coco fusco on Sun, 20 Jun 2004 15:46:36 +0200 (CEST)

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<nettime> Choking Cuban writers

I am Cuban American and have travelled to Cuban dozens of times in the
past twenty years. I agree that the embargo is not an effective strategy
and that it hurts the population.

I'm very familiar with all the anti Communist campaigning from the 60s
onward designed to create an image of Cuba as a gulag. I also know Cubans
who spent years in the UMAP labor camps there in the 60s because they were
gay or hippies. Oneo of my artist friends there was imprisoned a few years
ago for taking a shit on a Communist newspaper in a gallery as a
performance.  I have worked with artists there, exhibited there, and host
an indepedent artist-run gallery's webpage on my website. So please do not
write off what I will now write as a tirade from a fanatic anti-Castro
exile. I'm not, I deeply resent non-Cubans who pretend to know more
without having lived through the tragedies of the Cuban situation, and
I've paid dearly in many ways for keeping a dialogue open with Cubans on
the island.


75 writers and independent librarians were jailed last year on trumped up
charges of being subversives. They are still in jail. The "subersive"
activity amounted to circulating literature on human rights, engaging in
organizing to promote constitutional changes through LEGAL MEANS, and
accepting paper and pencils from the US consulate. US officials are
reported by an infiltrator to have told these Cubans that they wanted
articles on food and energy shortages in Cuba. To suggest as the Cuban
government did that such reports would damage Cuba is absolutely
ridiculous, even obscene. Everyone who knows anything about Cuba knows
about the shortages. Everyone with relatives there (I have many) is
contacted by them to ask for dollars to buy food and medicine because of

There was no need for Fidel to react in a way that has choked those
writers. To suggest that it is a criminal act to lend books out of your
own house is perverse and completely totalitarian. For twenty years I have
hand carried bags of books and magazines to artists who circulate them
among friends. That is the only way for many to have access to foreign
literature since the Cuban economy does not permit publishing of many
translations for which rights must be paid. The idea that Cubans are
building secret libraries of anti-Communist literature in order to destroy
the political system is just absurd.

It was after this outrageous move and the EXECUTION without trial of two
men who hijacked a boat unsucessfully last year (without harming any of
the passengers)that I decided I did not want to give the Cuban government
my money or my tacit acceptance of such measures by travelling there
during high profile cultural events. A major funder of the Havana
Bienal,the Prince Claus Fund in Holland, withdrew support after these
events.  I still care very much for my family and friends there, but at a
certain point, I believe those who have been involved with the Cuban
situation for a long time have to begin to take a stand that opposes gross
violations of human rights and due process.

Indeed you are right that internet access is controlled and since the
jailing of the 75 writers, new laws went into effect in Cuba further
curtailing access. It troubles me that this would not cause you any
discomfort in your call to support Cuba. What happened to "virtual
democracy"? Is that only for Europeans?.

Do you really think that by travelling there you are going to have a
positive effect on policy? Please don't be naive. Travellers in cultural
fields bring money and the prospect of art and educational exchange that
means that the Cuban government can make more money. Of course artists and
intellectuals there like to have the opportunity to meet foreigners, but
there are still serious ethical implications to be dealt with. I boycotted
grapes as an adolescent because I was against exploitation of Mexican
farmworkers. I boycotted South Africa because of apartheid. I have not
wanted to boycott Cuba but I can no longer accept its excessive repression
of its own citizens.

It is very ironic and sad to me that this list has been filled with calls
to support CAE against unwarranted repression by the FBI, but that at the
same time you would advocate tacitly endorsing the policies of a country
that is jailing its own "radical" intellectuals. Does that mean that civil
rights are only meant to be for Americans?

Coco Fusco

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