State-run media organizations in Cuba have given extensive coverage to a U.S. government plan to boost expression among Cubans ages 12 to 24.
The U.S. Agency for International Development, or USAID, announced on June 13 that it plans to award two grants totaling $6 million as part of a program called, “Making Spaces: Places for Youth Expression in Cuba.”
The program goal is
to increase opportunities for youth-to-youth interaction in Cuba, allowing the country’s young citizens to experience freedom of association and freedom of expression in social spaces organized outside state authority.
The program targets “marginalized and vulnerable populations,” including:
Afro-Cubans, rural and inner-city youth, disabled youth, orphans, and at-risk youth (from broken families and single-parent households).
Supporters of the Cuban government have lashed out at the idea in recent days. Martha Beatriz Roque, a dissident leader in Havana, said she sees nothing wrong with it. At least the children won’t be “brainwashed with the hatred that constantly permeates the media throughout the island.”
Dissidents treat children “with love” and teach them “to share with others, something they are not used to,” Beatriz Roque wrote in a column. (See my unrelated interview with Beatriz Roque on the Cuba Money Proejct’s Vimeo channel).
Her column was published today in Spanish on Emilio Ichikawa‘s blog. Here’s a quick and rough translation into English:
Right now the Cuban government has a new propaganda objective against the United States of America: Children and adolescents. As always, the official press has taken charge of putting the issue on a silver platter, which is then covered in the political spaces and in particular in the Roundtable. In big headlines, Granma newspaper announced that USAID (the U.S. Agency for International Development) proposes millions of dollars to infiltrate among minors.
Translated into official language, they will try to push the concept of “free speech” among young people, particularly in the age group ranging from 12 to 18, with a budget of $6 million.
But thereupon began the repression of those who have any link with youth and children, as is the case of Jose Diaz Silva and his wife Lourdes Esquivel Vieytes, both of whom perform activities for children and youth in their home in the Municipality of Boyers and were threatened by the political police who visited them and said they could go to prison for using children to help an enemy foreign power.
Indeed, the contact for these dissidents is an organization in the United States of America that is called Cuba Corps and has not had government funds, operating only with private donations and money raised by its activists, including some members in Europe. In addition, the activities with these children involve games, drawing, children’s videos and the occasional snack, which the infants avidly enjoy because their parents cannot satisfy them regularly buying them candy and soda.
The vacation period season is approaching, which always extends through the month of September. Children will not have much to entertain themselves during these days off and as usual the boys will play any sport with ball in the street and girls will jump rope with an old piece of rope, because it routine that children in the country have no toys. Little by little, Three King’ Day was gradually diluted to nothing, after the Day of Children. Of course, the “Yankee blockade” is to blame! It is also responsible for children only being able to drink milk until age seven and from there, in the food sense, they become adults and are able to buy coffee with peas mixed in using the ration card.
But there are worse things than the material ones affecting Cuban children right now. For example, the lack of love, of hope, the absence of a commitment to faith in Christ. For so many years lost the work of the Church, though perhaps in a small measure it has been recovered.
Children and young people stopped going to the purest place where they grew up and began to have different customs and vocabulary. One must consider that times change, but not in the way they have. Most children are vulgar in the way they speak, gesture and even dress.
It is precisely this commitment of devotion that was lost in the family, which has allowed that children are no longer educated in a way that is close to God and they take don’t take roads that lead to love of their neighbor, to decency and social behavior in accordance with all it.
Young people and children today have little respect for adults. They generally treat the elderly without courtesy or kindness. You hear loud music, obscene words are said anywhere, even by girls. But ultimately the generation that preceded today’s children had the same problems and now they are those who should educate them, whether they are their parents or teachers.
The government should not be concerned with activities that dissidents might carry out with children. In these (activities), they are not brainwashed with the hatred that constantly permeates the media throughout the island. To the contrary, they are treated with love and are taught to share with others, something they are not used to.
When there is a change in Cuba toward democracy, in addition to the material solutions must be carried out given the evils of totalitarianism in the country, it is important to consider restoring customs, historic dates, love of country, the flag, the anthem, all the national symbols, respect for elders and also build a number of values that have dissipated, as the lives of three generations of Cubans have been lost.