Alternative Blog vs. State Media Monopoly

That’s how life goes. Readers and other supporters of the blog known as Cartas desde Cuba (Letters from Cuba) continue in their efforts to support Fernando Ravsberg. The Uruguayan journalist, who settled in Cuba 28 years ago, has started a public collection to finance his project that, in his own words, aims to “bring information which reflects the colours and shades of what’s happening in Cuba.”

Fernando Ravsberg Photo: Courtesy of the Author
Fernando Ravsberg
Photo: Courtesy of the Author

After he was denied renewal of his permits in February of this year, bank accounts were opened both in Cuba and abroad to support the blog, for instance with the Banco Metropolitano and with various crowdfunding agencies. Around 912 euros were collected by the fourth day only from the accounts abroad. Moreover, many people made public declarations of their contributions in the national territory.

Hundreds of readers sympathised with Ravsberg’s protest against being denied accreditation by the Centro de Prensa Internacional (International Press Centre), a subordinated body of MINREX (Ministry of Foreign Affairs). The International Press Centre stated that “the decision not to renew his accreditation was made by the press agency for which he was accredited”. The latter information was published by the Diario de Cuba daily newspaper on June 15.

Previous declarations show that the Uruguayan journalist had been put under an even greater legal pressure: after so many years that he and his family had been living in Cuba, he was given but one option, that of staying “60 days plus another 30 days to obtain the residence permit,” as the CubaSí website informed.

To show his solidarity with Fernando Ravsberg, renowned philosopher and critic Aurelio Alonso clearly stated the following:

“I don’t think we can remain silent in the face of this scandal, which seeks to prolong institutional harassment against Fernando Ravsberg.” Incidentally, it emerged that the Cuban musician Silvio Rodríguez offered the foreign correspondent the space of his blog (Segunda Cita) to allow him to publish his pieces there, if he wanted.

On the other hand, Ravsberg himself has denounced the harassment campaign against him.

“In the last 10 years they have been trying to domesticate me, giving me kind advice with hidden threats such as breaking my jaw, demanding my deportation from the country or even warning me with regard to my children. Nothing has worked for them until now, but by expelling me from the foreign press they are now able to give the desired coup de grace to the Cartas desde Cuba blog.”

Actually, the underlying issue is that a foreign journalist without an accreditation valid for Cuba loses his privileges as a journalist. Moreover, despite obtaining a residence permit allowing him to live in Cuba, his legal status would be very precarious as he would, on a daily basis, face challenges when putting into question the rules imposed by the current authoritarian political propaganda.

During the almost three decades spent on the island, the Uruguayan should have learned that there is a silent agreement between the government and the foreign press which he evidently ignored when publishing news and opinions in the last 4 years. If he were Cuban, it would have had serious consequences for him.

With regard to the above, a Cuban reporter recently commented to Ravsberg:

“I, Leonardo Mesa, independent journalist, lawyer, media professional and photography enthusiast, suffer from restrictions and other hindrances on a daily basis. I think that in terms of our working conditions, you are given more space than I do, but I’ll be strong and keep on fighting.”

The Cartas desde Cuba blog commits numerous sins every day and it is widely read both in Cuba and abroad – a success that cannot be matched even by the world-renowned Yoani Sánchez. The blog has been able to survive so far and plans to continue to exist without the institutional support from abroad. In any case, it can’t be considered (as absurd as it sounds) an initiative at the service of imperialism.

Just consider that the blog gives space to reflections of numerous intellectuals with national and international reputation living in Cuba, sometimes even working in State bodies. In this sense, the bureaucrats of the Communist Party of Cuba clearly fear what the Cartas desde Cuba blog and other open discussion platforms could unleash, if their number grew.

Although it is impossible to predict the future of the blog, one thing is clear: the current public collection is an unusual phenomenon in the information monopoly that has gained control of the media in the Cuban socialist museum.