Friday, April 29, 2011

Letters (Unencripted) From Cuba / Ernesto Morales Licea

Letters (Unencripted) From Cuba / Ernesto Morales Licea
Ernesto Morales Licea, Translator: Unstated

It's not the first time an article by Fernando Ravsberg, Cuban
correspondent for the honorable BBC, left me feeling frustrated,
bittersweet, as a result of, in my judgment, certain skin deep and
inconsistent analyses established by him.

But it is the first time I've decided to comment in writing. Now, after
reading his last blog post, I break the ice.

Of course I knew the wide acceptance "Letters from Cuba" has among some
readers in my country, including among my personal friends; and I knew,
also, the notorious discredit this journalist has among the community of
independent bloggers, and among many Cuban intellectuals who, in
addition to exercising their right to disagree with official dogma, take
the written word as a fundamental means of expression.

His well-read blog, also followed by those who see in him an approach
different from the national daily's, is criticized by others who brand
it complacent and vaguely hypocritical, the velvet glove with which
Fernando Ravsberg draws the reality of the Island for the world. Let no
one doubt it: a blog hosted on the BBC has readers of course, and this
implies a responsibility in capital letters.

In which of these two factions — if that is the split — do I include
myself? Well from time to time I pass through his website, "hearing" his
particular view of the facts, agreeing or disagreeing, and always I
respect, as a colleague, the intellectual exercise implied in wanting to
reflect a country as convulsed as Cuba, in just a few paragraphs.

To be perfectly strict I have to say, also: I'm sure that the BBC could
find better professionals to send to the Caribbean nation. Fernando
Ravsberg is not a significant journalist in our language, today, and
serves in one of the most complex and challenging theaters (Cuba) that
can be found in the world today.

On my personal scale, he's a craftsman of words, someone with an
academic style, grammatically correct, but without something inherent in
every practitioner of memorable journalist: a refined style. His
writings, even the best and most poignant, exude a clerical preparation,
that of the report. Fortunately they always have the virtue of brevity.

However, this is not so now, after reading "Honeymoon, the virtual war,
real life," compels me to write about the Uruguayan journalist who has
wandered, for a long time, slowing and with pen in hand, among the ruins
of our singular Havana.

Fernando Ravsberg does not understand why independent bloggers, or
classic opponents, need to encrypt their messages to send them off the
Island, or even to communicate within its walls.

To this I, a Cuban as he is not, add: not only the disaffected, millions
of ordinary citizens also need to compress and encrypt their
communications, if they want to keep a minimal personal privacy.

I quote Ravsberg unfortunate text, "The dissident bloggers have reason
to say that in Cuba privacy is not respected and so encryption
techniques are criticized. It could be, but I bet that in these times
encrypted messages raise suspicions even in the most democratic nations
of the world."

And then he adds, "Maybe it's that I know few people but there isn't a
single one of my friends who uses encryption keys to communicate on the

Carefully considered, analysis such as this is what generates my lack of
confidence in the intelligent thought of this communications
professional. Or, still worse, his commitment to the truth.

Because supporting such a thesis, Fernando Ravsberg forgets, doesn't
know, or hides, a great truth: in democratic nations individuals not
only don't encrypt their dissident messages, but they wrack their brains
looking for ways to make them public.

I will never forget my fascination, three days after stepping on
American soil, seeing an old man at a stoplight with a sign — Republican
— that read: "How much more will it take for Obama to understand he's
not eligible to be President, let alone for a Nobel Prize."

In democratic nations, only those who place bombs in metro stations,
smuggle organs and drugs, or harm society with their criminal acts, need
to protect their electronic or telephone communications. Not law-abiding

And if the BBC colleague says that not one of his friends uses
encryption keys to communicate online, his statement leads to two

1. The man chosen by the British to sniff out the essence of Cuban
society, doesn't have among his acquaintances a single "ordinary" Cuban,
of those who set passwords for their archives using WinRAR to
communicate privately with a family member living abroad, or to arrange
a trip to escape.

2. The man chosen by the English doesn't have the slightest idea of what
it is to use a clandestine Internet connection with protective passwords
or anonymous proxies to hide the sites he wants to visit.

And he doesn't know for a key reason — the essence of my disagreement as
a colleague and as part of the burdened nation he has decided to
recreate — because Fernando Ravsberg seeks to establish well-informed
judgments about a country which, in its essence, he does not know.

To give him the benefit of the doubt, to not tar him with the brush
applicable to so many journalists who, in order to continue their stay
in this Jurassic and exotic scene which is Cuba decide to use the soft
tones of a tourist watercolor to paint their written portraits, I prefer
to call him a poorly integrated foreigner. Not an opportunist.

But the same tropical Cuban oxygen isn't breathed by the person who
emerges from a debate sponsored by the magazine "Topics" in the narrow
Strawberry and Chocolate room in the capital and runs to his page to
post cheers to a perceived tolerance, to progress on freedom of
expression, on the same day that Stephen Morales was expelled from the
Party for criticizing corruption and I lost my job for dissenting from
the national information policy.

Serious in a journalism of respect: shortly after a new post, backtracks
from his raucous joy, and admits the gag imposed by the organizers of
the civic debate, which banned him if he wanted to continue attending,
from writing about what happened there.

More serious still: Week later, the correct Ravsberg accepts the rules
of the game, and in order to preserve his permission to enter the little
debate in the capital room, he publishes a post as a wink, about
"nothing happened" there. The wink is this: "It's agreed that I say
nothing, they don't close the doors, right?"

Above and beyond my very personal opinions, above and beyond my true
respect for his way of exercising our so complex and subjective trade,
and above and beyond my transparent evaluations with regards to his
basic handling of the journalism tool, the written word, Fernando
Ravsberg posits an ethical and moral view that, if he is an honest man —
which I think he is — needs to be addressed very soon, and sharply: "The
Cuba that I describe, is my Cuba — that of a semi-assimilated and
well-favored Uruguayan, or is it the Cuba that a demanding and truthful
journalist should write about?"

There is no intense journalism without conflicts. Anyone who wishes to
remain on good terms with God and with the Devil should change their
profession. Or, merciful alternative, move the context and write a blog
entitled "Letters from Switzerland." I'm sure that there they will not
know citizens who need to protect themselves from the great eye that
sees everything, encrypting their messages.

Pardon the absolutism, but writing about Cuba is far too much for them —
those who do not respectfully suffer the ailments of an aching country,
or those who have not engaged themselves in an extra dose of commitment,
ethics, and bravery.

March 23 2011

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