Diario de las Americas Interview with Ivan Garcia
Diario de las Americas Interview with Ivan Garcia
Posted on December 14, 2014
After participating in a workshop about investigative journalism in San
Diego, California from November 10 to 14, Ivan Garcia spent four days in
Miami. During his stay in that city a reporter from Diario de las
Americas — a Miami-based Spanish-language newspaper for which he has
been a contributor since January of 2013 — did an interview with him
which was prominently featured in both the publication’s digital and
Ivan Garcia, an independent Cuban journalist who writes for Diario de
las Americas from Havana, notes that “there has been a change in Cuba”
in terms of the types of repression that government agents use against
those who dissent from the official line.
Garcia, who covers the grittier aspects of daily life in his country,
admitted that the strategy of the Cuban government with respect to the
dissident community “is difficult to understand.” He notes, “Some such
as members of Martha Beatriz Roca’s group, who live in the provinces and
don’t even have enough to eat, are being repressed very severely. These
are the worst cases precisely because they are less well-known.”
“But for people like Yoani (Sanchez) and me, who write for well-known
publications, we cannot say that we are being repressed, especially not
since 2013 when they started granting travel permits.”
Garcia admits that working as an independent journalist means ignoring
many of the rules of journalism. “I cannot introduce myself as a
journalist to the people who provide the material for my stories. I hang
out with and talk to hookers, drug dealers, people from the ‘other
Havana.’ I practice another form of journalism because Cuba is a
He recognizes that the government’s changed attitude towards people like
him who write about Cuba for independent foreign news media — even for
media outlets such as Radio Martí and TV Martí — is something
independent journalists have now but did not have in previous eras when
they were subject to beatings or years of imprisonment.
“Many of the things they have been allowing, which might seem like
openings and which the regime presents as change, is something
independent journalists and opposition figures in Cuba have been asking
for since the 1990s,” he says.
The Cuban government’s emigration reform law passed in 2013 makes it
possible for many dissidents and most Cuban citizens to travel overseas.
For some, however, the frequent trips abroad by members of the
opposition are an indication that the government has become dismissive
of the role they play.
“This means opponents have to find ways to get stronger politically.
Since people began travelling almost two years ago, the only thing we
hear about when someone comes back from visiting these places is what
they were able to buy.”
Garcia believes the dissident community has been unable to find a
political voice on the international stage while at the same time when
the government has gained attention for its purported reforms. “It seems
to me that in politics two years is enough time. I don’t think anything
has been achieved. I feel I have to right to raise some questions
because I think the dissident movement represents me,” he says.
The reporter, who has been subject to criticism for exposing the
political situation and social degradation of his country, says many in
Cuba have been deceived.
“People are tired of the Castros and the embargo, which in Cuba is
called the ‘blockade’ because the government uses it as an excuse to
explain why nothing works. But they don’t trust the dissidents either.
The most compelling dissidents might be the Ladies in White but all the
reports of internal divisions within the group have hurt their image.
“The other thing is that society has become fragmented. People have been
leaving the country for three generations and this has resulted in a big
intellectual gap in every speciality, in every field of knowledge and
science. And people will keep choosing to emigrate as long as things are
bad economically,” he adds.
In spite of this bleak analysis, however, Garcia believes that Cuba is
bound to change. “I have no way of knowing this for sure but I think the
country will move from a totalitarian regime to a society where
democracy gets introduced little by little,” he says.
He adds that “any future American president, whether Democrat or
Republican, will have to try negotiating with Cuba once the Castros are
gone. By then we will have seen if there is a dissident who can assume
political leadership in a democracy, someone with a serious position,
because right now there are a lot of lies.”
For Garcia, the prominent dissidents from the 1990s such as Vladimiro
Roca, Martha Beatriz and Félix Bonne among others have not only grown
older but “can no longer count on support from the U.S. government —
which is to say resources and money — because Washington is banking on
the new generation.”
“One of our problems as Cubans is that we have no respect for historical
memory. We climb ahead by trampling over corpses. This should not be.
There were others who came before us and others before them who were
executed by the regime.”
According to Garcia, beyond regime change and the need for a political
restructuring, the Cuban situation “requires a period of social recovery
that will take about five or six generations because the value system
does not exist as can be seen by the absence of even a vocabulary for it
among younger Cubans.”
“The impoverishment of Cuba means a girl goes to bed with a man for a
beer and is applauded for it. This is really what we do not know how to
overcome. It is also a fact that the worship of money distracts people
from confronting important issues like the violation of their own
rights,” he adds.
Garcia points out that he has been witnessing with increasing frequency
any number of Cubans — mostly young people — preparing to travel
illegally to the United States in the hopes of benefitting from the
Cuban Adjustment Act.
“It has to be amended. To me it no longer makes any sense. Refugee
status should be reserved for those who actually suffer from political
persecution, not for those who seek protection from the Adjustment Act
only to return to the island the next year, which they supposedly had to
flee due to political problems.”
“The same thing happens with the law that provides protection to those
who arrive on land but returns those Cubans who are intercepted at sea
(known as the drive-foot wet-foot policy). This strikes me as being
pathetic, not to mention all the deaths it has caused. The Florida
Straights is the biggest cemetery in the world.”
This trip to the United States was the first foreign trip in Garcia’s
entire life and, although he sees an uncertain future for his country,
he concludes, “I don’t see myself anywhere else but Cuba. I believe it
is the place I belong. In spite of everything, I like my country.”
Iliana Lavastida Rodríguez, Diario las Américas, November 25, 2014
Source: Diario de las Americas Interview with Ivan Garcia | Translating