In Cuba, independent rappers who are not approved by the Castro regime's National Hip-Hop Agency (yes, there's even a state agency that monitors rappers) face daunting obstacles to perform their craft.
They are denied venues for concerts, equipment to record, and access to television and radio. Even worse, they face censorship, harassment, beatings and imprisonment. Such is the case of Angel Yunier Remon (aka "El Critico"), a 31-year old rapper, who is serving a 5-year prison term for his lyrical criticism.
In order to assist these beleaguered rappers, a Serbian concert promoter with first-hand experience in overcoming similar challenges under Slodoban Milosevic's dictatorship in the 1990s, was consulted. It was done through a program commendably funded by USAID.
The program was quite successful. It provided Cuba's independent rappers badly-needed resources and increased their visibility. It also helped create the wildly-popular Rotilla Music Festival, known as the "festival of freedom," where over 20,000 thousand young Cubans would gather for a three-day rave. So popular that the Castro regime forcefully shut it down.
But the AP doesn't like it. Therefore, these Cuban rappers have become the latest targets of the AP's Fulton Armstrong "crusade" against U.S. programs to support Cuban civil society.
(Want to know what Cuban independent rappers think of the AP's latest attack? Click here, in Spanish.)
Note the trend-line.
If it operates independently of the Castro regime, the AP labels it as an effort to "overthrow the dictatorship."
(Surely that in itself is a noble pursuit -- unless you have a soft-spot for brutal totalitarian dictatorships -- but the real end-goal of these programs is simply to support Cuba's repressed civil society.)
An independent Twitter network ("Zunzuneo") that allows young Cubans to freely connect with each other -- bad.
Go join Castro's official social media network, La Tendedera, says AP.
Independent workshops for HIV-AIDS activists -- bad.
Go join Mariela Castro's CENESEX, says AP.
Support for independent rappers -- bad.
Go join Castro's National Hip-Hop Agency, says AP.
Instead, why doesn't the AP use the same zeal to report on the imprisonment of 35-year old, Mauricio Noa Maceo, who just this week was handed a three-year prison term for trying to set up an independent ("unauthorized") Internet connection?
Why doesn't it report on David Bustamante, a 21-year old Cuban LGBT activist, who has been arbitrarily confined to an AIDS prison for publicly criticizing Castro's regime?
Why doesn't it report on "El Critico", the imprisoned rapper, who is routinely beaten, denied family visits and placed in solitary confinement?
Because such stories would upset its Havana bureau's "hear no evil, see no evil" arrangement with the Castro regime -- and risk its expulsion from the island.
A shameful arrangement they also want Cuban civil society, international NGOs and the U.S. government to emulate.
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