The rising importance of citizen journalism in Cuba?

Perhaps a significant week in the developing tools and awareness of internet activism in Cuba. It began with the arrest of Gorki Águila (guitarist and singer with the punk-rock band Porno para Ricardo – known for their outspoken criticism of the government) on the (alleged) charge of ‘pre-delinquent dangerousness’ (peligrosidad pre delictiva), a law introduced to deal with anti-government behaviour and already used against independent journalists (including Osca Madan in 2007).

Outpourings from the blogosphere coordinated particularly by Penultimos Dias (who have created a catagory of posts on the case) and Babalu as well as the international press (the Telegraph, BBC, Guardian and others) plus open letters of support from musicians in Spain and the US filled the ether for a week. Gorki got a Free Gorki site, an entry in Wikipedia (the article was begun on he 27th August) while the traffic on his band’s MySpace page rocketed.

Arrested on Monday, three days of hyper-net-activity and by Thursday the court dropped the charge of peligrosidad pre delictiva and gave him a fine of 600 pesos for disturbing the peace (the band were rehearsing at the time of his arrest). There are a number of people (including Yoani Sanchez on her blog and via telephone/Mexico to YouTube) inferring a simple cause and effect here – the government is now so fragile that it has to back down in the face of inter(net)ation attention: this is the start, the tipping point, etc., etc. I’m not so convinced.

What I do perceive is a crisis of representation. ‘El poder popular’ hasn’t been ‘popular’ for a while. The government is representing the views and aspirations of an increasingly small section of the population. It is increasingly evident that the ideas and values of a growing proportion of the population are not guiding government action and policy. Up until now, opportunities to represent views outside of the simplistic dichotomy (in or out; silence or ‘dissidence’) have been limited. This last week just may be the beginnings of a new form of mutual support that blows away these dichotomies and offers a flatter form of resistance and new opportunities for non-governmental, non-aligned civil association.

As ever, esperemos.

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