“El periódico ha de estar siempre como los correos antiguos, con el caballo enjaezado, la fusta en la mano y la espuela en el tacón.  Debe desobedecer los apetitos del bien personal y atender imparcialmente al bien público”.
José Martí

Cuba: Political Communication in the Post-Fidel Era

Discurso de Fidel Castro

For half a century, Cuba’s political communication remained exclusively in the hands of the talented Fidel Castro, a brilliant public speaker – like the philosophers of yesteryear – who used public squares as a platform to popularize ideas, legitimize actions and win over followers.

His speeches, simple yet passionate, reached the minds and touched the hearts of Cubans ever since the Revolution triumphed. Some of his speeches even went on to mark generations of Latin Americans, such as the Havana Declaration.

His public appearances were a form of government accountability, an informative summary of the latest events, a projection of future plans and measures and, sometimes, self-criticism because of the mistakes he had made in the government.

Cubans would be brought up to date about what was happening in their country at least every 6 months – January 1st and July 26th – from Cuba opening up to foreign investment to the announcement of the worst economic crisis in the history of the Cuban Revolution.

The presence of such a talent was both an advantage and a handicap for the Revolution. All of Cuba’s political and informative discourse rested on the Comandante’s shoulders, preventing national political communication from being updated and the press from playing a social role.

El presidente ecuatoriano Rafael Correa ha manejado con mucha habilidad las herramientas de la comunicación política, especialmente el uso de las redes sociales.

Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa (who today finished his time in office) skillfully handled political communication tools, especially social media.

When he left power, the Cuban government and Communist Party found themselves without political communication tools, without specialized teams and with a press that had little credibility. The authorities were faced with a true abyss in this regard.

This crisis has come about at a time of economic, technological and generational transition. A time when the Cuban people need to have every change clearly explained to them in order for the government to seek out their support for the creation of this model called “sustainable and prosperous socialism” is searching for.

However, people are finding out less and less. News about debates at the Council of Ministers or the Plenary session of the PCC’s Central Committee are unfathomable to the ordinary Cuban, they only ever talk about the subjects they dealt with and say almost nothing about what has been approved.

Political communication has been developing in countries which didn’t have a Fidel Castro for decades now. This empty hole was filled with teams of specialists who today serve all political movements, from the long-established Right to the radical Left.

President Rafael Correa’s promotional videos are the best example of how the Left has also managed to successfully use these tools. Comparing them to Cuban propaganda would be to compare a PhD thesis with a drawing made by a child in preschool.

La capacidad de comunicar con su gente marcará el destino de cualquier político

Any politician’s fate is marked by his/her skill of being able to communicate with their people.

The Left’s electoral campaigns, in many countries, rest on communication teams, who have even been able to turnaround an imminent defeat. Everything counts, they study every word, every image, symbol, personal projection, music or colors.

Having a censorship apparatus to block “the enemy’s message” from reaching the island could have been of some use in the last century but in 2017, this is just a suicidal delusion. The increase in Internet access, the rise of the Weekly Package or the (illegal) satellite dishes doesn’t let them silence anything anymore.

Keeping quiet about certain subjects is no longer an option because today, leaks are sinking the ship and there isn’t a skilled and exceptional captain to scoop out water every so often. The national press, propaganda and political discourse urgently need to be updated.

Ironically, while some people in Cuba view the Internet as the devil, which implies great danger to the Revolution, leaders of the Left in other places have been discovering it is an opportunity to counteract the large media outlets.

The rise of the Left in Brazil, Ecuador, El Salvador, Spain, Greece or France is not only due to the existence of “objective and subjective circumstances” but also to how they project themselves to the public eye.

How many Cuban leaders interact with the general population via social media? How many of them have Facebook accounts? How many of them are able to write a coherent message in just 140 characters? How many young people have designed their communication policies?

There is a new language and it’s the language of the future because it belongs to the new generations. Being old and having trouble understanding this isn’t a crime, but refusing to learn it, trying to perpetuate a language spoken by dead tongues, is unforgivable.

En los miles de jóvenes que fueron a la ceremonia por la muerte de Fidel Castro se podía percibir el cambio de época en la comunicación política. Foto: Raquel Pérez Díaz

Among the thousands of young people who went to the ceremony after the death of Fidel Castro last November you could feel the beginning of a new era in political communication. Foto: Raquel Perez Diaz

Translation: Havana Times

About Fernando Ravsberg

Nacido en Uruguay, corresponsal de Público en Cuba y profesor del post grado de “Información internacional y países del Sur” de la Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Fue periodista de BBC Mundo, Telemundo de EEUU, Radio Nacional de Suecia y TV Azteca de México. Autor de 3 libros, El Rompecabezas Cubano, Reportajes de Guerra y Retratos.


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