Cuba "Dissident" Should Not Receive Press Freedom Award
Below is a letter I wrote to the honchos over at the PEN America Center, who have decided to award their 2007 PEN/Barbara Goldsmith Freedom to Write Award to Cuban "dissident" Normando Hernandez Gonzalez. Mr Gonzalez was one of those arrested in 2003 for working with the US Government to undermine Cuba.
I was very surprised to read that a distinguished orgnization like PEN would bestow its BG award to someone like Mr. Normando Hernandez Gonzalez from Cuba. Though facts are sorely lacking on your biography of him, I hope someone at PEN has adequately researched the background of Mr Gonzalez's case. If not, pleae allow me to summarize some things you can find in his detailed case file, which is available online here.
Mr Gonzalez is certainly not "independent" and his qualifications as a journalist are also lacking. Gonzalez made his living on the payroll of the United State Government, contributing more than a hundred times to the blatant US propoganda channel called Radio Marti. His other outlet was in the heavily US funded CubaNet online site (gets funding streams from USAID and NED). That his work corresponded to the stated interests of an enemy power would make him an "agent" in most any liberal definition (at least not independent). The US has detained people for far less (journalist Susan Lindauer, Carlos Alvarez and the Cuban 5 to name a few).
Gonzalez's reports were paid for by the US Government because they are the sort of thing they need to justify an internationally condemned, illegal, devastating economic embargo - and who knows what else in these post-Fidel days (the US has a secret annex in its Plan for Transformation, which insiders say relies heavily on these agents). The law Gonzalez was charged under is not one you or I support. But it is important to note that it was only put into effect after the US Government allocated funds for these exact purposes - as well as facilitating regime change (the US stated policy) and underminding the independence of Cuba.
Gonzalez's articles, which I have gone back and read on CubaNet, hardly reach the level of journalism. Doesn't journalism requrie some sort of attempt at investigation or telling both sides? What self respecting country can allow its citizens to make thousands of dollars for writing such non-serious things in paid service of an enemy that has killed thousands and costs it billions every year? How can the Cuban people sympathize with someone living like a king by doing a major part to keep the economic stranglehold of the embargo in place?
I fear this award will only embolden the forces in the US who want to continue to ramp up such illegal funding, which will only lead to more restrictions and crackdowns in Cuba and other countries around the world.The only hope of achieving more freedom in Cuba rests with US de-escalation and removal of active regime change policies. Then we can focus on removing the corresponding laws in Cuba that do indeed restrict freedoms. But to legitimize the US hardline approach will only nullify Cuban reformers.
So I formally and urgently request that PEN further research the case of Mr Gonzalez and to respond to the allegations put forth here. Does PEN really believe Mr Gonzalez was independent or a journalist? if the Miami Herald can fire reporters for working for Radio Marti on the side (as it did earlier this year) why is Gonzalez worthy of support? Is he really the Cuba you want to recognize, when there are hundreds more doing truly independent work, outside of the arms of Washington? Those brave souls who resist the tempation are the ones groups like PEN and RSF need to seek out.
I will await a response.