Fidel Castro wages war on Cuban bloggers

First, there was this offensive salvo launced, as noted in Gateway Pundit:

Back in February Fidel Castro was awarded the Computer Youth Club Award for being the father of this movement in Cuba.

Also awarded the prize was his brother and fellow tyrant Raul Castro.

Then, there was this, courtesy of Babalu Blog: Cuban bloggers, an endangered species?

Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez has been attacked today by THE official Cuban journalist, Rosa Miriam Elizalde in Cubadebate site. That’s not the first time, but is a good example of the official point-of-view about independent blogging in Cuba.

Now there’s this, courtesy of the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida: Cuba cutting Internet access :

“Internet use is only for foreigners for the time being,” said a worker at the Hotel Nacional’s business center. “According to a new order from ETECSA [Cuba’s telecom monopoly] only foreigners can surf the web at hotels.”

But hey, let’s just lift the embargo and everything will be alright!

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Wild, wild horses, couldn’t keep Cubans from yearning for freedom

Or wild colts, as the case may be.

Remember last year when Cuba’s chief propagandist, Ramiro Valdes, said Cuba needs to tame “the wild colt of new technologies” (meaning the Internet)?

Well, via the wonderful blog Bilingual in the Boonies, today I learned about a new blog from Cuba (yes, fron INSIDE Castro’s huge island Gulag) called “Potro Salvaje” (Wild Colt). Potro Salvaje says it’s a “blog about the thorny issue of the Internet in Cuba.” It calls itself a “virtual raft” and it’s motto is “we must liberate the tamed colt of technology,” a dig at Valdes’ comment.

Cool! I’ve added them to the blogroll and I’ll take a stab at translating some of their posts from time to time.

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Truth about Cuba hard to find in MSM

But every once in a while you stumble upon a gem like this piece titled “Truth hard to find in Cuba, press panel says” in today’s Sun-Sentinel:

From outlawed satellite dishes to jammed radio signals, Cubans face an obstacle course of government controls over information as their island settles into new leadership.

This was the picture drawn Monday by panelists at the general assembly of the Inter American Press Association, where experts discussed how news gets in and out of communist Cuba. The forum came more than a year after President Fidel Castro fell ill and passed the reins of power to his brother Raul.

Castro’s health is a state secret in Cuba, where officials impose tight controls on domestic news. The Cuban government publishes the country’s main newspapers and transmits its domestic newscasts, which in turn act as vehicles for policy announcements.

Read the rest here.

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BBC reporter kicked out of Cuba speaks

Stephen Gibbs of the BBC talks about his experience of getting kicked out of Cuba for reportage the Castro regime didn’t like, with a bit of a focus on the logisitics of moving from Cuba itself:

Moving home, they say, is one of life’s five most stressful experiences. It comes in at number three. Ranked a bit below bereavement, a bit above divorce.

But in Cuba it is different. Packing up a home in Cuba is easy.

The reason is that you do not have to go through that agonising problem of wondering about what to do with all your junk. You can sell it, or give it away. All of it. In a matter of hours.

Cuba is a place where almost all consumer items are prohibitively expensive, or, more likely, not available. And scarcity breeds desire.

Most Cubans, and plenty of foreigners living on the island, spend the majority of their time not thinking about the country’s future, or transitional governments, or the health of Fidel Castro, but on rather more mundane things. Like how to find a square meal, a fridge that works, or an electric fan.

Yep, it’s that wonderful Cuban socialist economy at “work.” You can see how it works to Castro’s advantage, though: if you spend your day worrying about how you’re going to get your next meal, it’s kind of hard to worry about overthrowing the government.

Mr. Gibbs talks about other things in Cuba, too, such as press censorship and why he got kicked out:

I had a first-hand glimpse of all this when I returned to my home in Old Havana, just days after hearing the disappointing news that I was one of three foreign correspondents to be stripped of their press accreditation by the Cuban government. Our reporting was deemed “negative” by a nameless committee.

As I entered my apartment the phone was ringing. It was an ex-pat friend whom I had not heard from for some time. The conversation went along these lines: “I am so sorry to hear you are being thrown out,” he said, “what a disgraceful attempt to intimidate the foreign press.”

Later on, he talks about an amateurish, ridiculously botched attempt at censorship of the film Hotel Rwanda by the Castro government:

I was at home watching it, when, a few minutes after the opening titles, I noticed that some shots had been clumsily repeated. It had been edited.

I happened to have a DVD of the original version. I put it on to compare the two.

It became obvious that the Cuban censors had gone to the trouble of cutting out a 30 second portion of the film. The banned images contained a couple of harmless jokes about Cuban cigars.

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Cuban journalist “freed” from prison

Of course, when you’re talking about Fidel Castro’s Cuba, being “freed” from prison is a relative term. After all, Cuba under the Castro brothers is nothing but a huge, open-air prison.

But I digress.

According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), independent Cuban journalist Armando Betancourt Reina was released Monday. He’d been imprisoned in Cerámica Roja Prison in Camagüey since May of last year.

This is great news. But it’s tempered by the following statement by CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon:

“…We reiterate our calls for Cuban authorities to immediately release the other 24 journalists unjustly imprisoned today in Cuba for expressing their views.”

