Reports from Cuba: The war against subcultures on the ‘Reflejos’ platform

By Maria Matienzo Puerto in Diario de Cuba:

The War Against Subcultures on the ‘Reflejos’ Platform


Several blogs installed on the Reflejos platform, in the domain, have been censored, either because they do not comply with its absurd and incomprehensible “Terms of Use”, or because connectivity levels are so poor that authors are barely able to update their sites, which also leads to permanent suspension.

The platform’s “monitoring department” is responsible for ensuring that the domain’s “Terms of Use” are observed. There is a similar department at the Communications Ministry, charged with “monitoring” both the Cuban blogosphere and activity on the domain.

According to the plastic artist and administrator of the censored blog, “there is a kind of war against all subcultures.”

“We were warned three times: once because we published a story featuring a kind of raw realism that they considered pornography; the second time, for a series of artistic nudes, most of them from the waist up; and the third time for promoting a club member’s party,” says the blogger.

In November of 2015 the bloggers Derbis Campos and Samuel Riera anonymously informed DIARIO DE CUBA of some of the abuses that they had been suffering for promoting the Club de Osos de Cuba, composed of men who like other men.

“It seems that time we didn´t conform to the objectives for which the platform was created either,” says Riera, who wonders whether different lifestyles will ever be accepted by the supervisors of a network characterized by their dogmatism and machismo.

The censorship of the blog was inspired by other motives. An essay by the activist Jimmy Roque Martínez on the UMAPs, entitled “Con el perdón (o no) de Mariela Castro”, prompted the monitoring to department to slap the blog with a three-month disqualification.

Subsequently accessing the platform ended up becoming impossible, according to its administrator, Yasmin Portales: “it was so bad that you couldn’t administrate the blog.”

“I would try to upload the same article four or five times, to no avail. It’s a kind of vicious circle, in which we always lose,” says Portales.

After three months without being able to update it, the blog was closed due to inactivity.

“The article said that those responsible for the UMAPs are still in power, and have not been held responsible by the justice system for their crime.” Thus did one of the platform’s administrators paraphrase the most biting section of the article by Jimmy Roque. “And that has no other interpretation than holding Fidel and Raul accountable. And we cannot tolerate that.”

The administrators of seem to know their jobs very well. Each censured blog is filed, recording its existence and its infraction. But they don’t really need to check the archives to remember the “infractions” of each of those censured.

They assure DIARIO DE CUBA that none of their actions have been personal, but rather strictly related to the duties assigned them.

“The platform is to serve the interests of the Revolution, and our regulations are very clear on this point,” they explain.

“We will not publish anything that threatens the morals or the interests of the Revolution. Moreover, what the article (Roque’s) said is an interpretation. The UMAPs were like performing Military Service, not concentration or forced labor camps.”

Portales, a blogger and also and LGTB activist, has provided DIARIO DE CUBA with a list of Cuban blogs on religious themes and sexual diversity that it is practically impossible to browse.

Access is hampered to, among others, (on the Afro-Cuban heritage);;; (a religious blog); (the IAl-Masumin Islamic Center);; (a network of people living with HIV); and (on the HSH project, in Villa Clara).

With regard to blogs featuring religious themes, the administrators of the Reflejos platform claimed that the suspensions were mainly due to attempts to raise money or do business via the blogs, acts prohibited by the Terms of Use.

In the event of an alleged nonconformity, the users of Reflejos can only communicate via email, although some manage to find phone numbers, and are attended to. However, at the headquarters of the computer authorities, located next to Central Park, the orders given the receptionist are “not to talk to anyone, because they don’t take calls from the public.”

Some users wonder whether this “monitoring” extends to other areas of the Cuban network.

Not long ago, “I was chatting with a friend, a professor at the University of Pinar del Rio, in a chat room provided by that research center, and I wrote the phrase ‘gay community’. Well, he received, instead of the word ‘gay’, the word ‘censored’. These are things that you tell people, and they sound unbelievable, right?” says Derbis Campos.

Other users have had similar experiences, such as being unable to navigate the CENESEX page from the National Council of Performing Arts, or from the connection provided by the Hispano-American Center for artists and writers, because the acronym “SEX” appears in the institution’s name.