Monday, November 26, 2012

Independent Journalists Live on the Razor's Edge in Cuba

Independent Journalists Live on the Razor's Edge in Cuba / Iván García
Ivan Garcia, Translator: mlk

Every day when they go out to report or write some story about daily
reality, invisible to official media, the murky Gag Law that can land
them in jail for 20 years or more floats over their heads.

It's not just the legal harassment. There is also their ration of slaps,
subtle taekwondo blows in the ribs, insults by fanatics spurred on by
the special services, threatening phone calls at the break of dawn or
arbitrary detentions.

The further they live from Havana, the more brazen and open is the
intimidation. Independent journalists of deep Cuba, after spending
several hours in a pestilent cell, are released in the night, far from
home, on a hidden roadway surrounded by sugar cane plantations.

None of the free journalists can collate his information with State
institutions. All the officials shut the doors in their faces. Nor do
they offer you facts or figures. But there is always a way of getting
them. Sometimes, employees of state agencies, sick of Fidel Castro's
inefficient socialism, whisper to you first hand information or numbers.

Anonymous people bring you internal regulations, figures about suicides
or the analysis of the latest meeting of the provincial Party. In
exchange for nothing. They just want to broadcast aspects of the sewers
of power. Nonconformist technocrats, beat cops, low ranking military
soldiers, prostitutes with years in "office," marginalized slum dwellers
and budding athletes are the true architects of any story or news.

Each text that goes out from the mature laptops of many independent
journalists has a dose of review filtered by those deep throats desirous
of changing the Cuban political compass. Years of writing under the
hostile barrage of fire and harassment have polished the style of these
lone wolves.

When one speaks of journalism on the margin of state control in Cuba,
some indispensable names must not be forgotten. From human rights
activists Ricardo Bofill and Adolfo Rivero Caro, who in years of hard
repression reported about the violations of essential rights of man, to
Yndamiro Restano, Rafael Solano, Rolando Cartaya, Raul Rivero, Ana Luisa
Lopez Baeza, Iria Gonzalez, Tania Quintero and Ariel Tapia, among others.

Rivero Caro is no longer with us. The rest sleep far from their
homeland, anguished about the future of Cuba, dreaming that they walk
along the Malecon or drink coffee brewed in their Havana homes. The
repression, the jail and the harassment by the regime forced them into
exile. We have had to get by without them.

There is Luis Cino. I present him to you if you are not familiar with
harassment. He has a blog, Cynical Circle and writes high quality
chronicles on Cubanet and Digital Spring, a newspaper managed in a
Lawton apartment. It is a reference. For the quality of his work and his
human condition.

In Downtown Havana, surrounded by empty lots and buildings that scream
for repair, cradle of prostitution and con artists, of people who think
twice as fast as the average Havanan, bastion of misery, prohibited
games, children induced by their parents to beg for coins, stronghold of
the sale of melca and imported marijuana, here, in the heart of the
capital resides Jorge Olivera.

Tall and quiet mulatto. A softy in every sense of the word. He was one
of the defendants of the Black Spring. Not even a walled cell could
erase the perennial smile from his face. Seventeen years after beginning
as an independent journalist, Olivera has not lost hope of greeting his
friend Raul Rivero again and together founding a new kind of daily in a
future Havana.

Meanwhile, Jorge keeps firing with his pen. Stories, opinion pieces and
poetry drafted at night. In Santa Fe, surrounded by cats, we can find
Tania Diaz Castro with a long track record in the Cuban opposition
movement. In Regla, among quacks and religious syncretism, a reporter
from the barricades, Aini Martin Valero also has a magnet for news.

Juan Gonzalez Febles is another sharpshooter, he currently directs
Digital Spring. The lawyer Laritza Diversent lives in a village in
keeping with its name: Calvary. According to a state decree, the
majority of its inhabitants, natives of eastern provinces, are illegal.
They survive in overcrowded cardboard and aluminum shacks.

To relieve legal illiteracy, Diversent opened in the dining room of her
home a legal consultancy, Cubalex. And for various digital sites she
writes articles on legal topics, without jargon. Some are very popular
in her neighborhood.

If he ever aspired to be a councilor, Roberto de Jesus Guerra would
succeed. There is no need to know the address of his home. The locals
indicate to you the home of this communicator born in the east of Cuba,
agile and tireless in the search for information. He ably manages the
audiovisual equipment and has the instincts of a detective. It was
Roberto de Jesus who got the scoop about the medical brutality that may
have cost the lives of 27 psychiatric patients in January of 2010.

Miriam Celaya a reporter of the race. She resides near the "mall" of
Carlos III in Downtown Havana. We independent journalists, who agree on
almost nothing, do agree that Celaya is one of the best columnists of
that other Cuba that the government tries to ignore.

On all the island there are independent journalists, some are better
known and have more experience than others. But all report the vision of
their community and their country. They are the cry of the citizens who
have no echo in the official press.

Translated by mlk

November 24 2012

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