Saturday, November 21, 2009

Agreeing to Disagree - The Best Things (about Cuba) I've read (in Spanish) this week (II)

I've just read two provocative and well reasoned blog posts about the unfolding situation on the ground in Cuba, "Repression as a Means of Distraction" (by Alejandro Armengol, Blog Cuaderno de Cuba) and about the debate over lifting the travel ban, "Of Tourists and Suitcases" (by Frank Rodriguez, Blog de Emilio Echikawa).

While I don't share the totality of either argument, both reflections are highly recommended for their civil, rational tone, critical analysis, and original point of view. Also, both are notable since they openly differ with the latest actions and statements from Yoani Sanchez, Reinaldo Escobar, and their blogger movement, but do so in a spirit of clear sympathy and solidarity.

Armengol: "Repression as a Means of Distraction"

My analysis - Armengol is warning Sanchez and others that the Cuban government has begun to successfully hide its economic and political failures behind the facade of an increasingly fervent ideological battle. This has allowed the government to portray the independent blogger phenomenon as in ideological agreement with the hard-core, right-wing "Miami Mafia" - especially given the award that the Cuban Liberty Council has just bestowed upon Sanchez (despite their fundamental disagreement with her on strategy and politics). He argues that the bloggers would be wise to stick mainly to what they do best and what the government cannot control - blogging - instead of taking their fight "to the streets" as they have increasingly been doing.

My selection and translation -
"Once again the Cuban government has been able to contain the conflict within the framework of a traditional confrontation. Its success could be even greater in this case, where the activities of a group of mostly young bloggers now with the explicit support of the United States (especially clear after President Obama responded directly to Sánchez's recent questionnaire), have begun to develop new ways of manifesting their criticisms in the context of a generalized discontentment with the situation the country is in and with an exchange of information with the outside world.

"We shouldn't, in any case, criticize Yoani Sánchez for accepting this award [from the Cuban Liberty Council] nor should we think even for a moment that suddenly her ideas have started to resemble those of this group. Nevertheless, I think a bit of caution would be prudent from the group of bloggers. They would be wise to concentrate their efforts precisely on the activity that has given them renown and prestige: the diffusion of information about what takes place on the island.

"Without attempting to establish absolute differentiations, the government is attempting to convert an economic crisis, arising from political bases, into an ideological battle. And from the point of view of international news coverage it has been successful in this enterprise."

Rodriguez: "Of Tourists and Suitcases"

My analysis - Rodriguez is making the argument that today's American tourists (similar to those who went to Cuba under the brutal Batista dictatorship back in the 1950s) are no different than tourists from anywhere else - they want to relax, have a good time, and spend their "Yankee dollars" in peace. They can't be relied upon or expected to care about or get involved in politics, bring down the dictatorship, and much less spend their money in ways that promote solidarity with the Cuban people.

My selection and translation -
"Neither American tourists nor those who came to invest in Cuba had even the slightest impact on the Batista dictatorship. They had no power to impede Batista's coup nor did they stop the assassination of Echeverría. They may have employed and provided dollars to their Cuban workers, but that fact alone did not empower them in the slightest to have an effect on the historic course of events that exploded, quite literally, throughout Havana. In fact, these events even led to their being sent packing with their suitcases followed by shouts of 'Yankee Go Home.'

"The sunscreen that is needed in Cuba now is a sunblock against the hotel conglomerate Sol Meliá, and Sol Meliá's employees had better not have too toasted a skin color if they want to become officials in Cuba. Tourist's suitcases do not have nearly the same impact on Cuban politics as do those sent by Chávez and Kirchner. Tourists are not lobbyists for liberty. Instead, they are sheep in search of a good time, flocking away from any confrontations. Bermuda shorts change neither the attitude of Raúl nor that of Ramiro Valdés. Tourists' flip-flops (las chancletas) are not the the voice of the people (el chancleteo) that is missing in today's Cuba.

"The 'blockade' that the dictatorship wants removed can't be torn down with a simple application of sunscreen. La Yuma (The United States) already sells Cuba food (jama) but Pánfilo continues to go hungry. Canadians are the ones who most like the Cuban sun, and unlike many other nationalities they don't typically go to Cuba in search of cheap sex. They go because they are frozen by the cold, just as many Cubans are frozen by fear, unlike you, who jump into the ring and literally suffer blows."

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