A couple of years ago I went to the DHL office in Miramar to send some family videos to friends in Spain. The clerk looked at me as if I were trying to send a molecule of oxygen to another galaxy. Without even touching the Mini DV cassette, she told me that the Havana branch only accepted VHS. I thought it was a question of size, but the explanation she gave was even more surprising, “It’s just that our machines to view the content only read the large cassettes.” When I tried to insist, the woman suspected that instead of the smiling face of my son, I wanted to send “enemy propaganda” abroad.
Frustrated, I returned home – where I have never received a piece of regular mail – and some time passed before I again had need of the services of this German company. Faced with the impossibility of traveling to Chile to present my book, Cuba Libre, a few days ago the publisher sent me ten copies, in a single package marked “express.” Neither my numerous telephone calls to the office at the corner of 1st and Calle 26, nor my physical presence there, managed to make them deliver what is mine. “Your package has been confiscated,” they told me this morning, even though in reality they should have been more honest and confessed, “Your package has been stolen.” Although these are the same texts that, without descending into verbal violence, have been published on the web for three years, the customs censors have handled it as if it were a manual about how to make Molotov cocktails.
Now, when headlines around the world are announcing the end of the Google’s collusion with Chinese censorship, foreign companies located in Cuba continue to obey ideological filters imposed by the government. With its airs of efficiency, its tradition of immediacy, and its phrases such as, “We keep an eye on your package,” DHL has agreed to apply a political filter to its customers. To refuse to do so would earn them expulsion from the country with the consequent economic losses, and so they ignore the sanctity of the mail and look the other way when someone demands what belongs to them. The red and yellow colors of their corporate identity never seemed to strident to me. Looking at them today I feel that instead of speed and efficiency they represent a warning: “Not even with us is your correspondence safe!”