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Ha, ha, ha, hee, hee, hee, ho, ho, ho…

Either these guys are kissing major butt, or they have the most deliciously wicked sense of sarcasm:

The Cuban Journalists Union (UPEC) granted “President” Fidel Castro the Prize to (sic) Dignity for his exceptional merits and his work in favor of the Cuban press.

Prize of Dignity?!?!?! To CASTRO!?!?!?! Har, har, I’ve been laughing all day over this one! Castro’s propagandists clearly have a great sense of humor! Too bad it’s unintentional on their part.

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As Castro’s health improves,

the health of journalists unjustly condemned to Castro’s Gulag during the Black Spring of 2003 suffers:

Families and friends of eight independent Cuban journalists who have been unjustly imprisoned since 2003 say that the health of their loved ones has seriously deteriorated in recent months amid poor prison conditions and insufficient health care.

In a series of interviews with the Committee to Protect Journalists, relatives and friends described health problems ranging from diabetes and a tumor to pneumonia and cataracts. In some cases, they say, the journalists have received little medical attention. They say hot and unsanitary prison conditions have exacerbated the medical problems. Pre-existing ailments have worsened in prison, the families and friends say, while a host of serious new illnesses have arisen among those jailed.

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Cuba #5 country where press freedom has most deteriorated

In honor of World Press Freedom Day, May 3, the Committee to Protect Journalists has published a list called “Backsliders,” of the top 10 countries where press freedom has most deteriorated.

Surprise, surprise, Cuba made the list.

Here are a few choice lines from the article:

  • Other countries such as Cuba have long had poor records but have ratcheted up press restrictions through widespread imprisonments, expulsions, and harassment.
  • Authorities in several countries are silencing critical coverage by imprisoning journalists. Cuba and Ethiopia became two of the world’s leading jailers of journalists in the past five years.
  • Twenty-nine journalists imprisoned in massive 2003 crackdown. Four foreign journalists expelled after covering 2005 opposition meeting. Another 10 barred entry when Fidel Castro becomes ill in 2006.
  • Cases of government harassment increase in the past year.
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Anti-Castro news makes MSM?!?!

Holy cow, the Apocalypse must be coming soon! I found an article about an anti-Castro journalist winning a Spanish journalism award on both the Miami Herald’s and ABC News’ respective websites:

Cuban dissident writer Raul Rivero has won a prestigious Spanish journalism award for his work as a journalist reporting on his native country, where he spent two years in jail on charges of trying to undermine President Fidel Castro’s government.

Rivero, who is 62 and moved to Madrid in 2005 after being released from prison, won one of several Ortega y Gasset prizes that were announced Wednesday. The awards, now in their 24th year, are given by Spain’s top-selling newspaper, El Pais.

The jury voted unanimously to give Rivero the prize for journalism in recognition of his “tenacious and committed battle for journalistic freedom” in Cuba.

It praised Rivero, who is also a poet, for a life’s work that is “very original and of extraordinary literary value.”

Rivero was among 75 independent journalists, opposition politicians and other activists who were arrested in 2003.

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Chavez=a “desacato” to humanity

Hugo Chavez, Fidel Castro’s Mini-Me and dictator of Venezuela, is an insult to humanity and freedom-loving people everywhere.

Here’s an excerpt of a U.S. State Department report on the latest goings on in the oil-rich Latin American nation:

Desacato or “insult” laws, which have been used to punish journalists for challenging their country’s leaders, have been part of the criminal code in most Latin American nations since their independence in the 19th century. Now, with most of the region enjoying greater freedom of expression, enforcement of the laws largely has stopped.

However, the need for their permanent removal is reinforced by the example of President Hugo Chavez’s administration, where the Venezuelan state has been using desacato laws to jail, silence and intimidate journalists, and even has enacted further measures to stifle the media’s ability to convey perspectives to the Venezuelan people that differ from those of the regime.

“These laws have intimidated journalists,” said Alfredo Ravell, director of Venezuela’s Globovision Television Network. He told USINFO that with the constant threat of state sanctions, journalists in his country tend to practice self-censorship lest they report information that could raise the ire of those in power.

“Cases of corruption or those in which public officials are directly or indirectly criticized are the ones of more concern for journalists, who feel their reports could bring accusations for desacato,” Ravell said.

CRACKDOWN ON RCTV AN OMINOUS PRECEDENT

The risks faced by Venezuelan journalists have a clear example in case of RCTV, which will be effectively silenced May 27 due to the Chavez regime’s refusal to renew its broadcasting license. The television network has been one of the few to express critical editorial opinions and present information that differs from the official state position.

Ravell considers the treatment of RCTV an ominous sign for the future of press freedom in Venezuela.

“[G]overnment spokespeople constantly mention measures against media outlets who are ‘enemies of the revolution’ or ‘imperialists’ and so on … and that suggests that after RCTV, attacks against other media will follow,” he said.

Globovision, is facing increased pressure from the regime and its journalists also have been the target of violent attacks over the past few years, including during Venezuela’s recent election campaign, Ravell said.

Desacato laws also were used by the Chavez government in 2006 to reopen criminal proceedings against journalist Napoleón Bravo on charges that he defamed the country’s Supreme Tribunal of Justice. In its 2006 report on the state of freedom of expression in the Western Hemisphere, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, an autonomous organ of the Organization of American States, said Venezuela has used desacato laws to prosecute reporter Gustavo Azócar and the editor of El Siglo newspaper, Mireya Zurita.

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