Glass House

Along with Brazilian soap operas, documentaries pirated from the Discovery Channel, and the boring Round Table talk show, there is another form of television reporting that emulates the saga of “Big Brother.” On our little screen we see citizens filmed by hidden cameras and get a view of the emails in their electronic in-boxes, without any of this having been ordered by a judge. As if we lived in a glass house overseen by the State’s severe eye, even the telephone company records the conversations of its clients and broadcasts them to eleven million shocked viewers.

The final form of this public dissection is to air the declarations of doctors who violate the privacy of what is said in a consultation to reveal the details of a medical case, an act as serious as that of the priest who betrays the secrets of the confessional. Photos of the insides of the homes and even the refrigerators of those who have dared to contravene official opinion emerge, while the paparazzi and political police are fused into a single character very close to a voyeur. It would not surprise me that some dossier – waiting to be brought to light – displays the nude body of a non-conformist, as if being naked were irrefutable proof of his “badness.”

Images taken out of context, edited phrases, and unfavorable angles meant to generate aversion in public opinion, are some of the techniques around which these TV reports are built. In none of them is the “victim” interviewed, which of course prevents the run-of-the-mill viewer from finding out they have critical opinions in common. Unfortunately for the crude producers of this kind of reality show, the technology in the hands of citizens has started to make the walls around our lives transparent as well. Having been so long observed, we now see that there is hole we can look through to the other side of the fence.

129 thoughts on “Glass House

  1. ?- I guess this would be the equivalent to the any number of the US TV shows like “Cops”?

    In the United States, here is what we get for entertainment:

    We get to watch a TV show where the most militarized police force in the world chase down poor people (who are predominantly black people or poverty-stricken white people), slam them to the ground, mock them for their ignorance or poverty or whatever other degrading comment they can think of to make and then take them away to the largest prison system in the world.

    These people end up in the world’s largest prison system — many of the prisons are owned by corporations. And, in these prisons, the “criminals” are put to work doing all kinds of things so that they can go to what is called the “commissary” — where they can buy tooth brushes, cigarettes, etc. It is hard for me to understand the difference between these enormous labor camps and any other forced labor camp that we know about in history. Except, this is one of the largest and most militarized labor camp that history has ever known.

    In this prison system is a perverted subculture of White Supremacy groups (many of which are allied with the prison guards) and all kinds of other gangs who make sure that you understand quite clearly that the REAL punishment in prison is delivered by them, in the form of rape, unless you do what they say.

    That’s the kind of entertainment we get in the United States!

    Yoani — do you have THAT in Cuba?

  2. Posted by KT: “I found this one fascinating and informative. Does anyone have personal accounts or knowledge of this kind of invasion of privacy in Cuba? I infer these images and footage are aired on TV and printed in the paper? I don’t have the opportunity to watch TV when I’m there, but I’ll make an effort to grab a paper next time.”

    You don’t have to visit the island to verify that Cuban state media routinely violate personal medical privacy in ways that would result in severe penalties in democratic countries.

    In Yoani’s hidden camera example, I’m guessing she was referring to reports on Cuban TV that showed Tamayo’s mother thanking Cuban doctors for their efforts filmed inside what appears to be a doctor’s office. Story here:

    Yoani herself was a victim of these tactics last November. Cuban state media aired interviews with a doctor who allegedly treated her saying she had exaggerated her injuries.

  3. KT@#120
    From time to time we make an effort to bring the discussion back on track nevertheless the reality of different people from different sides of the spectrum exists as in a real community in real life.
    As you can see the “nature” of the cuban is passionate & argumentative.
    The principal tennet is we are all Cubans, either by birth or by commitment or by love of freedom, inspired by people like Maceo’s with his wishes to Marti’s dreams …
    But w/all the shortcommings, what I want for this blogg is the exposure of our world to the rest of world.
    Please, don’t be discouraged, postulate your opinion & question; talk to others about the blogg, invite your friend, share & encourage participation because the more exposure the better will be, the sooner (maybe) change will take place not just in Cuba but in all Cubas.
    I think that is Yoani’s intent; I like to believe than she & all the other silent voices want their woices to be heard around the world we … just join their cries, sometime of rage, sometimes in sorrow, but like a Cuban we’ll never give up!

