Thursday 19 November 2009

Blogging in Cuba - The Offline Edition

A subject to divide the anarchos from the tankies:

You know the way that Israel's defenders complain that left-wing support for an Israeli goods boycott, or for sanctions and divestment, is hypocritical for ignoring how much worse other countries are? It's a instinctual response, almost a nervous tic, one that makes excuses for the actions of one country by comparing them to breaches of human rights in other states, rather than the higher bar of international, universal standards.

But in my view it has a left-wing equivalent, an involuntary reflex when it comes to discussing the 'socialist' republic of Cuba.

This week Human Rights Watch issued a report on how Cuban president Raúl Castro has crushed dissent and continued repression since taking over from his brother Fidel in July 2006. This was covered in the Guardian by Rory Carroll and the responses were as inevitable as the excuses made about Israel. Why focus on Cuba when Colombia is so much worse? Or what about Jamaica, Haiti and the Dominican Republic? And isn't HRW is just a biased front organisation? And what about the fact that human rights are a luxury when a country has to defend itself from aggression from a powerful neighbour?

All comments worthy of Israel's favourite spin doctor Mark Regev.

One of the aspects covered by the HRW report is the Cuban government's antipathy to the island's tiny number of independent bloggers - which extends to threats of imprisonment and acts of violence. On 6 November, Cuba’s most prominent blogger, Yoani Sánchez, together with blogger Orlando Luís Pardo Lazo, were abducted by three men who forced them into an unmarked vehicle, where they were beaten and threatened for being 'counterrevolutionaries'. Considering the furore over the possibility of the Press Complaints Commission 'regulating' bloggers in the UK - a far less immediate threat - this seems like an issue where a little solidarity wouldn't go amiss.

The disgraceful actions of the United States towards Cuba shouldn't, of course, be forgotten - it's important that my union Unite has thrown its weight behind the campaign to free the Miami Five, for example. But there's a certain irony in the Cuba Solidarity Campaign promoting a forum tomorrow on US double standards in this particular case, organised by the Instituto Cubano de Amistad con Los Pueblos, that happens to be an online event...

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