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Sunday, June 25, 2006


Just when growing numbers of international organizations are stepping up their criticism of Cuba's decades-old ban on freedom of expression, a series of thoughtless measures in Florida -- Gov. Jeb Bush's ban on funds for academic travel to Cuba, and Miami-Dade County's School Board ban on the children's book "Vamos a Cuba" -- are giving the Cuban dictatorship new ammunition to shift attention away from its medieval censorship practices. Read the full column.


Blogger Boli-Nica said...

I agree that banning that children book was wrong. It was not only wrong it was a silly and hypocritical thing to do, specially when supporters claimed they were "protecting" children from "lies".

As for state-funded travel to Cuba, I do not think that is an issue of censorship. The taxpayers of the State have a right to say what and where their money should be spent at state institutions. The academics if I am correctly informed, can still apply for Federal or private monies to travel to Cuba and conduct research.
--I do agree that it is important for US academics to do research in Cuba, and to develop contacts with their counterparts in the island.

7:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Will Cuba let ANY U.S. scholar in? Or just handpicked, trusted ones with many years' service to the regime and unquestioned fidelity to advancing the cause, like Nelson Valdes of University of New Mexico. That's what I think this scholarship stuff is really all about. It's not about the free exchange of ideas, but the empowerment of pro-Castro operatives and fifth columns already ensconced in the U.S. seeking to expand their means of doing the bidding of the Castro regime. There's not a free thinker among the groups that seek freedom of travel to Cuba with U.S. taxpayer funds. If there were, I might think differently, but I know who they are and how they have spent their entire lives devoted to the advancement of the odious Castro regime. That's what's really at stake here. Tell them they can go on their own dime.

2:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Boli: Did you ever read horsesheet about a place when you were a little kid and awaken rudely when you found out the truth was different? I did, I remember reading stuff about how wonderful Keynesian economics was and how much more 'advanced' eastern Europe was and how Russian cows give more milk than American cows and how communism ensured that poor kids as well as rich kids got toys to play with. It took me a long time to sort that crap out, and distinguish fiction from reality. You get a sense of betrayal when you have to sort like that. That's why I think a blatantly false book fed to small kids - which they will have to sort out when they get older - isn't doing them a service. Would you want a doctor with quack medicine ideas operating on you in the name of freedom of expression, and you'd get the assurance that you could sort out your medical problems when you were 18? Little kids don't have much choice on information, they have to take what is put in front of them. Would you really have wanted a diet of lies fed to you when you were little, just so some leftist could preserve his or her 'free speech' rights to spread lies on the vulnerable young who know no better? I think garbage should be available to adults in the name of free speech but since little kids have no choice and will eventually have to find out the truth, I see no point in betraying their trustingness. At the very least, purveyers of lies about Cuba should be free to sue the author for malpractice once the lid gets blown off the Castro regime and the truth comes out.

2:45 AM  
Blogger leftside said...

Andres, kudos for picking an upopular fight in Miami. But your info on the net in Cuba is just wrong (there is no way Haiti has more net usage - I found a survey that said 5 towns have net access). Cuba has a million students using the net alone. Also, you ignore the main problem, the disallowance of Cuba by the US to hook into the main sub-ocean fiber optic line. Instead they must rely totally on costly and inefficient satellites. This and their universal access policy means they have to ration usage to priority uses - all towns, to health, education, govt., etc. If Farinas is willing to die for the Cubans right to FREE access, is he dying for the average Miami citizen's FREE rights to a PC and net access?

That exile Cubans so readily support the banning of this (totally normal) childrens book yet jump up and down over supposed Cuban acts of censorship (none of which comes close to matching this) is just one of a string of hypocrises.

Anon1, Cuba lets in anyone. No one that I know of has been denied an entrance visa by Cuba. But fine people from the US are 100% denied by our Govt. to go there... Yeah pro-Castroites and Cuba operatives are so rampant that we must protect ourselves...

Anon2, hate to tell you but Keynesian economics runs the world and is in a particularly big upsurge lately. What, exactly, "blatantly false" statement in the Vamos a Cuba book so offends common decency? I'll make sure to put quotes around "free speech" next time you're ilk defends those (75) 'independent jounralists' who've taken money from the US to write one sided non-journalism.

4:35 AM  
Blogger Boli-Nica said...

Not to pimp my blog ;, but let me repeat something I said last week:

This is not required reading or a textbook for students, it is a book in a childrens library!
Removing books from tax-supported public school systems is patently offensive to anyone who cares about censorship and freedom of speech.

