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Dmitri Prieto-Samsonov: I define myself as being either Cuban-Russian or Russian-Cuban, indiscriminately. I was born in Moscow in 1972 of a Russian mother and a Cuban father. I lived in the USSR until I was 13, although I was already familiar with Cuba-- where we would take our vacation almost every year. I currently live on the fifth floor of an apartment building in Santa Cruz del Norte, near the sea. I’ve studied biochemistry and law in Havana and anthropology in London. I’ve written about molecular biology, philosophy and anarchism, although I enjoy reading more than writing. I am currently teaching in the Agrarian University of Havana. I believe in God and in the possibility of a free society. Together with other people, that’s what we’re into: breaking down walls and routines.

‘Owners’ of the ‘Truth’ Produce Misery

December 1, 2012 | Print Print |

Dmitri Prieto

HAVANA TIMES — It seems that after my recent post about Radio Marti, I’m being accused of cowardice, being pro-Soviet and even secretly hating the West.

As for the West, perhaps I should mention that among my happiest years were those I spent in London studying Anthropology (basically, I was lucky…).

Still, I can’t say that when I was there I stopped understanding what was meant by the word c-a-p-i-t-a-l-i-s-m (like that, with all its letters: with its “formal rationality,” the instrumental reason of those in power; and those are the words of Max Weber, a German conservative, not those of some Stalinist Konstantinov).

But I saw freedoms and especially vibrant communities… I think those are the paths out of this crisis.

As for my being afraid (well, all of us are afraid), it would be an unprecedented act of arrogance to believe I’m free of it.

And as far as being pro-Soviet goes, I do have love for Russia, but on more than one occasion we’ve put up materials in public places here in Havana about what happened in Czechoslovakia in 1968.

My Russia is that of the rebels in Kronstadt (1921), that of Alexander Men (the priest who they killed for preaching the Christian faith as freedom and not the morality of the state), and the singer Vladimir Vysotski (the rebellious singer), but not the Russia of Brezhnev, the General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union when I was born.

In short, they’re mimetically comparing Radio Marti to Granma or the officialist “Mesa Redonda” TV program, and comparing the host of that show, Randy Alonso, to the dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez. How easy this all is!

This doesn’t imply that all media sources should be like Radio Marti or Granma! I don’t think these comparisons are fitting. We know the state-run media system is not a path to freedom… but nor is the system in which the media is administered by groups of shareholders.

Now that we’re in the process of elections here, what came to my mind was what happened two and a half years ago, when I wrote a couple posts for Havana Times dealing with the current Cuban electoral system (“Independent Candidates Without Platforms”  and “Cuba’s Elections and the Filter”].

There later appeared an article by a certain Angel Sastre in the online version of a Spanish(?)  newspaper called La Razon (The Truth). The name makes it seem like it’s a clone of the now liberalist newspaper Pravda (which also means “the truth”).  In the online paper, Sastre literally wrote the following:

“‘I wonder: Why can’t we voters learn about how our future delegates plan to solve the problems of our neighborhoods? What do they think about the situation in the country and ways to improve it?’ This was a comment made to La Razon in a telephone interview with Dmitri Prieto-Samsonov, a Russian writer who has lived in Havana for 40 years.”

Needless to say, not only did I not give a telephone interview to La Razon (and not out of fear, but simply because they never called me), but my words were actually copied verbatim from Havana Times, without attribution. What’s more, I’m not a Russian writer, I don’t live in Havana, and I haven’t turned 40 yet.

What kind of respect for Cubans and for freedom of expression could this newspaper have if it manipulates what we say? It seems that this is what’s least important to it and the writer. Is this the “freedom” that La Razon wants for Cuba? Can one achieve freedom through lies?

I wrote a fairly angry email to the newspaper and then contacted some libertarian friends of mine so that they follow up on it on the Internet. They found that the article had apparently disappeared, but who knows if they’ll put it up again later. I’m not going to waste my limited online time trying to verify that.

I never received even the slightest apology from the owners of La Razon for the clearly deliberate “blunder” by this Sastre fellow.

So, we can see that not only do the state-run media combine truths with falsehoods.

Only a-u-t-o-g-e-s-t-i-o-n (like that, with all the letters, meaning self-organization from below) is what I think is the way to full freedom of expression, and for everyone.


What's your opinion?

  • Mark G

    At first, I found your opening sentence odd because no such accusations were made in the comments on the English language version of this blog. I then checked the Spanish language version. I didn’t think a couple of the comments there were really accusations either. But again, I was not on the receiving end of them so I accept that this is how they came across to you.

    I agree with your decision to decline the interview with the Radio Marti reporter if for no other reason than it does not allow the Cuban authorities to paint you as some sort of paid mercenary for the US imperialists. I also think Radio Marti itself (like the US trade and travel embargo) is actually counter-productive to the goal of achieving democracy in Cuba.

  • http://www.GRDPublishing.com Grady Ross Daugherty

    Well, all I’ve got to say, Dmitri, is that I’m a big fan of your writing and your noble heart So, there!

  • Moses

    All print and visual media, including this blog, must and will come from a point of view (POV). In some cases, like in Granma or with Radio Marti, that POV is obvious and even at times overpowering. In other cases, such as the New York Times, the POV is subtle and shifts according the the writer and the time of publishing. Finally, most media report news and opinion. The problem occurs when opinion is presented as news. Car crashes are news. Who or what caused the car crash is opinion. The anecdote for POV in the media is more media. Granma and Radio Marti will and should press forward with their POVs expressed as they see fit. That is true freedom of the press. In south Florida, there are many other media outlets to see, hear and read news. The problem in Cuba is there is only Granma.

    • Griffin

      Moses wrote, “The problem occurs when opinion is presented as news. Car crashes are news. Who or what caused the car crash is opinion. ”

      It was either a magic tree or a Spanish political activist who fell asleep at the wheel…

  • Mark G

    This is a minor quibble (and my Spanish isn’t the best) but doesn’t razon translate to ‘reason’ in English rather than ‘truth?’

    Angel Sastre is the Latin American correspondent for La Razon, a Madrid daily newspaper with a conservative editorial stance at least on social issues.

    Dmitri, the article which attributed your statement to a telephone interview rather than crediting an article in Havana Times has been removed from their website.

    I have no idea whether the mistake was clearly deliberate or not. But in journalism inadvertent mistakes happen frequently especially when reporters are trying to meet tight deadlines.