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Posted March 24, 2008 by publisher in Cuba Human Rights

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(original title: Over Internet, Cuban youths offer rare insights)

University of Miami students speak with Cuban youths over an Internet phone connection.

The young men and women sitting around a living room somewhere in Havana laughed and talked as if they were guests at a party.

But what they were telling their counterparts in South Florida was serious business. They railed against ‘‘tyranny,’’ the persistent ‘‘repression,’’ the potential for a ‘‘social explosion,’’ rumors of a new rafter exodus and their annoyance that the media is not recognizing the efforts of younger dissidents.

Witnessed by reporters in Miami, via Internet video phone, the Havana living-room chat with five University of Miami students opened a window into a little-known dimension of post-Fidel Castro Cuba. Last week’s exchange occurred as Cuban officials and Cuban émigrés friendly to the regime met on the island to discuss easing rules restricting travel.

MOVEMENT BREWING? To some Cuba experts, the unvarnished assessments offered by the young men and women in the Havana living room reflect embryonic unrest—perhaps sparked by Raúl Castro himself when last year he encouraged debate about the problems of the Cuban revolution.

‘‘There may be a cause and effect here, with Raúl’s encouragement of open discussion in the island,’’ said Brian Latell, a former CIA analyst on Cuba and Latin America and now senior research associate at the University of Miami’s Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, which organized the Havana living-room chat.

Latell added that while Cuban youths are becoming more outspoken, their complaints may not amount to a movement.

‘‘I don’t see anything organized, yet,’’ Latell said. ``But there may well already be an incipient youth unrest.’‘

One example was an episode in November at the Universidad de Oriente campus in Santiago when an unusual student protest allegedly occurred following a report of a female student’s rape in September.

According to accounts from human rights groups reporting information from independent journalists in Cuba, a group of angry students prevented the university rector from leaving her office when they concluded she was not interested in improving security and other conditions at the campus.

To the young men and women in the Havana living room last week, Cuba’s young people represent the tip of the spear for change—one that may strike peacefully or violently.

Organizers said the location of the living room and the Cubans, ages 18 to 25, could not be identified in order to protect them from Cuban government reprisals.

UM students addressed the Havana youths via a telephone call linked to the live video image projected on a large screen.

One of the first topics was what kind of change Cuban youths want.

‘‘We, the youths of Cuba, want change,’’ said one of the young men, adding that ‘‘structural, political change’’ was necessary.

He said the problem is generational—aging people in power and powerless youths in the urban centers. ``The gerontocracy is in power and on the other side is youth, each time more powerful.’‘

The young man went on to say that the generational conflict will ``shatter the regime, and this has us very hopeful.’‘

A 25-year-old man jumped in to explain that the current generation of Cuban youths could not identify with the older people in power because experiences were different.

‘‘Our generation was formed after the fall of the Berlin wall and after the transition to democracy in eastern Europe,’’ he said. ``So we have not shared the hard struggle of those in power, who fought against [former Cuban dictator Fulgencio] Batista, who fought against a tyranny which in the end led to another tyranny.’‘

He went on to say that perhaps the greatest threat to the Cuban government is not a potential U.S. invasion, as Havana officials often claim, but angry youths.

‘‘There is a generational conflict which also includes a political conflict,’’ he said. ``Thus, the generation today does not feel committed to the same ideals of the Cuban revolution or anything of the sort. They are hollow words.’‘

In answer to a question on whether Cuban youths will wait for change or take action, the Havana group laughed nervously. Then one young man said: ``Well, in Cuba it is not logical for that to happen, but it could happen some day in the same way as in Venezuela or Burma.’‘

He added: ``Young people here are tired that their rights are violated, that their right to life is crushed and they may no longer accept it and there could be a social explosion.’‘

The conversation took an unexpected turn when Vanessa López, 21, of the UM group, asked why dissident groups mostly feature older people.



  1. Follow up post #1 added on March 24, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Of course I support any Cuban’s right to organize but I just have a couple issues with this story.

    1. Where is it being held? I understand the need for secrecy but since there is a photo associated with the story I have to wonder about the location.

    2. How did JEFFREY M. BOAN take the photo. He is credited with it’s origin so I believe that means he took the photo. How did a reporter from the Nuevo Herald get into Cuba AND attend this meeting without a problem? Do m/any reporters from the Nuevo Herald get into Cuba and get pictures like this?

    3. The inside of the location can easily be identified by government authorities. I’m guessing it is an Ambassador’s residence or the like. Also, having a Voip phone service and video phone call and digital projector (as evidenced on the screen), this is not your average dissident’s home.

    4. The people on the left appear to be at the front of the room because of the way the chairs are facing. So, that makes me wonder how many people are in the room. I would think that if the event was well attended then the photographer would have taken the picture from the back of the room to show the number of people.

    So, there are a few issues. I hate to be critical of any organizing in Cuba but I just wonder if this is a good story for the cause of the Cuban students.

    Since they are in an Ambassador’s residence or Embassy, the Cuban government would count that as one strike. Getting a videophone feed from Miami would be the second strike.

    What do you think? Is this good press for Cuban students?

    Cuba consulting services

  2. Follow up post #2 added on March 24, 2008 by nacho with 111 total posts

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but my understanding from the caption of the picture and most of the article is that those in the picture are Miami students, in Miami.
    I find it hard to believe that a Herald journo made it to Cuba unnoticed and that someone in Cuba has all that equipment
    The article does not tell anything new, you only have to read this page and others, and the blogs by Yoani and other Cuban youths to find out what they feel.
    Also I do agree with the statement that most Cuban dissidents you read about in the media could also be considered old so these present and former University students are trying to find a voice

  3. Follow up post #3 added on March 24, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Oh, that does make sense. I thought the picture was a little odd for Cuba. So they were just talking on the phone with a few Cuban students. Okay. That’s a story? Geesh.

    Cuba consulting services

  4. Follow up post #4 added on March 24, 2008 by nacho with 111 total posts

    The Cuban Colada has more on the story: “The UM group sat in a room at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies at the UM campus in Coral Gables. The Cuban youths sat in a living room-like setting somewhere in Havana.”


    Also Babalublog http://www.babalublog.com/archives/007832.html

  5. Follow up post #5 added on March 24, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts


    “UM organizers said they could not identify the location or provide the names of the participants to protect them against possible Cuban government reprisals.”

    so that’s good. Okay. I have a better understanding now.

    If those students or location are identified I would imagine they would be in serious trouble and face charges of conspiracy or the like.

    Cuba consulting services

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