Thursday, July 15, 2004

Cuba: Not even creative freedom

HAVANA, July 12 (Richard Roselló / www.cubanet.org) - Communist Party officials in Batabanó stopped the launching of a papier-mâché boat that was somehow supposed to stand for drug addiction and hauled three art students and their professor to Party headquarters to "discuss the incident" July 3.

The three students at the provincial School for Arts Instructors, who said they had obtained a permit from the local police chief, were carrying the boat on their backs the approximately one-and-one-half miles between Batabanó proper and Surgidero, the port, when Party officials intercepted them.

The students said they saw the end-of-the-school-year project they had dubbed "Sinking Vices" as a contribution to the campaign against drugs being waged nationally. Accordingly, they had made arrangements with the vice-president of the local writers' association to videotape the event.

Once at the water's edge, they intended to launch and board the approximately 10-foot boat they had adorned with references to alcohol, cigarettes and drugs. Presumably, the boat would have sunk rapidly since it consisted of a wire structure covered with papier-mâché.

All this is what presumably would have happened if, as they were carrying the boat on their backs, Party officials hadn't got wind of a rumor involving rafters and the presence of representatives from the press and had not decided to take a hand in the matter. Bystanders later described the confrontation at the entrance to Surgidero as "ill-mannered and rude," singling out the local Party ideologue as a particular offender, and blamed the officials' "uncompromising" attitude for the lack of communication between the two groups.

The students, after discussing the matter with officials at the Party's municipal headquarters, gave their names only as Carlos, Jesús, and Julián, and said officials had told them they had thought the event might have been meant as a provocation and had only intervened to protect them from the wrath of the populace. The three said officials also told them that for this type of event, a police permit was not enough; in future they should first get a permit from the Party.

Party officials later explained that arts projects such as these are unnecessary, inasmuch as there is no alcoholism in Batabanó.

A local hand, with a possibly more jaundiced view of affairs, pointed out three outlets for alcoholic beverages within 200 feet of the headquarters of the Communist Party Municipal Committee of Batabanó and ticked off the numerous instances in which consumers ­and their brawls­ have stumbled past the office's doors.

"And neither Party militants nor police have ever interfered," he said.

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