Cuban Voices: Voces Cubanas

The Cuban blog Voces Cubanas poses an interesting question for Internet studies: does blogging constitute a “right to assembly”? If the right to assembly is recriminated in some countries, does it give a government the right to shut down or censor a blog? This is an interesting question to consider in countries and societies where the right to assembly is guaranteed by law but is actually considered a criminal act, as in the case of Cuba. Having lived there for a few months in 1998, I have seen first-hand the limitations and restrictions imposed on Cubans. A Cuban friend was arrested for talking to us on the street. Restaurants, also known as “paladares”, cannot seat more than a dozen people (known as “doce sillas”) in a single place at the same time. There is a civilian militia planted in every city block to report on suspicious behavior. Of course, the right to congregate the masses is reserved for Castro’s massive rallies in the famous Plaza de la Revolución under the watchful gaze of Che Guevara’s and Jose Marti’s monuments. Surely Cuba has developed a form of repressive control of cyberspace as well.

Yoani Sánchez, the famed Cuban journalist and blogger in this group has been persecuted, denied prizes and trips abroad and has been a blind blogger for 3 years. Thanks to her waif-like figure and looks that are hard to place ethnically, she dresses up as a german tourist and walks into cyber cafes in hotels with her texts in a thumb drive, which she then quickly uploads to the Internet. She has also counted with collaborators who post her texts from emails she sends to them. On the same token, other bloggers quickly download texts from blogs and save them in thmb drives which are then shared among activists, writers and journalists in the ‘underground’ away from the firewalls and government control.

In Cuba, the right of assembly and expression is enshrined in the Constitution, but is not defined. The criminal law protects you by criminalizing conduct that infringes upon their legitimate execution. However, it refers to legal provisions on the subject, to punish those that prevent the exercise of this power and those who carry illegally.

However, in our legislation there is no legal provision regulating the content and scope of the right of assembly and demonstration, however, be frequent parades through downtown streets, all called and organized by the government and with a distinctly political -ideological.

The absence of relevant legislation, was what forced the Cuban government, represented by members of the Ministry of the Interior, referring, in a verbal statement to the Damas de Blanco, international practice and not a legal requirement of your system legal, to justify its decision to greatly restrict the exercise of the right to demonstrate to these women.

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