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Cuba: National Meeting of Bloggers Ends in Controversy

Several months ago the administrators of La Joven  Cuba [es], one of the blogs with the highest number of followers on the island, declared their intention [es] to organize an event to bring together representatives of the national blogosphere to discuss various subjects.  The silence surrounding the installation of fibre optic cables [es] which were supposed to come into use in 2010, the impact of blogs on the national public sphere, and the regulations which limit Cuban citizens’ access or participation in Web 2.0 spaces are some of the main concerns shared by all members of the national blogging community.

Poster for the Meeting of Cuban Bloggers.

The event was programmed for the 27th and 28th April 2012. More than 60 bloggers from all the provinces in the country spent two days sharing their experiences at the University of Matanzas “Camilo Cienfuegos,” east of the Cuban capital, in an event which tried to create “horizontal mechanisms for coordinating different blogging projects around the country.”

In the event's final statement [es], which has sparked controversy [es] amongst various members [es] of the national blogosphere, the participants note:

Conseguimos así un marco de socialización que nos permitió salir de la ambigüedad y el anonimato que propicia Internet y coordinar estrategias de trabajo que articulen nuestros proyectos ante los desafíos que tenemos los blogueros cubanos.

Through this event we have established a framework of socialisation which allows us to emerge from the ambiguity and the anonymity which the Internet provides and to coordinate working strategies within which to develop our projects in light of the challenges we face as Cuban bloggers.

The event was broadcast in real time by Justin.tv, Twitter and the event's official blog “Blogazo x Cuba” [es]. The final declaration contains 12 points and confirms participants’ support for the Cuban political system while calling for “respect for difference and for open debate.”

The document also demands the release of the five Cubans held prisoner in the United States and the end of the economic and financial sanctions which the United States have held in place against Cuba for over half a century. The participants also requested that the “State's Central Administration Bodies reformulate the regulations which limit connectivity and access to the web by state institutions, in the interest of establishing a greater presence of Cuban citizens in cyberspace.”

The main regulation existing in the country on this issue was passed in 2007 and is known as Resolution 127 of the Ministry of Informatics and Communications (MIC). It bans the publication of information on foreign servers, forcing the majority of national bloggers who blog from their places of work or study into illegality.

Another of the issues currently provoking significant debate on the island is related to the discursive nuances of the reality presented in these spaces: the different critical levels, as well as ambiguity regarding which topics may be dealt with and how the questioning attitude adopted by some bloggers may be considered as “outside the Revolution” or contrary to the current political system. On this note, one of the participants in the event, Carlos Alberto Pérez, author of La Chiringa de Cuba [es] poses the question [es] “how can one be critical in Cuba without being considered a dissident?”

Although the committee organizing the event, composed of five bloggers living in Cuba, stated that “our dream was to organise a meeting which would be national in scale and as inclusive as possible,” members of collectives such as Critical Observatory [es] and Havana Times [es] , two of the main blogging communities on the island and supporters of the Cuban political system, were not invited.

The selection critiera took into account the regular updating of blogs, the diversity of topics dealt with, and representation of each province.

However, the authors of  La Joven Cuba said:

Estamos conscientes que dejamos fuera otros blogueros y quedamos con la insatisfacción de no ser lo suficientemente justos pero un evento de tal magnitud llevaba muchos recursos y esta fue nuestra principal limitación y preocupación. Era un riesgo que tuvimos que asumir y asumiremos todas las críticas que se nos hagan al respecto.

We are aware that we excluded other bloggers and we regret having been unfair, but an event of this scale requires significant resources and this was our main limitation and concern. It was a risk which we had to take and we will accept all criticisms which are made of us in this respect.

On this topic, the author of the blog “In 2310 and 8225” Yasmín Silvia Portales pointed out later in her post “I failed”:

¿Acaso no es siempre parcial y sesgada la manera en que se decide quiénes son “los protagonistas de la blogosfera del país”, no importa si lo dice El País o… alguien más?

Isn't the way in which we decide who “the protagonists of the country's blogosphere” are always partial and biased? Does it matter if it is El País [one of Spain's main newspapers]  which says it or…someone else?

According to the article by the Inter Press Service (IPS) agency:

En el país, se han realizado encuentros de activistas en blogs y en redes sociales en Internet. El 27 de septiembre de 2008, Roger Trabas organizó junto al empresario y bloguero francés David Chapet, el primer Encuentro “Bloggers por Cuenta Propia”, convocado desde el sitio llamado Bloggers Cuba, que se celebró en el gubernamental Palacio de Computación y Electrónica de la capital cubana.

Meetings of activists involved in blogging and social networks have been held in the country. On 27th September 2008, Roger Trabas alongside the French businessman and blogger David Chapet, organised the first meeting “Independent Bloggers,” convened from the site called Bloggers Cuba, which was held in the governmental Centre for Computing and Electronics in the Cuban capital.

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