March 5, 1998

Cuba: Ideology Shake up Threatens Cultural Liberalization

Inter Press Service

HAVANA, (Mar. 3) IPS - The decade of cultural liberalization here could be ending, with an across-the-board ideological reaffirmation from the Fidel Castro government.

Limitations on cultural liberalization are expected to result from a closed meeting of the National Union of Cuban Writers and Artists (UNEAC) held with with the President yesterday.

The meeting was organized to prepare a congress where the successor to the UNEAC President Abel Prieto and culture minister designate will be chosen.

The state radio station reported that Castro had given a nine-hour speech at the meeting, but that for the time being, little or no information had been released on the conclusions reached by the meeting or the President's propositions.

Intellectual circles have been concerned about the possibility of a return to the previous grey era of Cuban culture since the new parliament took over on Feb. 24.

The inauguration ceremony took place a month after the visit of Pope John Paul II to the country, an event that brought an atmosphere of religious and political tolerance and presented the need to open broad national dialogue.

But this new parliament came in after the government granted a pardon to 299 prisoners in January.

Foreign Minister Roberto Robaina stated the mass pardon did not mean new openings would be offered for the internal opposition nor had it been a gesture to win a more flexible attitude toward the island from Washington.

The United States is calling for "fundamental changes" in the Cuban policy as a first requisite to even partially lifting the blockade imposed on the island since the early sixties.

These "changes" include the freeing of all political prisoners, the creation of an independent judicial system, respect for individual liberties, the holding of free election and the disappearance of the State Security Department.

Since 1995, Cuban analysts have been speaking of the possibility of an ideological offensive by the authorities to coincide with the beginning of the economic revival following the crisis provoked by the disappearance of the Communist bloc in Europe.

A report from the political bureau of the ruling Communist Party in 1996, strongly criticized representatives of the academic world for publishing, both within Cuba and abroad, work with criteria alien to the official line.

Castro, recently elected for the fifth consecutive term at the head of the Council of State, used his re-election speech to, amongst other things, attack the works of art which criticize the current socialist system.

The leader referred to films made on the island with state resources, which "are not a call to battle and resistance" and could even be classed at "counterrevolutionary films."

"Transmitting the idea that all revolution and socialism is bureaucracy and poverty is to discredit the ideas of a country where the lives of 300,000 children have been saved and infant mortality is at 7.2 per 1,000 live births," he said.

Although no names were mentioned, Castro concentrated his criticism on "Guantanamera," the last film co-directed by master of Cuban cinema Tomas Gutierrez Alea, who died in 1996.

The words of the president were interpreted as a call to a return to socialist realism as a dominant tendency in art, something which had been overcome by the cultural policy of this country for more than a decade.

Cuban art, in writing, painting and sculpture, cinema, theater and music, is characterized by the view that the current situation of the island is a problem and its ability to bind tradition with the most modern and universal tendencies.

"It tears at my heart, but I am more sure than ever of my revolutionary socialist convictions," said president of the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Industry and Art (ICAIC) Alfredo Guevara in a declaration of how he would take the change last Friday.

Guevara, a close companion of Castro since he was 19 years old, defended the revolutionary attitude and principles of the members of the ICAIC directorship and the artists.

He said he was sure the information had not flowed to the President "in an adequate manner," declaring himself certain Castro was still dedicated to doing justice, a passion he has maintained since his youth.

Copyright © 1998 Cable News Network, Inc. A Time Warner Company


news | prensa intl. | prensa oficial | opiniones | debates | cartas | documentos| archivos
busquedas | correo electronico | centro | cuba fotos | pinturas | anillas de tabaco
B P I C | Agencia Medio Ambiente | enlaces