  4. Text translated by Google Translate

    We Brazilians are surprised by the behavior of our current president for the hunger strikes in Cuba, Brazil’s support to Iran’s nuclear program, where President Lula shrugged off the protests against the election of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad t with the fact that he accepted that Manuel Zelaya, who tried to promote an election, denied by the judiciary, to obtain a new mandate, is housed in the Brazilian embassy.

    Until one of Lula’s lawyers, Jose Carlos Dias, who was arrested along with him and then released, during the great strikes of the auto industry in 1983, when Lula was a hunger strike fake, along with several other unions, criticized for comparing Cuban prisoners with prisoners of the state of Sao Paulo.

    Lula had been imprisoned by order of a judge, because of the riots that led to the city of São Bernardo do Campo and not by orders of the military in the end ruled with civilians, many of those still serving in politics.

    Unfortunately Lula forgotten its past and bent the ideology of his political party, the party that despises democracy and prefers dialogue with the FARC, Cuba, Iran, and we have to put up with behavior that goes against our culture.

  5. Thank you Albert(82), Simba (5), and Vanessa (30) for your comments. I, too, would love to read and engage in a discussion about the content of Yoani’s posts.

    I found this one fascinating and informative. Does anyone have personal accounts or knowledge of this kind of invasion of privacy in Cuba? I infer these images and footage are aired on TV and printed in the paper? I don’t have the opportunity to watch TV when I’m there, but I’ll make an effort to grab a paper next time (I spend most of my time in the countryside).

    I also value links and articles posted here, from all points-of-view, that I can read and digest to better understand the Cuban situation and form my opinions.

    I even find value in the debate between differing points of view.

    However, I’ve never followed any other blog with so much flaming, insulting and verbal abusing. I realize this is a heated, personal topic, but I think we do Yoani a disservice by taking what she risks so much to share with the world and dragging it through the mud. How can we raise an outcry over the Cuban regime’s treatment of its citizens, of its disregard for human dignity, and display such disrespect here?

    I don’t post much. And when I read others’ comments I have to skim over many bitter and nasty posts to get to any content or discussion. Simba put it well – it devalues the intent of this blog, not just as Yoani’s blog but of all people who believe in freedom.


  6. A Member of the European Parliament (MEP) is the English name for a person who has been elected to the European Parliament,[1] one of the European Union’s two legislative bodies. MEPs are the European Union’s equivalents of a country’s national legislators in either the lower house or unicameral parliaments, often known as MPs or Deputies. The name of MEPs differ in different languages, with terms such as euro-deputy being common in Romance language-speaking countries.

    EU OBSERVER: MEPs attack Cuba over human rights abuses

    BRUSSELS – “MEPs have condemned the recent death of a Cuban dissident hunger striker as “avoidable and cruel”, complicating the Spanish EU presidency’s attempts at normalising relations with the Caribbean island.
    A parliamentary resolution, adopted on Thursday (11 March) by 509 votes to 30, with 14 abstentions, called on Cuba to immediately release its political prisoners and urged the EU’s high representative for foreign affairs, Catherine Ashton, to push the Communist government towards greater democracy.

    “We cannot afford another death in Cuba. We call for the immediate release of all political prisoners,” Jerzy Buzek, the president of the European assembly, said.
    The strong criticism from euro deputies of all political colours follows the death two weeks ago of jailed Cuban dissident Orlando Zapata Tamayo, who succumbed after an 83-day hunger strike.”

    Spanish government

    “The European parliamentary resolution is a set-back for the Spanish government, which had hoped to take steps towards normalising relations with Cuba during its six-month tenure of the EU’s rotating presidency, due to expire this June.

