The ghost of Pravda

The most important news in the Cuban press does not come with titles that give away its contents.  Under the titles “Informing the population,” “Letter from the Ministry of the Interior,” or “Declaration of the State Council,” we learned of the most significant events.  This Monday it was the newspaper Granma which trumpeted in huge letters, “Information for our people.”  The elderly quickly bought all the newspapers from the kiosks and raised, to two pesos, the resale price for a copy of the official organ of the Cuban Communist Party.

“Granma is authorized to report,” the newspaper announced, just as they used to do, in their time, in the pages of the Soviet newspaper Pravda.  The expression made me think about how much news they have been ordered not to report in our largest circulation daily paper, and with what discipline they have complied with this direction to shut up.  I shook off the Stalinist reminders of the front page and continued reading.  After a few paragraphs it was already clear to me that not only did the design recall the worst of the Russian press before Glasnost, but that the tone and threats did as well.  With the warning that “any attempt to violate the law or the rules of social coexistence will be met with a swift and forceful response,” the editorial warns speculators, profiteers, or sellers in the informal market that punishment awaits them.

I was especially confused by a small paragraph in the center of a very “Pravda-like” composition that pointed out: “Thus it invariably will be enforced in the face of such actions and against all signs of privilege, corruption or theft…”  How could the General Prosecutor of the Republic cope with so many privileges, granted to the ideologically loyal, that proliferate on this Island.  Will the excesses that are going to be penalized include the beach house where the lieutenant colonel vacations with his family, the shopping bag with chicken and detergent given to the censor for filtering web pages, the access to preferential prices enjoyed by the whistleblowers and the “vultures” of State Security.  These are the privileges I see around me, but I don’t think that Granma has launched a crusade against them. That would be an act of self-cannibalism.

The title of this article should be “It threatens our people,” because we are all included in the harsh words that seem to be directed only at criminals.  I read it like this because who is this country doesn’t cross the line of illegality to buy something; what citizen doesn’t depend on the black market; how many families don’t survive through the diversion of resources against the indignity of their salaries; which are the mechanisms of distribution that aren’t plagued by corruption, so despicable but tolerated by the State itself because it is one of the safety valves that prevents a social explosion.  The ghost of Pravda is not the only ghost I have perceived through reading this article, but also that of radicalization, the strong hand, and the State of Emergency.  That situation of a constant battle against something within which our leaders seem to feel so comfortable.

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