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Forget everything you've heard about Raúl Castro liberalizing Cuba. Fidel is still alive and kicking — reporters.
How do we know? Well, for the first time in its 15-year history, the Miami-based National Circle of Journalists from Cuba did not give out an award on Cuban Journalist Day, which was October 25. The group of aging but energetic periodistas generally recognizes a heroic colleague on the island.
It wasn't that no one there risked arrest by passing information to a foreign correspondent. Nor did anti-Fidelista bloggers stop posting their blather on the state-controlled Internet.
No, the problem, group leaders say, was they couldn't contact the candidates to inform them they might win the award. "There is a repressive wave in Cuba that has risen," says José R. Carreño, the group's president and a former political prisoner. "We tried to make contact through various means."
"Before, we just made a phone call or used the Internet," adds the group's secretary, Marta R. Hanono.
Most members of the circle come from a generation that clacked on the keys of manual typewriters.
After the revolutionary regime "took over all 200 printing presses and every newspaper" on the island — including the two Carreño wrote for, Excelsior and El País — he and some colleagues secretly tried to print their own small paper every two weeks. Carreño says he was jailed in 1963 and stayed behind bars until 1979, when international pressure led to the release of 40 Cuban journalists.
Group members view the award as a vote of confidence for those trying to write their mind under a totalitarian regime. They periodically send $100 to the island to make sure journalists can buy paper, pens, and other necessities, such as shoes.
They also raise money to spruce up the 20-year-old Plaza de los Periodistas at SW 13th Avenue and 11th Street, where plaques bear the names of Cuban journalists who have died in exile.
The lack of a contact on the island didn't stop the group, though. During a luncheon at La Habana Vieja on Coral Way, they honored acting Honduran President Roberto Micheletti "and his valorous Honduran people." Why? They have "made manifest their love of liberty with courage and determination" for keeping Mel Zelaya out of power.