    Backed by Spain’s former centre-right prime minister Jose Maria Aznar, the EU adopted a so-called common position towards Cuba in 1996, linking dialogue with Havana to advances in democracy and supporting a stronger relationship with the country’s dissident movement.

    The current Spanish government of centre-left leader Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero argues the strategy has failed to produce the required results, insisting that a revision of the EU position would not diminish the bloc’s call for a defence of freedoms on the island.

    Foreign minister Miguel Angel Moratinos told Spanish deputies in Madrid on Thursday that the government intended to push ahead with its ambitions of revising the EU’s policy, despite the European parliamentary vote.

    “What we’re going to attempt is to move that position to one that seems reasonable,” said Mr Moratinos.

    Spain “has no difficulty” with this current framework, added the foreign minister, but after 13 years “different circumstances” exist and the EU would be well advised to update it.”

  7. Re Juan #108: “Interesting that one moment Fidel is a dictator and the next has popular support.”

    This is not contradictory at all. Any student of human history knows that the most “successful” dictators (Hitler, Franco, Mao, Saddam, Pinochet and Fidel are only a few examples) had undeniable charisma and were able to transform thuggish leadership ability into enough popular support to keep themselves in power for prolonged periods of time.

    History also shows when the charismatic leader passes from the scene, the dictatorship often follows sometimes in very short order.

  8. LOS ANGELES TIMES: Brazil’s president blasted for comments on Cuba’s dissidents and their hunger strikes
    MARCO SIBAJA, Associated Press Writer -March 10, 2010

    BRASILIA, Brazil (AP) —”Brazil’s president came under withering criticism Wednesday at home and in Cuba for his deference to the island’s communist government over political prisoners and hunger strikes for human rights.

    A Cuban dissident on hunger strike to demand the release of ailing political prisoners accused President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva of complicity with “the tyranny of Castro.” Brazilian pundits also criticized Silva and a political ally called the president’s words disappointing.

    In an interview with The Associated Press on Tuesday, Silva said that “we have to respect the decisions of the Cuban legal system and the government to arrest people depending on the laws of Cuba, like I want them to respect Brazil.”

    “Silva said hunger strikes should not be used to free people from prison, despite the fact that he himself engaged in a hunger strike as a union leader during his resistance to Brazil’s military dictatorship.”

    Brazil’s media and critics focused most on a statement by Silva that they interpreted as comparing Cuba’s dissidents with criminals in Brazil’s largest city who run lucrative drug rings from behind bars and orchestrated a wave of killings on the streets in 2006.

    “I don’t think a hunger strike can be used as a pretext for human rights to free people. Imagine if all the criminals in Sao Paulo entered into hunger strikes to demand freedom,” Silva said in the interview.”

    “In Brazil, a lawmaker from the ruling Workers Party — which Silva founded — told the Globo television network he was disappointed with the president’s words, though he suggested they were just a slip.

    “The president expressed himself poorly or he was misunderstood,” said Mauricio Rands, a federal deputy with the party. “We don’t accept that somebody can be detained just because they have disagreements with the government.””,0,7333624.story

  9. how about reading Marti’s resignation letter to Maximo Gomez?
    Really reading each carefuly writen paragraph, the vision & wishdom that inspired it.
    I always wonder how, Marti & all the REAL HEROES OF THE REVOLUTION can be used in such a twisted way & out of their context just to shore up … a dictatorship ??!!
    I guess the regimes hunger for legitimacy then & now allowes then to re-write history, perhaps the saying: “history is writen by the victorious” is after all true …

  10. Of course I am guilty of quoting fidel’s speeches … and I sincerily ask for forgiveness; the spirit of the intention was/is to ilustrate a point of thought, not intending to insult the memory of the HEROES OF THE MOTHERLAND.

