Saturday, August 25, 2012

The Impossible Cuban Existence of Julian Assange

The Impossible Cuban Existence of Julian Assange / Yoani Sanchez
Translator: Unstated, Yoani Sanchez

I'm not going to analyze the ethical and journalistic implications of
Julian Assange's work. I confess that I sympathize in part with his
ideology, at least the part that proclaims the need for transparency in
diplomatic and government affairs. But in Cuba all the cables brought to
light by Wikileaks have not been published; they've barely even made
reference to those where the Cuban government comes out well. Hence, the
need for an Internet connection to get an objective idea of the scope
and objectives of the phenomenon headed by this Australian, now granted
asylum in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London.

I can, however, arrive at a couple of conclusion, at least with respect
to the use being made of the "Assange Case" by the official Cuban press.
As I don't need the elusive fiber optic cable, nor an illegal satellite
dish to watch the National News every day, this time I have all the
elements I need to form an opinion.

The first thing that comes to mind is that a government that has made
secrecy and silence a basic pillar of its power praises a hacker who
represents the exact opposite. As if the overbearing mother who has
locked her daughters in the house throws out a compliment to the
libertine whose offspring are running all over the neighborhood.

Ecuador's London Embassy where Assange has been given asylum. Photo:

The declassifier of memos is now applauded on our small screen by a
system that has been careful not to leave any traces of its outrages on
paper. The "Robin Hood of Information" himself — as some have called him
— receives approval from the Sheriff who has locked us in the feudal
castle of censorship. Something doesn't fit, right? How is it possible
that the promulgators of so many omissions now wave the flag of a man
who promotes the exact opposite?

The sudden fascination of the Cuban media with the Wikileaks director
can only be understood as a part of a shabby "anti-imperialism" where
"the enemy of my enemy is my friend" is always true. They even apply
that maxim in cases where the means are obviously divorced from the
ends, as is true for the information policy of Raul Castro's government
and the massive "leaks" promoted by Julian Assange.

But the absurdity reaches incalculable heights when the "Roundtable" TV
program, known for its anti-journalism and complacency with power,
presents this young man of 41 as a hero of the web. This is, without a
doubt, the most contradictory thing I've seen lately… never mind that I
live in a land of great paradoxes.

If right now a young State Security official declassified the total
financial cost to the country of the operations focused on opponents and
the repudiation rallies against the Ladies in White, what would happen?
If tomorrow a doctor, motivated by personal and professional honesty,
published the real number of people infected with dengue fever in Cuba,
what would they do to him?

Let's imagine a soldier — in the style of Bradley Manning — who leaked
military memoranda between the governments in Havana and in Caracas.
Would there be any clemency for him? And were it to be the case that
someone revealed the true dimensions of Fidel Castro's personal fortune,
would they let us hear about it?

If a simple personal blog of opinions brings down the entire repressive
apparatus against a citizen, it makes chills run down my spine to
imagine what would happen to someone who created a page of leaks and

But, let's look at that; authoritarian regimes don't leave their
footprints on paper. Their archives rarely contain anything that
compromises them because orders are given verbally and without
witnesses. They are specialists in sending someone to kill their
adversaries merely by the raise of an eyebrow, fomenting guerrilla
actions across a whole continent by whispering a few phrases, deploying
nuclear missiles in their territory under the impunity of silence, and
postponing for 15 years the publication of the death toll suffered in a
war on African soil.

But what these systems that are enemies of information are most skilled
in, is detecting potential Julian Assanges within their own countries.
They sniff them out from when they are young, when they ask questions
here and poke around there, when they don't go along with the pap that
passes for news on official TV and try to investigate further.

They watch them from the minute they start to question what's wrong and
stick their noses into some thorny issues. And then they act quickly
against them. Either buying them with some ephemeral privileges, or
making their lives impossible so they'll go into exile, or demonizing
them so no one will believe them.

There is no way to become a Julian Assange in Cuba and stay alive,
believe me.

23 August 2012

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