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Dubious Havana Times goes online
CubaNews / November 2008

By Larry Luxner

Cuba now has an online English-language publication: The Havana Times. Under the motto “open-minded writing from Cuba,” the new online service claims it’ll seek to “avoid the black-and-white stereotyped reporting” from and about the island.

The site at www.havanatimes.org carries stories from Prensa Latina, Inter Press Service and its own sources. Among other things, the new outlet features “Diaries from Havana” with contributions by Maite Vera, Leonid López, Mavis Alvarez, Veronica Fernández and Rainer Rubira.

It also features the work of professional and amateur photographers, as well as commentaries by the editor, Circles Robinson, who has lived in Cuba for the past six years. “By the time it gets in full swing, the What’s On section will present a comprehensive section on cultural activity in the Cuban capital with an accent on those things that might be of interest to non-Spanish speaking visitors,” according to the website.

None of the articles at the HT website are openly critical of the Castro regime — for example, no interviews with dissidents so far — though plenty of articles attack U.S. policy toward Cuba and Latin America.

For now, CubaNews wonders how objective The Havana Times will really be.

In an article entitled “My Cuba Wish List for 2008” — written last year, before the new service came online — Robinson hopes for no hurricanes, more Chinese buses, increased industrial production, legalization of same-sex marriages, a war on bureaucracy and a top-10 finish in the Beijing Olympics — but not a word on freedom of speech, democracy or the release of all political prisoners.

In other media news, the Russian state news agency RIA Novosti has opened a Havana bureau as part of the agency’s major media strategy in the Latin American region.

“We are sincerely glad that Cuba is set to become an important and significant center for us,” said Svetlana Mironyuk, the head of RIA Novosti, adding that “Latin America is one of our biggest priorities.”

RIA Novosti’s Oct. 31 event was attended by Russian Communications Minister Igor Schegolev, his Cuban counterpart Ramiro Valdes, Russia’s envoy to Cuba Mikhail Kamynin and various Russian and Cuban officials.

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