  11. In case there is any wondering … the author of that speech is:
    This speech was give in the UNIVERSIDAD DE LA HABANA in 1866.
    Is called:
    Is worth reading, is worth thinking about its contents & is worth thinking how, the present regime “uses & twists” it meaning to shore up support for its cromes …

    From me … to anyone who “quotes” the worthless statements of a dictator whom by using OUR HEROES’S statements soils their memory.
    WE CUBANS are not just in debted to OUR HEROES WE ARE the recipients & guardians of an illustrious inheritance … CASE CLOSED

  12. am I a traitor, gusano, counter revolutionary mercenary because I believe in the following:
    …” The consecuences of the intervention of society in the life of the individual are ominous & even more so when this intervention is directed towards uniformity, destroying in this way the individuality which is one of the elements essential to the present & future well being of society.
    Centralization results in the disapearance of individuality, which, as we have maintained, is necessesary for the presrvation of society.
    From there is but a short step to communism; it begins by declaring the individual impotent & ends by justifying the intervention of society in his life, destroying freedom, regulating his desires, thoughts, needs & most intimate affections, in sum all his actions …
    A goverment that uses total centralization to destroy the open development of individual initiative, arrests the progress of society & cannot be founded on justice or reason, but only on force; such a state may, in an energetic moment announce to the world that it is stable & indestructible but, sooner or later, when men who know that their rights are violated decide to vindicate them, the roar of the cannon will anounce that its lethal domination is at an end …”

    The one that thought this words … is a cuban, is “opinions” are regularly used by the present cuban regime …

  13. you are right Hank … from “Nuestra America” published firts in 1/1/1891.
    Is along article which from what I get rerences the need for unity as a main theme.
    The part that Yoani quotes goes something like this:
    …” Y ens sus cantos los ninos dice: “Ya no podemos ser el pueblo de hojas, que viv en el aire, con la copa cargada de flor, restallando o zumbando, segun la acaricie el capricho de la luz, o la tundan y talen las tempestades: !los arboles se han de poner en fila, para que no pase el gigante de las siete leguas! Es la hora del recuento y de la marcha unida y hemos de andar en cuatro apretado, como la plata el las raices de los Andes …”
    I wish I could translate this to english but I am not as good as I wish w/english to do justice to such a beautiful piece as this …

  14. The verbal abuse continues:
    it does not shield the abuser from what he/she is abusers are bullies who if confronted face to face would show their cowardice by running no longer protected by the impunity afforded to anonimity
    Sometimes I wish the abusers would put “their cards on the table” & show themselves, face & all.
    I am sure the strength of their convictions & ideals would make that easy since it is that strength that would give them the courage to opose, confront & resolve … right ?
    To another subject … in the news it was reported than the latest hunger striker passed out & was taken for medical care
    This time there was film “proving how dedicated & prompt the regime is caring & responding
    This time, just by filming … the inevitable has happened … the regime admits the existence of the peoples (plural) who oposes it, the regime admits the need to “prove/document” its “humanity” & their respect for human rights & demokracy
    The regime is reacting, being affected to the world’s outcry, perhaps the bluster of “nobody will tell us what & how to do” is changing …
    Perhaps the pressure from the world (from the web) is more than the juans (with all his/hers incarnations included) can handle, perhaps the crack is widening & the inevitability of change has become a closer reality in Cuba
    No abuser, nor dictatorship can deny our human rights, our freedom for ever …
    There is no system in this world which has survived its denial of basic human rights for the people they subjugated … either they “evolved” or they were overthrown

  15. Anonimo #97 So you think Fidel is dead, and yet nothing has changed? Does this mean the biological solution was not quite the right answer?

    Well this is consistent with Wanker who recently wrote that things will change after Fidel’s death (so has he died or not – je je je) because Raoul doesn’t have ‘Fidel’s popular support’.

    Interesting that one moment Fidel is a dictator and the next has popular support.

    Maybe that is one factor in explaining why their was so little reaction in Cuba to Zapata’s suicide.

  16. Andy,

    I saw Yoani’s tweet also and thought about what it meant.

    I could be completely wrong about this and if you disagree, please let me know. Her reference to silver reminds me of the Spanish Conquistadores.

