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Minister Abelito’s Second Go-Round

Minister Abelito’s Second Go-Round / 14ymedio, Ernesto Santana

14ymedio, Ernesto Santana, Havana, 11 July 2016 — At the end of his
first stint as Minister of Culture (1997-2012), comments were frequently
heard about Abel Prieto’s desire to leave the job. The most practical
said it was due to illness, the most romantic claimed he wanted to
devote himself to writing.

Now comes his second stint, and although he holds the job
“provisionally,” many artists and intellectuals are already pleased
because, to them, Abelito is a good person and they prefer a minister
from the profession versus a simple political cadre.

Others, free from these superstitions, consider Prieto more dangerous
than Armando Hart and Julian Gonzalez put together, given the great
energy and fangs he demonstrated last year in command of the “rapid
response brigade” – self-proclaimed as “the real Cuban civil society” –
that stormed the Summit of the Americas in Panama to block the peaceful
participation of the “anti-Cuban mercenaries.”

This advisor to Raul Castro has devoted himself in recent years to
emphatically warning us about the advances of bad taste, the sexism of
the barracks, the lack of ideas and other trashy behaviors, defining
them as cultural dangers against our identity and our nation, emanating,
of course, from the capitalist hell.

The announcement that Julian Gonzales was “released from the job” was
made on Friday the 8th at the end of the Second Plenum of the Cuban
Communist Party Central Committee, before the plenary session of the
National Assembly of People’s Power. Not only was no reason given for
such a sudden “release” but not time was taken to do anything more than
designate Prieto as provisional minister, with the official media not
mentioning the issue since then.

Prieto returns to the franchise that made him a superstar in the
Revolution’s show business, but between the two stints he has been a
player in significant media performances, like that of the Panama
skirmish, with declarations that, if not for his desperate
shamelessness, would seem like drunken jokes in game of dominos or crazy
antics in the street. For example, he claimed that the Cuban government
cannot legalize opposition organizations for the same reason that “Al
Qaeda could not be legally registered as an association,” because, in
fact, if opposition members weren’t Cubans, “they would be in cages in
Guantanamo.”

He also appeared in the recent forum Culture and Nation: the Mystery of
Cuba, a miniseries hastily made to counteract the enthusiasm left by the
assault – brazenly starring himself – of the US president, and called
for a house-by-house fumigation. The “Mystery of Obama” made clear the
obsolescence of the Castro catechism, the uselessness of half a
century’s anti-Yankee screaming and the poor market for the package of
stories about the bogeyman who steals children.

Alarms sounded. Hysteria ensued. Abel Prieto talked about the “cultural
and symbolic war,” about the problem of telling the story in “a world
where entertainment, pleasure, fragmentation, amnesia, the worship of
now, have been turned into pillars of the cultural hegemony industry,”
while erecting the cross of “efficient socialism, de-bureaucratized,
democratic, that we are creating” (sic).

We imagine his concern as a democratic socialist on talking with people
about “open communication with the United States” and finding
“innocence, excessive optimism, forgetfulness, childish and uncritical
admiration by the superpower and, in some cases, uncontrollable desires
to abandon their principles to surrender themselves to arms of Satan.”

Thus, we must put an end to the fallacy that associates “Yankee” with
“modern” and with “development,” because “this Yankeephilia idealization
is one of the tendencies we must confront in the war of ideas and values
that must be fought.”

In the forum mentioned above, Abel Prieto proposed students be
‘vaccinated’ not with Soviet cartoons or Randy Alonso, but as tourist
guides with Yankee trash like Oliver Stone and Michael Moore. Also House
of Cards would serve as an antidote. And South Park should also be
included. And it’s too bad that Noam Chomsky has not made entertaining
tapes of his unsurpassed diatribes against his own country.

As for the inevitable “academic exchange with the United States” we have
to swallow the mix of “very clear principles” in order to “avoid the
glare and small-town positions.” Prieto also warned about the attempt to
“foment an enemy fifth column of a new kind, with well-designed and
conceived digital publications, social-democratic or ‘centrist’
ornamentation and verbiage full of euphemisms,” all this financed from
abroad “in the face of the discredited traditional counterrevolution.”

Although he had to recognize that the new technologies are not to blame,
he again hammered home that they serve “as a conduit and catalyst for
the avalanche of disintegrating forces,” ones that deny the role of
governmental institutions without which “the cultural environment would
become a jungle and mediocrity would gain an irreversible preponderance.”

Referring to young people – those who launch themselves on the sea, or
go to prison or to the purgatory of the streets – Prieto wants to make
us believe, in all seriousness, that we must “feel and live the
Revolution in all its historic journey, with passion and depth, and at
the same time feeling and living and defending its continuity as the
only guarantee of having a country, of having dignity.”

As the press note on the “release” of Julian Gonzalez Toledo contained
no more information than the traditional tagline that he has been
“assigned other tasks,” the traditional range of speculation immediately
arose, including the idea of a supposed campaign to deprive first
vice-president Miguel Diaz-Canel of the cronies who support his clinging
to power.

There is another speculation that could have a certain logic. When
Julian Gonzalez replaced then Minister of Culture Rafael Bernal Alemany
in 2014, it transpired that the latter was ousted because of the
outrageous theft of hundreds of pieces of art from the Museo de Bellas
Artes, some of which later appeared in Miami. Now, although Gonzalez
Toledo is considered “a hard-working and honest functionary,” his
superiors are not content with his “lack of leadership,” mentioning
again the specter of corruption.

Moreover, there are those who relate this fall to several money scandals
featuring the president of the Cuban Music Institute, Orlando Vistel,
and other predators of the cultural jungle. But, naturally, there is no
official statement that clarifies the matter and reports on it as they
should, because making the truth known continues to be seen as giving
arms to the enemy.

We Cubans only need the scrapings from Abel Prieto’s brain, as he calls
us to “build a digital socialism,” as he reminds us that “the main force
for democratization of the new technologies in Cuba, and I believe in
the world, is Fidel,” while warning that the market is a “much more
terrible [censor] than the worst that existed in the time of Stalin.”

If second acts are never a good thing, in this case the first one wasn’t
either. This second stint, however brief it might be and whether we like
it or not, comes to save us from Uncle Sam’s cultural poison. Meanwhile,
the local chupatintas (pencil-pushers) will continue to protect us from
the tropical chupi chupi, from the national vulgarity and the empire’s
chupacabras – that mythic animal that wants to suck our blood.

Source: Minister Abelito’s Second Go-Round / 14ymedio, Ernesto Santana –
Translating Cuba –
translatingcuba.com/minister-abelitos-second-go-round-14ymedio-ernesto-santana/

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