Friday, May 31, 2013

Coming home: CNN Reports on Yoani Sánchez's return to Cuba

Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sánchez is surrounded by relatives after her arrival, at the José Martí International Airport in Havana, Cuba, Thursday, May 30, 2013. Sánchez is back home after a more than three-month globe-trotting tour that has turned her into the most internationally recognizable face in the island's small dissident community. Sánchez has been on the road since Feb. 17 and visited more than a dozen countries in Europe and the Americas. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

Thursday, May 30, 2013

#LASA2013, #Nauta & #YoaniRegresa

Lots of buzz in and around Cuba this week.  Given that it's late and I'm anticipating a quite busy first full day of #LASA2013 tomorrow, here I'll just give a quick round up of all the big news with links below. (See *note below re removed banner).
  • Tuesday morning saw the big announcement in Juventud Rebelde and the Gaceta Oficial that 118 telepuntos will finally provide service to the Inter- (or is it Intra-?) net starting on June 4.  While three levels of service will be provided via the so-called "Nauta" plan, and while there are promises to continue expanding and improving said service, the takeaway at this point seems to be that 1) all service will be in hard currency ($4.50/hour for "full" Internet), 2) it will be offered exclusively by the state monopoly telecom ETECSA in newly equipped centers across the country (not via private, household connections), and 3) that it will be offered to the divisa-paying public in a tightly controlled "walled garden" format that will allow the government maximum ability for surveillance and filtering.  Penultimos Dias sums this approach up with the memorable phrase: "Intranet, y de pago."  You can also get good analysis of the announcement from  Cafe Fuerte, Larry Press, and the NYT.
  • After three and a half months of travel to more than 11 countries, Yoani Sánchez is set to arrive home to Havana sometime on Thursday morning to begin the next stage in her improbable journey.  Peter Orsi and Paul Haven do a bang up job on an AP article entitled, "Cuban Blogger Returns Home to Unknown Future," gaging the impact of her trip abroad and the unclear future that awaits her back on the island.  Her husband, Reinaldo Escobar, offered what was likely the most realistic, grounded quote of all, telling Orsi and Haven that, "What awaits her is a lot of work, a lot of responsibility and the possibility to realize her dreams." I'm set to be on CNN sometime tomorrow discussing her trip and return - so stay tuned...
  • While I was in Miami last week attending the 9th semi-annual FIU/Cuban Research Institute conference, I managed to escape to Calle Ocho to see the dynamic musical duo Raudel (Escuadrón Patriota) and David D'Omni bring the house down at the Cuba Ocho Art and Research Center (and bar!) in Little Havana (pictured to the right).  For those of you who do not know Escuadrón or his work, Raudel Collazo (his given name) is a "real deal" Cuban hip-hop artist and civil rights activist.  His music delivers sharp, poetic, and often very spiritual social and political criticisms.  He has put out various independently produced albums as well as being the subject of the documentary film, Despertar!  His latest disks include: Mi testimonio, El legado, and Somos la raíz del cambio.  Go here to view a recording of his live show at Cuba Ocho from last week. 
  • While waiting for Raudel's show to start, the crowd was treated to a showing of the wonderful new documentary, "Ni rojo, ni verde, azul" (Not Red [communist], Not Green [military], Blue), about the life, "kidnapping," and death of Cuba's largest counterculture music festival, Rotilla.  For more on the festival and to see a second, 23-minute mini-doc, "Rotilla: Si dios quiere y el partido lo permite," follow the hyperlink above.  Below is a photo I snapped of Diddier Santos, one of the main organizers of the festival who has a prominent role in the film and is now touring with it around the US.
  • As mentioned above, LASA is upon us and so now is a good time to recall/reread the pungent series of hard-hitting articles about this annual conference of Latin Americanists published by Cuban Sociologist Haroldo Dilla at CubaEncuentro in April.  In the articles, Dilla underlines the importance of LASA as a forum where "the two Americas can meet."  He also advocates for greater access to the conference for young scholars from the island, through a more rational US visa policy.  At the same time, he publicly and quite devastatingly analyzes some of the objectionable practices that have become standard within LASA's Cuba Section - such as state-party control over the Cuban delegation and undue influence of the University of Havana on section activities and funds for participants.  I recommend that you read them all in the order they were published, here (English); here, and especially here.  You might also like to read another article (in English) where Dilla reflects on some of the unfortunate antics that took place at last year's conference in San Francisco.  
  • *Let me apologize to some of the people named in the now removed #OccupyLASA2013 graphic - especially Zaida Capote and Mylai Burgos who both objected to me in person - who were not consulted and very surprised to see their names on the "occupy" list. While I did not make the poster (my good friend Rolando Pulido did) I should have checked with the named individuals before reposting. While I am encouraged by the more inclusive representation of Cubans at #LASA2013, I agree that no one should have been included on the list without their consent.  Scarred but smarter.
  • Finally here are a few LASA panels to watch
Thursday, May 30, 3-4:45 p.m.
* "Cuban Youth in the New Millennium" - Ethan Allen
Panelists include Carlos Tapia (Catholic Church), Ana Ruiz (Juan de los Muertos), Donna Chambers (Education), and Marcelo Fajardo-Cardenas (New Technologies and Non-Conformist Discourse).  I will serve as discussant.  We will also hear briefly from the special Cuban guests: Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo (on the independent blogosphere) and Manuel Cuesta Morua and Leonardo Calvo Cardenas (who will discuss the Movement for Racial Integration, the Arco Progresista, and the magazine Islas).

