimes converting to the cause of
    freedom— Castro’s secret agents, like the infamous case of Ernesto Vera,
    but they lack a citizen mobilization strategy beyond their
    self-extinguishable street protests, partly because the Cuban people
    are unfortunately unmovable.

    The Somos Mas movement launched by Eliécer Avila relies only on his face
    and voice as a charismatic character, once himself a digital soldier
    that conducted the Operation Truth at the University of Information
    Sciences (UCI), a platoon of trolls devoted to defaming activists
    worldwide, distorting online forums and surveys dealing with Cuba, and
    hacking websites that expose the violations and fallacies of continental
    Castroism.

    The bitter debate of mutual distrust and discredit between those close
    to blogger Yoani Sanchez and her brand-new 14yMedio.com digital outlet
    —prone to take advantage of the US-Cuba new engagement to push the
    limits of censorship in Cuba—, and other previous digital citizen
    journalists, like the staff of Primavera Digital (who in turn last year
    publicly despised their Swedish funding partners), and also with the
    well-known Antonio Rodiles from the very active audiovisual discussion
    project Estado de Sats, who practically accused 14yMedio and colleagues
    of collaborating with the regime’s surviving agenda of allowing foreign
    investments with no guarantee for human rights, in a Putin-like or
    Chinese or Vietnamese or Burma post-totalitarian model.

    On the official part, in the monolithic digital headquarter
    of Cubadebate, general Raul Castro with his speech at the ALBA Summit in
    Caracas this month, and many other op-eds published in tandem, has
    warned that the “international ultraconservative right” is again
    deploying its “mass media weapons” to use the “concept of civil society
    in order to attack all the progressive governments from the hemispheric
    left, with the purpose to deceive and manipulate all the peoples of the
    world.”

    Cubadebate has even announced the popular repudiation that Cuban
    dissidents —namely, “mercenaries”— will receive in the Summit of the
    Americas in Panama next week, because we all are “conceived, paid and
    directed as drones from the US and the EU, through NGOs supposedly for
    the promotion of human rights, but in fact having met with confessed
    terrorists like Luis Posada Carriles in Miami, and besides being
    directly financed by secret institutions of the American imperialism,
    including the Pentagon and the CIA”.

    In March 2015 the Castro regime still proudly calls Cuban social
    activist leaders “Washington’s puppets, in the line of the dictators
    Fulgencio Batista in Cuba, Carlos Andrés Pérez in Venezuela, and Augusto
    Pinochet in Chile, whose mission if ever we attain power is to surrender
    the wealth of our nation to the US monopolies”, and a white elite that
    cares not about the “black, aboriginal, farmer and workers minorities”.

    Although, paradoxically, it was Fidel Castro who dollarized the Cuban
    economy for over 20 years now, while his brother Raul Castro is
    demanding financial credit from American banks and corporations.
    Furthermore, Afro Cubans suffer much more than other dissidents in Cuba
    in the hands of the mostly white State Security top-officers, who assume
    that blacks owe more gratitude to them the rest of the Cuban people.

    These are only some tragic examples:

    The death of the Afro Cuban opposition activist Orlando Zapata Tamayo in
    a jail, after a long hunger strike in 2010 to stop torture against him.
    The 33 months that the Afro Cuban member of the Ladies in White Sonia
    Garro and her husband spent in prison without charges and with no trial.
    The harassment and beatings against of Afro Cuban leader Jorge Luis
    Garcia (Antunez), usually prevented from stepping out of his own house
    in Placetas town. The arbitrary political police arrests, plus the
    temporary or permanent invalidation of the passports of Cuban Afro Cuban
    intellectuals and activists Manuel Cuesta Morúa and Ivan Hernandez
    Carrillo. The fascist-like mobs conducted by the government against the
    residences of Berta Soler and other Afro Cuban peaceful women of the
    Ladies in White, including throwing tar —yes, tar— with impunity against
    their bodies, like recently happened to Digna Rodríguez Ibañez. Or
    staining them by force with red paint to resemble human blood, like they
    did to Mercedes La Guardia Hernandez.

    The White House and the remains of the US economic embargo should not
    ignore that a market economy is not a tropical liberation formula, since
    it has already been implemented by authoritarian systems as a tool for
    despotic control. The secret negotiations to appease our tired tyranny
    should remember that what has been good for free Americans since the
    Eighteenth Century is also good for Cubans citizens today.

    The rationale that, after waiting for so long, Cuban democracy can wait
    a little longer is a discriminatory concept implicitly legitimized by
    the US press and academics in their search of a lost Latin American Left.

    Maybe the hope of the White House is that the New Man will stop being a
    soldier and become the New Salesman, but bringing down the wall should
    mean more than opening up the wallet. In the urgency of Google, Amazon,
    Delta, Netflix, Coca-Cola, and even Bacardi to re-conquer their Pearl of
    the Antilles, they shouldn’t forget that we “Cubans have the right to
    have rights,” as preached by Oswaldo Payá before the gerontocracy and
    their international accomplices took his life.

    In any case, according to the migratory statistics, Cubans are certainly
    making a lot of space for the Yankees to come home to our Island, as we
    keep escaping by legal or lethal means, in a kind of pedestrians’
    plebiscite, voting with our fleeing feet instead of with electoral ballots.

    For the funerals of Fidel, the commander-in-chief will have achieved all
    the glories of history —which is the mother of all horrors— but also the
    frantic farewell of his own people —almost one-fourth of our population.
    This migratory crisis is what the US is really trying to stop by
    stabilizing the Communist dynastic succession to the Castros 2.0
    generation: namely, Alejandro and Mariela Castro Espin, among other
    relatives, whether dandies or despots, many of them holding high level
    positions in the Cuban establishment while receiving privileged visitor
    status in the US.

    The hope would be in convoking a national referendum with international
    observers so that the Cuban people can freely and safely express our
    will for the first time since 1948. Otherwise, Cuba will become a
    Castro-centralized capitalist condominium, economically annexed to the
    US but with a hyper-nationalist speech to justify impunity on the Island.

    Now President Barack Obama can choose to extend his helping hand to the
    oldest Latin American dictatorship. Or he can consider if the Cuban
    people deserves to endure our apartheid until the last of the Castros
    manages to remain in power without consulting anyone (except maybe Obama
    himself).

    1 Fidelism 1959, the temperature at which fundamental freedoms burn. 2
    As time blogs by. 3 As I lay blogging. 4 The blogger in the ryevolution.
    5 From dictatorship to dictocracy. 5 Blogged the Raven: nevermore. 6
    Castrobamacare as the measure of all things. 7Won’t you help to share
    these blogs of freedom? 8 Redemption blogs, redemption blogs to
    emancipate ourselves from the States.

    29 March 2015

    Source: No blogger, no Obama / Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo | Translating
    Cuba –
    http://translatingcuba.com/no-blogger-no-obama-orlando-luis-pardo-lazo/

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