    Maybe Yoani is referring to the unity native Latin Americans must have felt when they realized they were being exploited for their silver.

    In this case, we have Coco Fariñas, a Cuban patriot and a hero. He is sacrificing himself and in doing so, he has become a unifying force just like Orlando Zapata Tamayo against oppression. Fariñas and OZT are the silver in the veins of Cuba. Something the exploiters who are the dictators of Cuba cannot touch and could never mine.

    I remember reading about what native Latin Americans did to captured Conquistadores. They poured molten gold down their throats. For me, the death of OZT is having the same effect.

  17. Hank, re #72, the World Health Organization has a really cool database that tracks all sorts of health and social indicators for all UN member countries. It’s available in a number of languages including Spanish. It takes a bit of practice to generate a list of countries and time periods for doing comparisons. This is the link:

    These kinds of comparative statistics should always been taken with a grain of salt as they are mostly self-reported by the countries themselves.

  18. Tweet from: antunezcuba

    El lider opositor nestor rodriguez lobaina fue arrestado por la policia politica ,se desconoce su paradero.tememos por su vida about 2 hours ago via txt

    But this is not such good news. This is now. Not some hoped for future:

    “… Nestor Rodriguez Lobaina was arrested … we fear for his life.”

  19. I think Yoani’s last tweet is extremely important:

    Nunca como ahora los “inconformes” habiamos estado tan unidos. El dolor nos ha juntado como “la plata en las raices de los Andes”

    Never before have we “non-conformists” been as united as we are now. The pain has joined us like “the silver in the roots of the Andes.”

    [if anyone wants to enlighten the rest of us about that final expression… please do]

    Of course the regime thrives on keeping its opponents divided… but now the petty squabbles and differences are being put aside for a larger purpose. And the opponents are seeing that they can differ on many things, and continue to differ, and that in fact coming together to govern across the differences is the essence of democracy… and in the case of Cuba… the essence of coming to a plural democratic society.

    I am very frightened about what next… but very hopeful long term.

  20. If there was any ever doubt, what we are witnessing now from the Cuban dictatorship is the face evil. Pure, unadulterated evil.

  21. WALL STREET JOURNAL: Cuba Hunger Strikes Stir Ire
    Protests Bring International Criticism of Island; Ally Brazil Also in Spotlight

    SÃO PAULO, Brazil—Back-to-back hunger strikes by Cuban dissidents have brought international condemnation to the island’s communist government and stirred political turmoil for some leaders friendly to Cuba.

    Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, whose government is becoming a major investor in Cuba, has faced an avalanche of criticism at home and abroad after defending Cuba’s right to imprison political opponents and appearing to dismiss the plight of the protesters.

    On Thursday, the European Parliament voted to condemn Cuba for the “avoidable and cruel” death of Orlando Zapata, a 42-year-old laborer who died on Feb. 23 after an 86-day strike for better jail conditions. The statement also decried the “alarming state” of Guillermo Fariñas, a dissident journalist who stopped eating after Mr. Zapata’s death, to press for the release of 26 ill political prisoners.

    Mr. Fariñas passed out on Thursday and was rushed to a hospital where he was given intravenous fluids, the Associated Press reported.

    Spain’s Socialist Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero, a proponent of European engagement of Cuba, has also come under criticism in the wake of the strikes, though Spain denounced the Cuban government’s handling of Mr. Zapata’s hunger strike.

    Cuban leaders Fidel and Raúl Castro have weathered international criticisms over executions and other human rights abuses in the past, and are unlikely to be moved by the EU condemnation, analysts say. But the strikes may lead to further economic isolation for Cuba by creating political trouble for its international advocates.

    A case in point could be Mr. da Silva, a former union leader who rose to Brazil’s presidency from poverty and who enjoys a global image as a champion of the common man.

