Journalism in Cuba

Granma journalist takes refuge in Miami

 

Mairelys Cuevas Gómez, on a business trip to Mexico, crossed the Mexican border and is now in Miami.

jcchavez@elnuevoherald.com

The news editor of the official Cuban daily newspaper Granma defected a week ago during a business trip to Mexico and is now living in Miami.

Mairelys Cuevas Gómez, 27, traveled to Mexico authorized by the paper’s executive editor and with the full knowledge of other Cuban officials and the elite in charge of the government media, according to a report published on the website Café Fuerte.

Cuevas’ defection is a new blow to the regime’s news and propaganda operation. In recent months, at least four other members of the Cuban media also decided to ask for asylum in the United States and the United Kingdom.

Cuevas has declined to comment on the circumstances of her decision and her future plans while she resolves her legal status and U.S. authorities finalize the due process of her case.

Cuevas’ decision to abandon Cuba and to move to the country that has been the ultimate antagonist of the island’s government could be linked to her frustration over the way the government has handled the Cuban situation as well to a romantic relationship in South Florida, according to sources consulted by Café Fuerte.

Cuevas’ position was one of the most sensitive and trusted in Granma’s management and the paper’s content. She was one of the few with authority to approve the final edition of the newspaper.

In August, a daughter of Cuban vice president Marino Murillo, who has occasionally been mentioned as a possible successor of Cuban leader Raúl Castro, defected surprisingly in Florida. Glenda Murillo Díaz, 24, crossed the Mexican border in Laredo, Texas, on Aug. 16.

Like Cuevas and Murillo, thousands of Cubans arrive in the United States every year through the Mexican border. They then appear before U.S. authorities and apply to be included under the dry-feet, wet-feet policy.

A photograph published on Cuevas’ Facebook page shows the young woman smiling and relaxed at the popular Bayside shopping center in downtown Miami.

Cuevas’ defection drew condemnation from supporters of the government and official bloggers on the island. Meanwhile, from the opposition ranks, blogger Yoani Sánchez considered Cuevas’ exit one of the most important developments in the Cuban media recently.

“Though I have received reports that one of the fundamental elements in her decision was emotional, it was also influenced by professional frustration, as was the case of Marino Murillo’s daughter,” Sánchez told El Nuevo Herald by telephone from her home in Havana.

She also made reference to the fact that Cuevas participated directly in the practice of an official journalism that Sánchez called false.

“It’s a personal decision, but these are people who, up to the last minute, wore the mask of a falsehood that they were willing to validate with their writing,” Sánchez added.

El Nuevo Herald tried unsuccessfully to communicate with the office of the top editor of Granma, Lázaro Barredo Medina, and with Enrique Montesinos Delvaty, the digital news editor.

Reinaldo Escobar, an independent journalist, said in Havana that Cuevas’ defection is one more case of people who, “for a long time,” had a favorable position toward the regime.

“I don’t condemn her for having left, but it can be uncomfortable for people there (Cuban exiles) to graciously accept her arrival and her claim that she is now part of them.”

Cuevas was an outstanding student in the Lenin Vocational School. She studied journalism in the University of Havana and graduated with honors in 2007. A year later she joined the Granma team. In 2009, she wrote one of her first reported projects titled “Steel horses inspired by Girón (Bay of Pigs).” The story covered thoroughly the origin and training of an elite force of the Revolutionary Armed Forces specialized in handling and operating war tanks.

“The tank forces departed from Havana to the place of the invasion with a courage that toppled mountains,” Cuevas wrote in Granma. “That’s how they joined the fight of the people and how they defeated the enemy that since then continues to lie in wait in all of our paths.”

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