is far more centralized now than it
was even in the mid-nineties.
meeting with Raúl Castro, Cardinal Denied freedom of assembly and government tribute to Luis Pavón
Bertone told reporters he had raised access to the island’s state-controlled Tamayo, a man vilified within the
the issue of Cuba’s political prisoners media, opposition activists also have island’s intellectual community for
but did not go so far as to demand no effective way of spreading their leading the Stalinist-style purges of
their release. “It would look like in- message. Dissidents are often inter- the 1970s known as El Quinquenio
terference,” Cardinal Bertone was viewed and quoted by foreign media Gris, the five gray years.
quoted as saying. outlets, but they are barely known in In one e-mail, Enrique Colina, a
Cuba and have shown little ability well-known film critic, listed 30 Cu-
to channel discontent into a politi- ban films that had never been broad-
n recent years, President George cal movement that could challenge cast on Cuban television, including
W. Bush has poured tens of the government. the classic “Strawberry and Choco-millions of dollars into sup- Incontrasttothe Catholic Church late,” and lamented that most film-porting Cuba’s internal opposition and dissident community, Cuban in- makers acquiesce rather than fight
movement. While the “pro-democ- tellectuals and artists became em- “censorship that has unwritten ta-racy” funds are allocated with great boldened following Fidel Castro’s boos and codes of silence.” Colina pro-fanfare in Washington, the program illness. Long restrained by limits posed that the debate be broadcast
has had little success in boosting the on freedom of expression, dozens on national television and expanded
strength, profile and legitimacy of of writers, musicians and other cul- to include the general public.
dissidents on the island. tural figures took the unprecedented In response, Cuban Culture Min-
The Cuban government contin- step last year of launching a cyber- ister Abel Prieto held several closed-ues to harass and imprison dissi- space exchange that dealt with is- door meetings in which invited indents—the Havana-based Cuban sues considered taboo in any public tellectuals were allowed to air their
Commission for Human Rights and area. The debate was triggered by the concerns. Since then, authorities
National Reconciliation says there collective outrage over a televised have demonstrated some flexibil-are about 230 political prisoners in ity by broadcasting “Strawberry and
Cuba—and the opposition has been Chocolate” and “Out of This League,”
further weakened by the steady flow a documentary released in 2004 but
of its leaders into exile and govern- not previously shown on Cuban tele-ment infiltration. vision because it includes interviews
The extent of Cuban state secu- with Orlando “El Duque” Hernan-rity’s penetration of the dissident dez and other baseball stars who de-movement was laid bare in the so fected to the U.S.
called “Black Spring” of 2003, when The debate invigorated many Cu-
75 opposition activists were arrested, ban intellectuals who continue to
tried and imprisoned. During the call for an easing of government re-crackdown, at least three individ- strictions. But it has left many oth-uals thought to be prominent dis- ers frustrated because authorities ig-sidents revealed themselves as Cu- nored Colina’sproposals andkeptthe
ban government spies. Among them intellectual debate out of the public
was Manuel David Orrio, who for a arena. Furthermore, beyond showing
decade pretended to be an indepen- a couple of banned films and staging
dent journalist and received thou- a few plays that had been previously
sands of dollars in U.S. government censored, Culture Minister Prieto and
funds for writing articles critical of other authorities have given no indi-Cuba posted on a Miami-based web- cation that they will give in to one
site. Orrio’s testimony led to the im- fundamental demand: easing state
prisonment of writer Raúl Rivero control over the mass media.
and several other activists. As in the economic sphere, Raúl
The March 2003 arrests were
orchestrated in part by informants
that the government had planted
among dissidents. Here, one,
Manuel David Orrio, shows the
materials he collected.