    Mr. da Silva was in Cuba on the day Mr. Zapata was buried. “I don’t think a hunger strike can be used as a pretext for human rights to free people. Imagine if all the criminals in Sao Paulo entered into hunger strikes to demand freedom,” Mr. da Silva told the Associated Press when asked about the protester’s death.

    Mr. Fariñas, the dissident journalist, said in a newspaper interview that the Brazilian president’s comment shows his “commitment to the tyranny of Castro, and his contempt for the political prisoners and their families.”

    Mr. da Silva himself staged a hunger strike during a month-long stint in jail during Brazil’s military dictatorship in the late 1970s.

    Brazilian officials have sought to explain Mr. da Silva’s comments by framing it as affection for the Castro brothers formed decades ago, when Mr. da Silva was leading union strikes against Brazil’s military government, as well as Brazil’s stated policy of not intervening in the internal affairs of other nations.

    Critics, however, say the president may finally be reaching the limits of a political policy that seeks to position the rising economic giant as a friendly interlocutor with all nations—especially poor ones—as part of a self-described “south-south” strategy.

    Mr. da Silva has embraced both U.S. leaders and fierce critics of the U.S., such as Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

    Mr. da Silva’s bid to forge ties that bridge global rivalries has attracted criticism before. He was among the first to congratulate Mr. Ahmadinejad for his victory in a contested election that led to a deadly crackdown on protests. Likening the protesters to sore losers at a soccer match, Mr. da Silva later welcomed Mr. Ahmadinejad to Brazil.

    “We are active supporters of the regimes with total disregard for democracy,” said Roberto Abdenur, a frequent critic who was also once Mr. da Silva’s ambassador to the U.S. “Our credibility is going to be very seriously affected in the region and elsewhere by the excesses they have endorsed.”

    “Brazil doesn’t see human rights as universal rights, but rather as local issues, domestic policy issues,” said José Miguel Vivanco, director of the Americas division at Washington-based Human Rights Watch. Mr. Vivanco has criticized Brazil for abstaining on U.N. resolutions dealing with human-rights issues in countries such as North Korea and the Democratic Republic of Congo.

    Hunger strikes are rare in Cuba. Cuba Archive, a human-rights organization that researches alleged state crimes in Cuba, has documented ten other cases in which prisoners lost their lives due to hunger strikes, the majority of which date to the first two decades of the Castro regime. With the exception of Pedro Luis Boitel, an anti-Castro student leader who died in 1972 after a 52-day hunger strike, the other hunger strikers went largely unnoticed by the outside world.

    Mr. Fariñas, a veteran of Cuba’s military campaign in Angola, has previously gone on hunger strikes to protest the lack of freedom in Cuba. In 2006, he went on a seven-month hunger strike to protest the lack of Internet access.

    Analysts say the hunger strikes in Cuba reflect despair with deteriorating conditions, especially in its prisons, along with disillusionment with President Raúl Castro, who had awakened hopes that he would implement gradual reforms.

    Two years after he officially replaced older brother Fidel at the helm, those hopes have faded. “They are desperate. They thought Raúl would make changes, but Raúl is not making changes, they thought they could pressure the Cuban government, but it doesn’t care,” says Jaime Suchlicki, a Cuba analyst at the University of Miami.

    Analysts say it represents the first big test for Mr. Castro who, unlike his older brother, isn’t known for his political skills. But it is unlikely, analysts say, that Mr. Castro will give in to Mr. Fariñas’s demands he free the ailing political prisoners.

    “Raúl will not let them go free,” says Jorge Castañeda, a former Mexican foreign minister who knows Cuba well. “Things are so precarious in Cuba that he can’t show any weakness because of fear that things will get out of hand.”

  22. I hope Shasta and other reporters start some serious reporting out of Cuba, the entire country, not just Havana.

    CNN has a huge responsibilty here and I hope they live up to it.Shasta should be all over the Farinas story. She should be at the ICU reporting on his condition. She should visit all of the prisons where the 200 political prisoners are jailed. She should interview the families of the 200 political prisoners and tell their stories.

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