Friday, June 27, 2014

“Looking for a Handout” Between Miami and Cuba

"Looking for a Handout" Between Miami and Cuba
June 26, 2014
Fernando Ravsberg*

HAVANA TIMES — Last week, a campaign calling for lower Internet rates
began on the island and Radio and TV Marti – US government stations that
broadcast propaganda to Cuba – announced they would use the web to send
their messages to the population.

People say extremes meet and complement one another. The news must have
made those looking for arguments to restrict Internet access in Cuba
very happy. Now, they can refuse to make the web more accessible
invoking the country's legitimate need to defend itself.

Radio and TV Marti claim that more than 3 million people watch their
programs in Cuba – proudly, they tell us that one out of every four
Cubans follow these. Their ratings bring to mind those of Vivir del
cuento ("Looking for a Handout"), Cuba's most popular sitcom.

I must be very unlucky, because I don't know a single person who watches
TV Marti. Even those who have confessed to me that they read materials
published by the anti-Castro émigré community assure me they have never
been able to tune in to the programs aired by these broadcasters.

Even dissident Amador Blanco, from Cuba's province of Las Villas, told
the New Herald in Miami that "we've never seen TV Marti. If anyone
claims they watch it, that's a lie. Radio Marti's audience is also minimal."

The True Hits in Cuba

What people in Cuba actually look forward to watching every week is the
new "package", a compilation of films, TV series, Internet pages and
documentaries put together with materials downloaded from the Internet
or recorded from satellite TV programming.

This package is an initiative of the island's self-employed. The
materials are downloaded illegally at places with a broad bandwidth and
recorded by those who copy US television shows to broadcast these locally.

They are sold to paqueteros ("package providers") who throw together a
combo that includes music videos by local artists and commercials for
the private establishments that are gradually emerging in Cuba. Then,
they sell these to hundreds of thousands of Cuban families for 1 or 2
dollars apiece.

The phenomenon is so widespread that the government is studying the
possibility of developing an "official" package, so as to exercise
greater control over its contents. All the while, the newspaper of
Cuba's internal dissident community, 14 & ½, tries to slip its news into
the "packages" to reach a wider audience.

However, one will be hard pressed to find a paquetero willing to include
materials from the opposition in their product, for everyone in Cuba
knows that mixing business with dissident activities is not profitable,
particularly when the financing for the latter is of dubious origin.

Cuba's Paradoxes

Politicians in both camps find it difficult to understand the success of
these "packages." One reason for its success could be that they are not
designed on the basis of ideological schemes but in response to the
tastes and needs of common people.

It is ironic that a single paquetero who has invested a few thousand
dollars has a wider audience than Radio and TV Marti, each with hundreds
of employees and receiving US $ 26.3 million from the US government
every year.

To justify such high spending, they need to disguise their tiny
audience, while desperately seeking any means of increasing their
impact, taking advantage of any development on the island, be it greater
access to mobile phones, the Internet or social networks.

In Cuba, a campaign against those who use the Internet for independent
work is already underway. There are even TV programs that show us how a
network of "dangerous" programmers (guilty of using the Internet for
their own purposes) was dismantled.

The radicalism of one camp prompts radicalism in the other. Caught in
the middle is Cuba, a nation that cannot progress at the pace it could.
As the editor of Cubadebate Rosa Miriam Elizalde explains, "we cannot
continue to use horse-drawn carts in a world that is moving so quickly."
(*) Visit the blog of Fernando Ravsberg.

Source: "Looking for a Handout" Between Miami and Cuba - Havana -

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