Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Beyonce, Jay-Z and Cuba

This morning at 7:15 am had the opportunity to address a national audience on Fox and Friends. In the space of 2 and a half minutes some of what I wanted to say was left out (although not much) but thought it would be worthwhile to reproduce it below in another format. 

On March 7, 2013 Yris Pérez Aguilera, the president of the Rosa Parks Women's Movement for Civil Rights was once again hit in the head repeatedly by State Security agents to the point of unconsciousness who then blocked her from receiving adequate medical care. She has a large cyst in the back of her head, a product of this and previous beatings, she is also losing vision in her left eye, vomiting (that included blood), dizziness and numbness in her cheek that are the result of years of abuse at the hands of the same people who gave Beyonce and Jay-Z a tour of Havana. 

The totalitarian dictatorship in Cuba is a master of distraction, but compared to the regime in North Korea, although equally repressive, it has a better public relations apparatus. It was the Cuban government that first released footage and news of the Jay-Z and Beyonce trip describing it as tourism. 

The Castro regime wanted a media storm to take attention away from three Cuban women exposing the brutal reality in Cuba: 

Ladies in White spokesperson Bertha Soler whose movement suffers beatings and harassment for seeking the release of Cuban political prisoners. There is a campaign underway over twitter to encourage the couple to meet Ladies in White leader under the hashtag: #5mins4Berta

Rosa Maria Payá, the daughter of Cuban dissident Oswaldo Payá killed under suspicious circumstances along with Harold Cepero on July 22, 2012 and who on April 9, 2013 in Washington, DC called for an international investigation into her dad’s death and denounced death threats her family is receiving. 

Finally, Yoani Sanchez, the plain speaking Cuban blogger who has spoken truth to power and has also paid the price being abducted, beaten having a tooth knocked out in the process. 

Now the debate over whether Beyonce and Jay-Z engaged in tourism or a cultural or academic exchange is one that is being waged over legal considerations but in the broader context is not that important because most of the cultural and academic exchanges touted by many are nothing more than exercises in indoctrination

The spectacle of fans of Beyonce and Jay-Z tweeting death threats and slurs against Stacey Dash after she criticized the trip is language that demonstrates some of their apologists have absorbed the totalitarian mentality that the Cuban government has repressed Cubans with for over a half century. 

Sociologist Paul Hollander in his book, Political Pilgrims: Western Intellectuals in Search of the Good Society, analyzes how totalitarian regimes, such as the one in China and in Cuba, are able to disguise the horrors taking place in their systems presenting it in a positive light to visitors. It is necessary reading for those who advocate academic and cultural exchanges with totalitarian regimes.

Years ago, at a youth gathering at Harvard University, I had the opportunity to engage a bright young student who had just returned from a semester in Cuba and she was spouting Cuban government propaganda. My response to her was to give her a list of links to Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the Inter-American Human Rights Commission on the human rights situation on the island and past atrocities. She came back a couple of hours later in tears of anger for having been lied to and manipulated.

It is not only the Cuban dictatorship that is responsible here but also the academic institutions that out of a fear of having their program shutdown in Cuba go along with it. 

Furthermore the one group that the Cuban government cannot brainwash is the one subjected to the most restrictions. Cubans wanting to return to their homeland to visit need to go through a visa application process that is more arduous then what foreigners must go through and as many as 300,000 have been denied entry to their own country. I know this first hand because it was done to my parents and I personally know of other cases. 

Remember, while Beyonce and Jay-Z were enjoying the hospitality of the Cuban government that another American Alan Gross has been in prison there since December 3, 2009 for trying to provide uncensored internet access to the local Jewish community there. 

The regime in Cuba is a brutal totalitarian dictatorship that despite appearances has not changed its fundamental nature. Heaven only knows what impression the two celebrities got from their government organized visit, but it is safe to assume that the plight of Cuban dissidents of African descent was not included and that is a pity.

No comments:

Post a Comment