HAVANA, Cuba – In a store where goods are sold in CUCs (convertible pesos) located in La Puntilla, on the corner of First Avenue and Zero Street, in Miramar, by the municipal beach, people are lost in the contemplation of a special bin of apples from Virginia, USA. The large, red apples seem more like wax table decorations for the center of table. They beckon deliciously, but they cost 0.40 CUC.
I motion to the store clerks by pointing at the apples. How is the blockade? I ask. The answer I receive among laughter. Very well! And you? And we laugh.
The people comment that they do not believe in the blockade or American embargo. They complain that its money, since the money that they receive for its work has no value. For the first time in decades, they are demanding that the government do something. Some of them comment that it is a matter for the uprooted of the ‘boys’ from the University of Computer Sciences (UCI). They all comment, talk and speak about being well informed.
We are witnessing an event that is marvelous and unexpected even a few years ago. Reports of interest have become public knowledge in very short period of time. Immediate disclosure of national events has become a fact.
Ordinary people commented within a few days about the incident that happened between the young people from the University of Computer Sciences (UCI) and the National Assembly of the Popular Power’s president, Mr. Ricardo Alarcón de Quesada. The ACOREC and CUBALSE employees’ demands resonated loudly and clearly on the streets. The information spread quickly by mass e-mails, flash drives, CD, handouts and from time to time cell phones.
Without a plausible explanation these days, there has been a proliferation of personal computers in the hands of individuals, various models of cell phones that include the ‘blue tooth’ technology, digital cameras, recorders, laptops and the satellite antennae that all represent a flourishing business sector. The business of selling secret satellite TV in Havana has been done through programming intended for Latin American resident in the south of Florida. This service coexists along with the traditional and always secret video collections that expanded with the introduction of CDs and DVDs. Cuba is already changing from inside.
An articulate and efficient black market sells goods at better price and superior quality than the official suppliers. Independent blogs have emerged that amplify the demands of specific sectors of the Cuban society and report on an extensive range of issues that includes high priority and political themes. For the first time, the information that the dictatorship has been compelled to hide is reaching the people. These alternative means cover printed materials, flash drives, CDs, DVDs or any other medium that contributes to the creativity of the Cuban people.
The obstacles of official disinformation are falling before the popular will of information. The state has never seemed more challenged and threatened than in this moment. We are witnessing a boom of all kinds of unthinkable and unexpected information exchanges being made among diverse actors within a growing civil society.
The effects can be perceived in the streets and neighborhoods without much effort. These days in Cuba, it has been loudly and clearly presented by the UCI students, when they called for the liberty to travel without permission. Also, people are saying that the electoral system is a fraud on account of the government being habitually corrupt.
The ACOREC and CUBALSE workers’ demands that the state should not steal the fruit of their labor from them, is being commented on in the streets. The people are beginning to identify more with the precious aspirations made by men and women that are associated with dissidents and members of human rights groups.
It is said that prisoners are the ones speaking the truth – a euphemism for political prisoners. The Ladies of White, without intending to, have become consequential political actors and living satirists, who by making their brave walks, promote justice for all. Liberty, in its variant of freedom of information, seems to be in essence the first demand that the Cuban people are asking of its rulers. Not the food, nor the dreadful and miserable living conditions. Paradoxically, the demand that is growing in the mind and the hearts of the men and women that has been set loose is the freedom to know, to travel, and to live.
First freedom to know what is going on is demanded, then freedom of speech will come, along with freedom to write, travel and do what one wants. A dictatorship of the left or of the right is defined for its totalitarian ties. If the strength of the people tears them to pieces, the dictatorship is finished. We are helping the people to dismantle the state piece by piece more quickly. After all, we have more than enough of what they lack the most: time.
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