If an author gives wrong or misleading information about Cuba, find another source that offers the truth. If a kids read a book that shows Cubans with full plates of foods (which is what this book did), the parents can set him/her straight.

Children in grade school read Harry Potter, they can surely read a 40 page book critically. Heck, the book is so stupid, even my 4 year nephew would say its dumb.

Is it offensive to Cuban-Americans? Well, let me ask if Huckleberry Finn or Tom Sawyer are offensive to African Americans? Why, because that was exactly the argument made by parents who tried to remove Twain's books - and that was censorship and wrong too. Many "selective libertarians" were among the loudest complaining about censorship and political corectness in that case, lets see if they step up now.
Ultimately, if people really want to fight Castro, support the freedoms he so clearly denies Cubans.

And anyway, parents should stop wasting time and energy trying to censor childrens books. People in Miami (and South Florida for that matter) would do better getting their kids to read ANYTHING - or pick up a book themselves. A city this big where reading "The Da Vinci Code" is viewed as an intellectual feat, and which lacks a classical music radio station, sure could use some culture.

2:48 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Muy buena defensa del derecho a leer y de la necesidad de aprender a desechar por cuenta propia o por nuestros padres (maestros desde el primer dia hasta el último); aquello que se evidentemente basura. Yo leí A Karl Marx y me pareció una basura y nos más que un sueño imposible entre los hombres. Leí el Código Da Vinci y me pareció un muy buen libro de misterio. Lo que quieran inventar, me parece tan ridículo como la crítica a la película de Mel Gibson. Y seguí leyendo y leyendo y encontré libros buenos y malos.

5:19 AM  
Blogger Andres Oppenheimer said...

Leftside, the Cuba internet numbers are right. You can find them in the World Bank publication I cited in the column.

8:26 AM  
Blogger leftside said...

Excuse me if I don’t take everything the World Bank says as truth when concerning Cuba. Particularly when they claim Haiti has 3x the internet usage of Cuba (or just 169,000 internet users). Good stats are hard to find on Cuba. But this is what I did find on google:

There are approximately 34,000 web pages in the world that are originated in Haiti. In Cuba there are almost 3.5 million.

In 2004 CNN reported there were “480,000 email users and roughly the same number of internet users.” Today there are 900,000 email users.

Cuba has computers in every school in the country - most hooked to the net. Cuba has graduated 1 million students from 'computer clubs,' which were all equipped with the net. The net is available in every decent sized town in Cuba - at the post office, library or dollar kiosks (which were full of Cubans when I was there). Most Cubans hook up semi-legally, through 'borrowed' accounts, which may not be tracked. In Haiti, I found that just 5 cities have net acces and just .9% of the population has phone lines, so how can 5.3% of the country have the net?

1:27 PM  
Blogger A.M. Mora y Leon said...

Leftside: There is no point to getting Internet access if you are not allowed to read what you like. In Cuba, information is strictly controlled and the information you have access to is not something the average Cuban has access to, not even publications you might think of as Bible-truth, like, say People's Weekly World or Green Left Weekly. Castro trusts none of them. He only wants Cubans to have information that the state bureaucracy has carefully vetted, to ensure that no ideologicial impurity gets through. If the post office were censoring all of your reading material, I doubt you'd like the fare they forked over to you for your reading material. It'd be very dull stuff. But more to the point, you'd not be trusted with the freedom of the Internet due to the state's fear of your not thinking orthodox mind-controlled thoughts.

Dissent is absolutely forbidden in communist Cuba.

1:04 AM  
Blogger leftside said...

Mora, have you been to Cuba lately? I have and I was in an internet cafe with dozens of Cubans all free to surf the web without any restriction.

I also had conversations with plenty of Cubans who had both good and bad things to say about the Revolution and Fidel. This image you have of a paranoid police state simply isn't the case. Again, according to a recent maximum count by 'dissident' groups, there are only maybe 300 or so people in jail for political reasons. So are there only 300 people dissenting in Cuba, or is your ideas about a police state fantasy? (and again, most of those 300 were found in court to have foreign ties and/or employment)

Yes, the post office access is for intranet only. But that is due to bandwidth problems.

12:36 PM  
Blogger Boli-Nica said...

Bizarre how the issue of censorship in Dade County of books turned into a long defense of Castroite internet access.

5:08 PM  
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