Cuba fighting blogs with blogs
Viewing bloggers critical of the government as dangerous subversives, Cuba is fighting blog with blog.
BY JUAN O. TAMAYO
Cuba is counter-attacking its cyber-foes with government backers calling them mercenaries and CIA agents, but sometimes admitting it's difficult to fight Internet critics like well-known blogger Yoani Sánchez.
``There must be a defense, but how?'' wrote one government supporter on Progreso-Weekly.com ``If you [answer] them, you validate them. If you ignore them, you confirm them. If they are repressed, they are empowered. And if they are not repressed, they are also empowered.''
The answer seems to be to counter-attack. Half-a-dozen posts referring to a ``media war'' and the need to ``man the trenches'' in ``defense of the revolution'' have popped up on pro-government blog sites in the past three weeks.
Most of the posts took direct aim at Sánchez and her Generación Y blog, and were published after she posted President Barack Obama's replies to her questions on Nov. 19. But the posts left no doubt that all of the 15 or so other bloggers who regularly criticize the Cuban government are viewed as dangerous subversives.
``Those who want to restore capitalism receive financial and technical support, from both inside and outside the island, to build a counterrevolutionary front,'' wrote Enrique Ubieta, editor of the Cuban magazine La Calle Del Medio.
If bloggers ``have, as the only goal of their acts, the toppling of their adversary, the seizure of power; if there's an express intent to subvert, then we speak of confrontation and the right of the revolution to defend itself,'' wrote Vladia Rubio, a writer in the official Granma newspaper.
Most of the counter-attacks were posted on the Cuba-based Cambios en Cuba blog, where a cartoon shows Obama ripping open his shirt, Superman-style, to reveal the Sánchez blog's logo, and another shows her as a ``cyber-clown.''
Several blogs implied she lied when she complained that state security agents had beaten her in mid-November, and that the many international prizes she has wonwere arranged by powerful anti-Castro interests to lend weight to her criticisms of the Cuban system.
Other attacks were posted on Blogcip, a Cuban site with 44 blogs aimed at ``helping to overcome the accumulation of distorted and erroneous reports about Cuba, and publicize how Cubans think, live, struggle and work on an island constantly harassed.''
One post on Blogcip was titled ``Pentagon Babe,'' and another took a name, DesdeCuba.net, oddly similar to the name of Sánchez' portal, DesdeCuba.com.
``In principle, the Cuban government is not opposed to the blogger movement, but it's a different thing when those blogs don't reflect the real situation in Cuba,'' said Alberto Gonzalez, spokesman for the Cuban diplomatic mission in Washington.
Ted Henken, a Baruch College professor whose blog, El Yuma, focuses on Cuba issues, said the attacks seldom focus on the blogs' criticisms and their ``overall intent is to argue that the fatherland is threatened by an ungrateful anti-Cuban, a skinny computer hacker with a poison pen -- ink bought and paid for by Uncle Sam, of course.''
Sánchez, who has criticized the U.S. embargo and travel restrictions and denied receiving any improper support, has dismissed the attacks.
She wrote recently that ``behind all those offensive words and defamations against me, many times there is a [pro-government] journalist under pressure from his superior.''
``I know very well that one's mask can drop away in a split second, that their true opinions will blossom one day,'' she added. ``I send them all a conspiratorial wink.''
Pro-government bloggers boast that they are a growing factor in the cyber-debate over Cuba.
``There's a rising strength in the movement of Cuban bloggers who . . . desire to have the voice of the real Cuba heard around the world,'' wrote Rosa Báez in Viejoblues.
But they, and their readers, also say they lack the resources, readership and interesting information and writing needed to make their blogs more attractive and thereby more able to spread their pro-government messages.
Vladia Rubio wrote that more Cuban journalists should have blogs, and urged more Cubans with access to the Internet to add comments to posts, complaining that her blog gets comments ``from the same people, who . . .reiterate the same positions.''
And just as some newspapers and websites outside Cuba sometimes re-publish the posts of those opposed to the government, maybe the Cuban media also should publish some pro-government posts, she argued.
Even friendly readers criticized the pro-government posts, attaching comments that complain about their lackof graphics and thewriting, usually about heavyweight politics or culture.
One comment recommended avoiding ``the same old story, which is tiresome.'' Another noted, ``It's enough to look at the logo for GY (Generación Y) to realize how well-designed it is.''