Friday, May 31, 5-6:45 p.m.
* "Los afrodescendientes en la nación cubana" - Washington 2
Rafel Campoamor, Juan Antonio Alvarado, Manuel Cuesta Morua, and Leonardo Calvo Cardenas

Saturday, June 2, 3-4:45 p.m.
* "Internet and Society in Cuba" - Park Tower Suites 8211
Session Organizer: Yasmín Silvia Portales Machado, CLACSO
"La 'nueva universidad' cubana: Internet y pedagogía crítica" - Hiram Hernandez Castro, Universidad de La Habana
"Perfil demográfico de la blogosfera hecha en Cuba: Primeros resultados de investigación" - Yasmín Silvia Portales Machado, CLACSO
"Informatización y empresas en Cuba: Resistencias y caminos" - Lázaro J Blanco Encinosa, Centro de Estudios de Técnicas de Dirección de la UH
"Impacto y posibilidades del acceso a las Tecnologías de la Sociedad de la Información en el nuevo modelo económico cubano" - Yudivián Almeida Cruz, Universidad de La Habana

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

UPDATE: "Diplomats should engage in dialogue" - USIS Deputy Chief Conrad Tribble joins #TwittHab in Havana!

UPDATE - May 21: Peter Orsi and Andrea Rodríguez of the AP in Havana just put out a really good article summarizing Tribble's trailblazing in Havana's Twittosphere and some of its interesting repercussions.  It is entitled: 

Besides El Yuma, who got in a pair of quotes, they include comments from a wide variety of other players in this on-going drama, including Elaine Díaz, Carlos Alzugaray, Carlos Alberto "La Chiringa" Pérez, Miguel Díaz-Canel, Alejandro Cruz, and of course Yohandry Fontana.  

* * *

Last Friday, May 10, at 4:00 p.m. in the Vedado district of Havana, a group of about 20-30 Cuban Twitter users held an open meet-up called #Twitthab.  This was the second such gathering under that name coming almost two years after the first one in the summer of 2011.

One unique element to Friday's gathering was the surprise presence of the Deputy Chief of the US Interest Section, Conrad Tribble (@ConradTribble).  Below is a video of his brief and to my mind very positive intervention.

A short summary of his comments at #TwittHab in Havana:

"Diplomats should engage in dialogue."

Well said, well done, & keep it up!

You can go herehere, and here for some of the interesting back and forth between him and a number of Cuban bloggers that followed his visit.

(Here's another brief video of him speaking [in German] at his previous post in Munich about the relationship between diplomacy and social media. So his interest in digital technology and US diplomacy is not something new.  There's even a great video of him here singing "Jack the Knife" - so Jazz and diplomacy go well together too it seems)!

Monday, May 6, 2013

Quotable (+video): Díaz Canel on "the impossible chimera" of information control

"Today, with the development of information technologies; today, with the development of social networks; today, with the development of computers and the Internet, to prohibit something is nearly an impossible chimera.

"It makes no sense.

"Today, news from all sources, from good ones and from bad ones, those that are manipulated, and those that are true, and those that are half-truths, all circulate on the web and reach people and those people are aware of them.

"The worst response then, what is it?


-First Vice-President of Cuba,
Miguel Díaz-Canel, May 5, 2013

Fragmentos de las palabras de Miguel Díaz-Canel, miembro del Buró Político del Partido Comunista de Cuba y primer vicepresidente de los Consejos de Estado y de Ministros, en la clausura del seminario nacional preparatorio del curso escolar 2013-2014.

"Hoy, con el desarrollo de las tecnologías de la información, de las redes sociales, de la informática y la Internet, prohibir algo es casi una quimera imposible. No tiene sentido.

"Hoy, las noticias de todos lados, las que son buenas y las que son malas, las que están manipuladas y las que son verdades, las que están a medias, circulan por las redes, llegan a las personas, la gente las conoce.

"Lo peor entonces es el silencio.

"Por tanto, nosotros constantemente tenemos que estar dialogando, argumentando, discutiendo para poder lograr que en esa diversidad de información nuestros estudiantes, profesores, y nuestro pueblo en general, puedan discernir las verdades y lo que es el bien de lo que es mal, lo que es favorable para la Revolución de lo que no lo es.

"Por tanto, no nos podemos empantanar en un dialogo que sea formal y en que otros pongan el debate que nosotros debemos desplegar. El escenario de las clases y el aula es de los ideales para desarrollar todo este trabajo".