Tuesday, February 13, 2007

VOA on Cuba: Voice of A minority

Working in Government, it is always interesting for me to watch these low-budget, fringe efforts by Government to impart ideas and dissenimate ideas. Even if you assume there is some good behind the efforts, the facinating tension between "integrity" and "duty," "truth" and "strategic goals" often becomes evident if you look close.

With the heightened interst in Cuba, a crack team carrying out the Bush Cuba policy has begun to rear its head more often. In the last few weeks US law has been twisted to allow transmittal of propoganda on US soil (thank you Direct TV), and now the media arm of the US Government - Voice of America (VOA) - has rencently initiated a major offensive against Cuba. Titled innoculously "Life in Cuba Today," the 3-part series began with this totally unbalanced assessment of Cuba:

It is impossible to visit Cuba and not be struck by the island's extraordinary beauty. Just 150 kilometers off the U.S. coast, it is also impossible to visit Cuba and not be struck by its extensive poverty. Much of downtown Havana is literally crumbling... And its people are struggling too... earning the equivalent of around $10 U.S. a month
Yet, in many ways, most Cubans live like some of the poorest people in Latin America. This is evident on the streets of the Cuban capital, where there appears to be large-scale joblessness despite government claims of full-employment.

When you watch the video, this is all much funnier. When they talk about the people they cut from a scene of well-dressed folks walking to the scene of a dark-skinned guy sitting and a man slepping. When they talk about the crumbling, they pan on a street with some dirt on it and some old shutters. When they talk about joblessness they show some men playing dominoes in the street (looks like a student, a child and some pensioners to me).

Nevermind that Cuba DOES have full employment, using the mainstream definition - or at least the CIA's (1.9% unemplyment=FULL). Nevermind that these "poorest people in Latin America" rank 6th highest in terms of human development out of 102 developing countries. And last but not least, the $10 dollars a month figure is out of date (about 70% too low by conservative estimates).

But the VOA's real mettle is displayed when we get to hear from their "average Cubans," recorded (secretly) over its 10 days in Havana. Predictably we get 3 decidedly similar outlooks - things are stuck, we need a change.

"I think that this country is in a freeze. A freeze in time, in the development, in everything".
"I think this country can change, but it's going to take too much time. Twenty years maybe. People continue living the same way as 50 years ago."
"This is a very strong system, you know. It has been built stone by stone, control and control. It's very difficult that it will collapse because it is very strong. But I don't like it all, this system, it's completely dead".

Considering the installment's prominent space on VOA's homepage (above), I can't wait for tomorrow's pearls of wisdom. Allow me to wager that we get lost more untruth and more quotes and conclusions that suppor the Bush Adminstration's policy of regime change in Cuba.



Blogger jsb said...

Well, if you won't believe VOA, perhaps you'll believe Cuba's official Communications Minister.

"(The Internet) ...constitutes one of the tools for global extermination."

"The wild colt of new technologies can and must be controlled."

Valdes said a way should be found to eradicate "the diffusion of pornography, encouragement of terrorism, racism, fraud, spread of fascist ideologies and any kind of manifestation of cybernetic crime...(on the internet)"

At least now that Venezuela is going to provide a fiber optic link to the internet for Cuba, you won't have that excuse any more. What new excuse for keeping the internet out of Cuban homes will you come up with then?

5:20 AM  
Blogger leftside said...

The full quote is: Internet technologies "constitute one of the tools for global extermination," he said, referring to U.S. policies, but they "are also necessary to continue to advance down the path of development."

Even Reporters Sans Fronteirs (RSF) admits there is no censorship of the Cuban internet. The acknowledge that the slow connection and bandwith issues are a direct result of the US embargo (limiting Cuba's web access point and technological solutions). Cuba has had to rationalize use. They say this prioritization of community centers, schools, government services over those with money equals "control and surveilence." But they also admit any Cuban can get access at internet cafes and kiosks in public buildings - and the entire web (minus some fanatical Miami groups who have a history of violence) is open for viewing.

Now you are right, when the fiber-optic connection with Venezuela is complete we would expect to see a further opening to private homes.

8:57 AM  
Blogger leftside said...

I forgot to add, what Valdes was referring to specifically, was the United States' use of the internet in its regime change plans - not only in Cuba but elsewhere (we know the invasion of Iraq was preceeded by an email to all Iraqi commanders asking them to defect).

The US gives dissidents priority at its Interest Section to file stories with foreign news organizations. The US funds web sites who's sole purpose is to publish negative "stories" (I use that term lightly) to justify the embargo and future action against Cuba.

When these aggressive actions against Cuba stop, in addition to the embargo issues, there will no need for these regulations you oppose.

9:06 AM  
Blogger Cuba Journal said...

I did not bother to read the article. Coming from the VOA, I knew that it would be U.S. propaganda.

They could have written the whole article with just three words: We Hate Socialism.

10:13 AM  
Blogger jsb said...

And remind me, in addition to not be allowed to have internet use in the home, why the government is sooooo afraid of satellite dishes? Surely the revolution can survive a little bit of TV Marti in their homes. Or are you saying the revolution is so weak, that people shouldn't be allowed to make the choice to watch want they want? Is it that you know better than the average Cuban?


5:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

You site Reporters Without Borders on the internet restrictions, but did you bother to read the whole 2007 country report or the ranking of Cuba as second to last in the world for press freedom.

That is 165 out of 166 countries with only North Korea as worse. So how does that jibe with your view or do you just pick and choose what you want from these organizations to fit your argument?

2:26 PM  
Blogger leftside said...

I only cited RSF because it is well known as having an extreme Cuba obsession, to say the very least. Their ties with CIA front groups NED and Center for Free Cuba are easily documented (the only US groups that fund RSF).

So when they wrote a report on the Cuban internet that said that censorship does not exist - and that "price, not politics" (ie. embargo) is to blame for Cuba's low rate of internet connectivity, their words spoke louder that any other group could have.

But their credibility is shot on Cuba. Whether influenced by anti-Cuba money they recieve, or the private obsessions of their Director, their record is clear. None of their reports take into consideration the range of critical reporting that appears on the island. None of it acknowledges the presence of a superpower out to crush a regime using media. Not one of their pieces on the March 2003 "journalists" arrested in Cuba say a word even trying to justify working with an enemy country's Embassy, it's propoganda radio and TV vehicles (Marti) or its subsidized websites (CubaNet). They ignore the significance of the issue alltogether. How can they be credible when they don't even try to differentiate between those arrested for working with Washington and those who are truly working independently (and who remain free)??

JSB, if it is illegal for you and me to our hear/see Government's propoganda, why should the targeted population have a right to hear it? If we stopped our flagrantry illegal transmissions, the ball would be in Cuba's court. Until then, my job is to highlight the things MY Government does to prevent more openings in Cuba.

3:30 PM  

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