With a muffled struggle, the animal spoke,
mouth foaming and eye terrible,
“Brother Francis, don’t come too close…”
The interviews given by Eliécer Ávila, a UCI [University of Information Sciences] student, to Cubaencuentro and Kaos en la Red [Chaos on the Web] were sent to me by email. Reading both of them, I knew that they would not be published in any of the mainstream media on the Island because they express opinions—shared by the majority—that our newspapers prefer to ignore. The young man from Las Tunas has been relegated to the Internet, with the video of his run-in with the President of the National Assembly circulated only through alternative means. However, we Cubans rely on a kind of Web 4.0 that doesn’t need cables, nor modems and can even dispense with the computer. Hence, this week all of Havana already knows about Eliécer ‘s conversation with an independent journalist. Information, every day, is finer and finer sand slipping through the censors’ fingers.
Some see this Las Tunas boy of precise speech as the tip of a conspiracy to “abduct” the most critical young people. I confess that I am tired of these manias to see in each action a perfectly calculated plot. I don’t believe that our leaders can organize everything, nor play that political chess they are believed capable of. Much less in these times when the squares on the board have been erased and at least three of the table legs are lame. I refuse to see, in every event, the strings inevitably being pulled by the hands of State Security. To believe this would be to think that they are omnipresent, that they know everything and, fortunately, this is a quality held only by God.
I prefer to speculate that yes, Eliécer is sincere in his approach. That he is a young man, like many, dissatisfied with the dual currency, with the abuses of power, with the gerontocracy that governs us. One who with a peasant’s straightforwardness calls things by their names and believes in the power to change, from within, the system that will end up devouring it. What is not healthy, candid or honest is the reality surrounding this computer science student. A society where the boys of Porno para Ricardo can’t appear in concert, where several blogs and web pages are blocked and where someone with a different opinion is accused of being an agent of the CIA; it has the design of a long thought-out conspiracy—and it’s here, yes, that I show my paranoia—to deprive us of the right to dissent.
The anxious young man presented himself, before Ricardo Alarcón, as part of “Operation Truth” which monitors the Internet and counters opinions antagonistic to the Cuban way. Which makes him both a victim and an executioner of the lack of space for plurality and debate. Forgive me Eliécer Ávila, but to enter the Web from an institutional PC with the direction to neutralize divergent ideas, is to act—using your own metaphor—like those “who drive a large truck believing they own the road, without respect for the rights of others, because they know that if you mix it up with them, you’ll come out of it very badly.”
Early this year a video started circulating on the internet of Eliécer Ávila, a student at the University of Information Sciences in Havana, standing at a microphone at a student assembly and respectfully questioning Ricardo Alarcon, President of Cuba’s National Assembly. Readers can find a wealth of information, and the video, through a google search. The questions Eliécer asked ranged from why access to Google is restricted when there is no Cuban equivalent, to why a toothbrush costs three days’ pay. Last week, an interview with Eliécer, published on the Web, covered events since the video was released.
Rubén Darío: Nicaraguan poet, 1867-1916. This quote is a fragment from the poem “Los motivos del lobo” [The wolf’s motives]. “Brother Francis” is Saint Francis of Assisi.