HAVANA TIMES, May 26 – I read the interview by my colleague Guillermo Nova of the Cuban blogger and journalist Enrique Ubieta, in which the latter compares the national press to a guerrilla army facing the powerful information transnationals.
I reviewed writings by Che Guevara and other experts on the subject, and I was left with the impression that the Cuban media seems very little like a guerrilla army. In fact, they more closely resemble a regular military force – centralized and directed with terrible strategies.
A guerrilla movement is conscious, from the very beginning of their struggle, that the correlation of forces does not favor them, but they see daily combat as a means of growing and becoming an army capable of reaching victory.
On the contrary, those who direct the official press in Cuba spend their lives complaining that their enemy is too powerful and concede in advance that the war is lost. “We’ll do what we can do, but they’ll continue attacking us,” they’ve told me with resignation.
If Fidel Castro had been guided by similar concepts, he would have never attacked the Moncada Barracks or went up into the Sierra Maestra Mountains. Today he would surely be retired on the family farm in Biran, Holguin, complaining about the might of Batista’s army.
Decades on the Defensive
Another characteristic of a guerrilla is their offensive mentality. Their success lies in constant attack. Contrastingly, the Cuban press has spent decades on the defensive, limiting itself to responding to attacks while never leaving its trenches.
And they haven’t the most minimal guerrilla agility. When the courts in the US acquitted Luis Posada Carriles, it took them several days to present that fact to the relatives of the victims of his attacks, thereby achieving inconsequential international repercussion.
The guerrilla constantly looks for their enemy’s weak sides, to hit and run. They move in small autonomous groups and are able to operate without contact with the central command. The offensive of Che Guevara and Camilo Cienfuegos [in the war against Batista] is a good example.
Contrastingly, the press here operates with suffocating centralization, consulting on each word that’s written by functionaries who barely know the issues, are distant from reality, behind the times and lacking in information.
Some Cuban intellectuals are asking for the press to continue being guided by the Communist Party instead of by the government. The fact is that it won’t make any difference if there aren’t changes in people’s mentalities, concepts and strategies.
Several of my colleagues who were recently invited to a meeting with Cuban authorities were surprised by the lack of knowledge they have regarding the operation of the foreign media.
Clinging to old models
The country changes quickly but the press continues to cling to old models that have only resulted in its loss of credibility in the eyes of the Cuban people while their enemies continue attacking them with complete success.
One Cuban communist intellectual wrote that the press is still far from reflecting the true country (3). Moreover, things are going to worsen if they’re not able to meet the standards of a time when new technologies and social networks demand agility, autonomy and creativity.
Because of the Internet and parabolic antennas, the Cuban government’s informational monopoly is increasingly being eroded. Every day, growing number of citizens obtain access to other sources where they can search for the information that the national press denies them.
In Cuba there exists a group of journalists who are well prepared and anxious to climb into the ring, but some believe that they are blocked by powerful internal forces that shun transparency to protect their own spurious and opportunistic interests.
Others warn with a Chinese analysis of the USSR when they affirm that one of the causes for the collapse was that the Soviet party lost control over the intellectuals, academic circles and the press.
The analysis should be a little deeper because more basic things have already failed when the party in power needs to have control over the press, intellectuality and academics to prevent the system from collapsing.
In turn, singer/songwriter Silvio Rodriguez jumped into the controversy saying that the vision of Cuban journalism should be to follow that of Raul’s, as he called on my colleagues from the island to combat the bureaucracy. To follow that vision necessarily implies a head-on collision with their bosses.
The apparent contradiction is that they are asking journalists to join in the battle for change but under the control of the same people who have led them into defeat and whose greatest concern seems to be punishing those who are “undisciplined.”
Raul Castro’s speeches and Alfredo Guevara’s conferences are incitements to rebellion by journalists. Are they proposing that opportunities be won at the cost of running risks and making sacrifices, like in the old guerilla school of war?
It seems they are hoping for my colleagues to unleash their own internal battle and from that will emerge suitable heads, ones capable of standing up even to their own editors, those who will write without consulting others up above but will assume the consequences with no regrets.
An authorized translation by Havana Times (from the Spanish original) published by BBC Mundo.