Monday, August 8, 2016

Karina Marron's UPEC intervention

As promised, here is my translation of Granma deputy editor Karina Marron's intervention at the Cuban Journalists Union (UPEC) plenum on June 28. The global corporate media have seized on her comments, in the paragraph beginning "A perfect storm is brewing", to speculate that social unrest might be about to break out in Cuba as it weathers a difficult economic conjuncture. See footnote 5 below for further contextualisation of these comments. What shines through Marron's intervention is the sincerity of her revolutionary convictions.

Karina Marron's UPEC intervention

June 28, 2016

Translation: Marce Cameron


In a meeting we had at the Journalism Institute with young people from all over the country, if there was one thing that pleased us it was identifying other young people from the press sector who also wanted to try to transform, to change [the press], who had the desire to work together to transform the reality. And it was said in this meeting that there's a concerted effort to bring about a rift between the [Cuban Communist] Party and the press; and we can't ignore this. But as long as we, the Party and the press, continue to look elsewhere rather than where our real problems lie, while we continue viewing things in isolation rather than as a whole, we'll never resolve the problems we've been discussing for years.

And will Karina [a reference to herself in the third person] perhaps be the Rosa Miriam[1] of that era [i.e. of the new blood of Cuban journalism], and other people such as Sergio[2], saying the things that Raul Garces[3] has been saying for so many years, and others who are older than me; then they'll be the ones who'll do the talking, and we'll continue repeating the cycle. If we're fortunate enough to repeat the cycle, [because] what's happening, señores, is that we don't have time to repeat the cycle. [APPLAUSE]

I sincerely believe that what we have to see when the young journalists quit on us, is simply that we have, in the youth, the expression of the society we have today, and it's just as Iramis said. We can't view this as purely an economic problem, at the heart of it there's a problem with the profession, because those youth who chose a career in journalism didn't choose to create propaganda, publicity, they didn't opt to just keep quiet and on the sidelines, because if so then they'd have chosen another profession. But we also have many young people studying who, when they graduate, are so disillusioned that they get a job in the media—I don't even know why, really, because sometimes one gives them the chance to do things, to make changes, to work, and it doesn't interest them, it doesn't matter to them one bit. Why? Because he or she belongs to that same generation of disengaged youth that we just didn't get to earlier on in their lives, and we can't pretend that now they're not interested in clothing, high heels, [brand-name] shoes, how to get online or have 50 or 70 convertible pesos, not to cover basic expenses, as we do know that there are some who work for our [Cuban government-supported] media who contribute [i.e. moonlight for better-paying, 'independent' Cuban or foreign media organisations] in order to pay the rent.

They're young people who do it [i.e. moonlight] to keep up a certain standard of living, and deep down you can see this isn't bad, but this is where what Dario Machado said comes into the picture, and it's that consumer ethos which we've established in our society, which is also part of all these material deficits we've accumulated over years.

So I think we can't just view this thing as solely and exclusively a matter of UPEC having to make an effort so that young people feel drawn to the organisation, because at the end of the day, if UPEC has no decision-making power, if UPEC has no impetus, if it wears itself out talking about the same problems congress after congress, then why would I want to belong to this organisation, why would it interest me, why does it matter to me? What am I changing, what am I transforming?

In the end the only thing that one has in life is one's time, what one gives to the struggle is one's life, one's years, one's dedication and sacrifice. And this is done for an ideal, it's done for love, but there are those who simply decide that they're not willing to do it because they don't have faith in that future; because they don't they see that possibilities exist for changing it. What's sad is that among those who are today writing for foreign publications, there are youth who opt for this for different reasons, because they believe that that's where they'll accomplish their professional development, and it pains us that they don't see [that possibility] on our side or they don't try to change things on our side; or they do it out of the economic motivations we talked about, but it's never a sole motive, and that's what we cannot lose sight of. And I insist: if we keep looking away we're never going to see the blow that's going to land at precisely the spot where they're going to kill us. I don't have the answers.

In Granma [newspaper] there's a group of young people, we're doing what we can to keep rowing, we don't know if we'll really arrive at a safe port at some point, but there are youth who want to continue piloting the yacht[4] and I am convinced, because I know many of them, that there are many [such youth] in several places around the country who are also doing the same.

So I invite all of you to join forces for this, but above all those who decide to avoid doublespeak, those who decide, when faced with this situation of people who know what happens every day on the editorial boards, in radio, in TV, in the most insignificant place in this country where there's a journalist trying to defend this society that is all of us, these people that maybe don't have that lofty culture to understand all the scenarios of phenomena, but where there's a journalist who simply knows that defending that institutionality of which Garces spoke means defending this Revolution, a journalist who may be able to change someone's mindset.

That's something we have to care for, we have to defend it and we cannot disrespect the Cuban people, telling them things which one knows don't happen that way and promising them things that won't be fulfilled. So I think this is a debate that we cannot continue having among ourselves and looking at each other and telling ourselves the same thing and fooling ourselves, because there's no time.

A perfect storm is brewing. We discussed it yesterday on the [Granma] editorial board, this phenomenon of the reduction of fuel, of the reduction of energy, señores this country won't tolerate another 1993, another 1994, if we don't want to see street protests, and there isn't a Fidel to go down to the Malecon[5]. Or at least so far there hasn't been a figure in this country that faces the people to explain things to them as they're happening today with this situation, and it's going to be very difficult to confront. And with the press, the situation we have today is going to get us nowhere.

[Fernando] Ravsberg[6] was talking yesterday about these fuel reductions, as often happens to us there's someone who just does projects and things, accepts money and they sometimes do it wanting to look the other way.

I draw attention to this because we're in a situation in which 2018 is imminent and all hopes are being pinned on this date[7], and everything is being done so that that storm lands here in the worst circumstances for this country, so this is not a time for doubt, not a time for vacillation, not a time to lend our strength, our ideas to something that doesn't work—and that's why our youth often leave, and that's why our youth are often absent from the editorial boards, even when there are people that still have faith and keep trying to do everyday journalism. (APPLAUSE)

* * *

Translator's notes:

[1] Rosa Miriam Elizalde is a respected Cuban journalist and editor of the pro-Revolution Cubadebate website.

[2] Sergio Alejandro Gomez is the young Cuban journalist responsible for Granma's international coverage.

[3] Raul Garces heads Havana University's journalism faculty and is a member of the UPEC executive.

[4] This figurative reference to revolutionaries voyaging in a yacht might be an allusion to the legendary Granma yacht in which Fidel Castro's band of revolutionaries crossed the Gulf of Mexico. The newspaper is named after the yacht.

[5] The year 1993 was the nadir of Cuba's post-Soviet 'Special Period'. In August 1994 frustrations with economic privations boiled over into the streets along Havana's seaside boulevard, the Malecon. Having forbid the use of force, Fidel Castro arrived on the scene and reasoned with the restive crowd, after which it dispersed. In July this year Raul Castro told the National Assembly that cuts to the supply of Venezuelan oil and other adverse factors necessitated some belt-tightening—but stressed that fears of a Special Period 2.0 were baseless.

[6] Fernando Ravsberg is a Uruguayan-born former BBC journalist who has lived in Cuba for more than two decades.

[7] Raul Castro has announced that he'll not seek another term as president when his current term expires in early 2018. Here, Marron refers to the Revolution's enemies seeking to take advantage of that juncture.

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