Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Ya viene Silvio... Y los demas?

This just in - Silvio Rodriguez was just granted a U.S. visa and so will indeed give his much anticipated concert at Carnegie Hall on June 4.

This is indeed good news.

And while I largely disagree with Alina Brouwer's recent letter questioning the wisdom of granting "official" personalities like Rodriguez visas to visit the U.S., I do agree that it takes two to tango.  (See Anya Landau French's discussion of cultural exchange with Cuba at The Havana Note).

As we put pressure on the Obama administration to continue to allow these kind of exchanges and, indeed, to lift the travel ban entirely, we should also be consistent by criticizing the Cuban government's completely unacceptable denial of exit permits to people like Yoani Sanchez or the "underground" hip-hop group Los Aldeanos (or independent journalists and economists like Oscar Espinosa Chepe). 

For example, I'm currently putting together a panel on Information Technology in Cuba for the "Cuba Futures" conference at the Bildner Center here in New York City for March, 2011, and I'm hoping to include on the panel BOTH the well-known independent blogger Yoani Sanchez (who has been denied the right to travel abroad several times by the Cuban government) AND the young professor of communications at the University of Havana Elaine Diaz-Rodriguez who writes the blog La Polemica Digital, and who has written one of the few academic studies of blogging by (official) journalists in Cuba, "Blogs y periodismo en Cuba: entre el 'deber ser' y la realidad" ("Blogs and Journalism in Cuba: Between 'what is' and 'what ought to be'").

Based on recent history, it is likely that the U.S. will grant Sanchez a visa for the event, but if Brouwer had her way, Diaz would be denied.  On the other hand, you can bet that Sanchez will be denied an exit permit once again while Diaz, as a university professor in good standing with the Cuban government, is sure to get hers.

To her credit, Diaz has formed a Facebook group to gather support for ending the exit permit requirement.

Indeed, until it ends its policy of requiring the hated "tarjeta blanca" (exit permit), the Cuban government's complaints about denials of U.S. visas to its "chosen" travelers are both laughable and hypocirtical.

I just have one question: Will the Silvio Rodriguez concert at Carnegie Hall include an opening act of a Q&A with special guest star Carlos Alberto Montaner. 

Now that would be revolutionary!

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