Cuba and freedoms

May 18, 2007

On May 7, New Matilda published an article by Antony Loewenstein, titled "Cuba: paradise left", in which he reports on his impressions of Cuba. Loewenstein describes Cuba as a "police state" with "no freedom of speech". He takes issue with Australian academic, Tim Anderson whom, he wrote, "ought to know better" for arguing that Cuba has more democracy than the US, (see Below is Anderson's reply to Loewenstein's article.

Dear Antony,

You rely heavily on assertion and anecdote. There's plenty of flimsy critiques on Cuba around. But since you refer to my article, allow me to respond to a few of your claims.

First, "Cuba is a police state": this is a blunt assertion, no evidence. Do you mean that they torture and kill their citizens? You don't explain. Unlike the US, Cuba does not torture, send out death squads and engage in assassinations. Unlike Australia, they do not invade other countries and detain people without charge or trial. Unlike
Colombia, journalists are not murdered.

Second, Cubans are not barred from the internet. It is very expensive, because they rely on satellite links. The US blockade prevents a direct cable link, but this will change when a cable is laid to Venezuela. A range of my Cuban friends have free access at work; and it is not an
intranet. The limited email service, without full web access, is a cheaper option. There have been full access internet cafes in many parts of Havana for several years.

Third, you say the problems of US "democracy" can be "addressed in other forums". Well no, not when you are joining in the US polemic against Cuba. Your idea of freedom of speech does not distinguish itself from the Murdochesque, corporate view of the world. You ignored my point that the greatest threat to democratic debate is the domination by a
small group of private corporations. Is this not a problem for you?

Fourth, your view that there is no "revolutionary fervour" among the young and that love for Fidel Castro is "hard to discern" is a product of your brief visit. It is not social analysis. Despite ongoing economic migration pressures, support for the government remains very strong.

Fifth, your chosen dissident, Oscar Espinosa Chepe, was not jailed for "opposing the Castro regime". He had done this for many years on various internet sites. You failed to say that his arrest and conviction, in 2003, was for taking several thousand dollars from a US government program authorised under the Helms Burton Act, designed to
overthrow the Cuban constitution.

Finally, your approach to Cuba hardly parallels that of Tariq Ali, with whom you seek to associate. While Ali wants to see a more open public debate in Cuba, he also regards Cuba as part of an "axis of hope" in the region. He doesn't buy your "police state" line.

You pretend to disavow the Miami mafia, but your embrace of the 2003 group of "dissidents" says otherwise. The US-funded Miami groups, in particular the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), have a strategy of funding "independent journalists" and "human rights

Readers might like to do a little research on the CANF: they were tightly linked to those arrested in 2003 and have published Oscar Espinosa Chepe's articles. They were also directly linked to repeated terrorist attacks on Cuba, including the bombing attacks on Havana in
1997, and support for Latin America's most infamous terrorist (recently released in the US) CIA-trained Luis Posada Carriles.

Like Reporters Without Borders (to which you post a link), the CANF and the 2003 group of "dissidents" were funded through programs of the US government's National Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House, the CIA front organisation the "Solidarity Centre" and other schemes set up under the US State Department's "transition plan" for Cuba.

None of this is secret. Have a look at the internet articles by Diana Barahona and Jean-Guy Allard. They have exposed a range of secret US payments to journalists who write in support of US policy on Cuba, Haiti, Venezuela and Bolivia. Ten journalists in Miami were recently sacked for taking secret US government payments. As if the owners of
these papers weren't sufficiently right-wing. Is this your "freedom of the press"?

Yes, the media in Cuba is very "correct line" and certainly unlike our corporate media. But why this extraordinary attack, staged interviews with US-paid agents and false accusations of a "police state"?

"Reporters Without Borders" now has a "freedom of the internet campaign", funded by the US government, one part of it aimed at Cuba. Who was it that funded your recent trip to Cuba?

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