Yesterday night, Monday, the program “Open Dialog” confirmed for me the idea that debate, when is not free and spontaneous, remains a monologue of several voices. It was precisely the absence of controversy that characterized the guests of Loly Estevez, among whom were Alfredo Guevara, Eduardo Heras Leon, Desiderio Navarro, Roberto Fernandez Retamar and Corina Mestre. A certain call to “not dissent” before the cameras could be guessed behind the descriptive and generic tone of the speeches. They didn’t even allow the possibility of taking calls from the audience, which in other broadcasts of the same program had elevated the temperature of the discussion.
The omissions, as almost always, were more significant than what was expressed aloud. Desiderio Navarro was the only one who mentioned, very subtly, the intellectual controversy from the months of January and February. As a “media slip” Navarro characterized the appearance of Pavon, Serguera and Quesada on Cuban TV, a fact that acted as a trigger for the exchange of emails questioning the cultural policy of the Revolution.
“Open Dialog” yesterday was a deposit of triumphalist phrases used to characterize the current debates that precede the Congress of the UNEAC (Cuban Artists and Writers Union), which contrast with the corrosive assertions made in those meetings by a good portion of the Cuban intellectual class. The “polemicists” repeated phrases like “a nation can’t live with its back turned to debate,” “we can’t yield the issues to the enemy,” “we need to include more of the Youth in constructive criticism.” All of this was said under the watch of Fidel Castro and Jose Marti who, looking on from two Raul Martinez paintings, formed part of the decoration of the set.
Of course, none of the participants dared say that “debate must be between all Cubans, regardless of the political affiliation or ideological preferences.” Nor did they question why is it that culture must be discussed between the pundits, when it belongs to everybody. What “the email skirmish” (also known as Words of the Intellectuals) left us has evidently been absorbed and re-arranged by those in charge of the culture. Last night, instead of fuel to continue debating, the audience was shown the inflexible limits of a “debate between revolutionaries.”