In the recent U2 show in Miami, Bono declared into the 73 thousand-strong crowd that “Cuba will soon be free”, and that “the world is watching”. It is no secret that most Cubans feel that the international media is not on their side most of the time. Too often it seems like the headlines about Cuba in news outlets like the New York Times, CNN, or the BBC focus on reporting changes in politics under the reign of Raul Castro, the announcements made in the latest Communist Party Congress, or about the embargo and how it should be lifted. Of course, those “changes” they talk about under the younger Castro tyrant are completely empty and strictly used for propaganda, the latest “laws” and “declarations” made by Communist Party leaders have absolutely no substance, and excessive talk about the embargo snatches the attention of what really matters and what is really happening in Cuba. But during the past two weeks, it has come as a fresh breath of air to know that various English-language news sources have been brave enough to publish the truth about the Caribbean island which resides just 90 miles from the United States. It seems, after all, that the world IS watching.
When 16 brave Ladies in White (along with some other dissidents) were brutally beaten by government led and organized mobs, on Sunday July 17th, just outside the Sanctuary of El Cobre in Eastern Cuba, exiles and dissidents in the island quickly reported the violence while it was occurring and continued to do so afterward. Soon thereafter, thanks to the English translation of Cuban human rights activist Laida Carro, a Canadian digital magazine- “Canada Free Press”- published a report which detailed the brutality unleashed upon these women who simply attended mass in one of Cuba’s most sacred sanctuaries and later silently and peacefully marched down the street, white flowers in hand, to demand freedom for their jailed loved ones and for all of Cuba. Here’s an excerpt from the report:
In Santiago de Cuba, a city in the Eastern province of Cuba, women pro democracy activists were savagely beaten and verbally attacked in the streets by Cuban State Security agents after they attended mass in the Basilica of “El Cobre”, a Catholic shrine dedicated to “Our Lady of Charity”, where they prayed for the freedom of all Cuban political prisoners and for the freedom of Cuba.
Tania Montoya Vazquez, one of the 16 “Ladies in White” who suffered this attack describes the violence perpetrated against them:
“… it wasn’t enough for them to snatch the gladiolus from our hands, they began to beat us, they ripped all our clothes, I have scratches all over my body…”
This important article can be read in its entirety here.
A few days after, during the beginning of this week, FOX News published it’s take on the events under an article titled “Cubans Still Suffer, But Media Looks Away”. The author, Mike Gonzalez, starts off his report describing the bloody assault on the Ladies in White as well, including an audio clip of Tania Montoya (one of the civic protestors who suffered under the violence)describing the events. Gonzalez then explains to the American audience how news of the suffering of dissidents on the island usually is dismissed by the ‘big’ media despite just how geographically close Cuba is to the United States. Here is a part of the article:
“All the major international news wires, and at least two TV networks, have bureaus in Cuba. But they’re either so afraid of being expelled, or have so bought into the regime’s propaganda, that all they report is how Raul Castro is bringing economic reforms to Cuba.
So little is the story of Cuba’s oppression known outside that island prison that, were the constant repression reported occasionally, it might actually cause a stir.
Clearly, Raul—Fidel’s brother, who was handed the day-to-day reins of the island when his elder brother fell ill a couple of years back—has no intention of doing anything that will threaten communism’s firm grip on Cuba. Otherwise, his goons would feel no need to terrorize and drag a bunch of older women naked through the streets”.
Continue reading the FOX News article here.
Today, another Canadian newspaper- The Toronto Sun- decided to take on another important issue which affects Cuba- tourism. Under the title of “Cuba: A Pretend Paradise”, author Rikki Ratliff does a great job explaining that while thousands of people around the world (and in this specific case, Canadians) take advantage of very affordable vacation packages to travel to Cuba for leisure each year and get to enjoy 5 star hotels and white sandy beaches, the reality for everyday Cubans and dissidents is radically and violently different. Referencing the plight of independent journalists, and specifically independent blogger Yoani Sanchez, Ratliff narrates how Cubans face incarceration or are prohibited from leaving their own country just for publically opposing the dictatorship:
As we casually sip our mojitos and work on our tans, dissident journalists are silenced and jailed every day for speaking out against Castro’s island “utopia’”…….
But how necessary are Varadero vacations?
While thousands of Canadians save up their hard-earned paycheques to get into Cuba, thousands more Cubans risk their lives to flee on float vessels to freedom; many are turned away by U.S. officials in the Caribbean Sea, countless others drown.
The irony that our beloved vacation spot is a hell they’re trying to escape is one that cannot be ignored”.
Read on here.
Also today, popular political and economic magazine “Foreign Policy” published a well written article by Yoani Sanchez, titled “The Last Pilgrims to Havana” (translated by Mary Jo Porter). In it, Yoani debunks the romantic vision which a plethora of leftist and ‘progressive’ individuals (many of them politicians and/or intellectuals) frequently have of Cuba. Although I do not agree with (or very well understand) the sentence which states that at some point Cuba’s leftist dictatorship offered a ‘flickering’ light as opposed to the right-wing dictatorships of Latin America, I think this is an excellent article which is worth reading. And it must be pointed out that Yoani’s writing, unmasking much of Cuban’s daily realities, has made it to a news outlet that has many readers. Here’s some of what Yoani penned:
There was a moment in history when Cuba was a beacon for the Latin American left. A now remote past when the Plaza of the Revolution was a beacon for the dozens of progressive movements that crossed the continent. “The island where utopia triumphed,” many thought, the place that showed the way for revolutionaries and idealists everywhere…
… The infatuation with the Cuban process eventually fell victim to events; the executions, purges, and censorship of the early Castro era led millions of admirers to realize that “Red Cuba” was living not under the old ideals of Marx and Engels, but rather under authoritarianism. The excessive presence of the Soviet Union in decision-making, the Kremlin subsidies, and the high costs in political independence paid for them alienated the faithful followers of years past.
The rest of “The Last Pilgrims” here.
Publications such as these are extremely important, and while it is not all that can be done, it is a huge step. In Cuba, there is much to report, whether it is through blogs, digital magazines, newspapers, television, radio, etc. On a daily basis, dissidents who demand their freedom are beaten, jailed, exiled, or even killed. Perhaps it won’t be too long until this same news is reported on even bigger media stations- trading headlines along the lines of “President Raul Castro announces New Economic Opportunities” for “Dictator Raul Castro Continues to Violently Oppress the Cuban People”.