Cuba Hosts ‘Political Humor’ Event – But No Fidel Jokes Allowed

Cuba’s communist Castro regime — which does not respect the freedom of expression and aggressively silences dissenting voices — will host its first bi-annual international “Political Humor” event in Havana on Friday.

The event, according to the Cuban Culture Ministry, will feature “the fight against neofascism” as its central theme and will allegedly welcome participants from 24 countries, who will compete with 225 “political humor” works over the course of two weeks, ending on June 28. 

Although the event presents itself as an international “political humor encounter,” some of its organizers have informed that “there will be limits in the humor” — specifically, no jokes or humorous content directed towards the Castro regime or its leadership will be allowed.

“In the case of Cuba, there are limits to humor in relation to the historical figures of the Revolution and the formative concepts of Cuban national identity; there will be room for social criticism and satire as long as those points are not touched upon in a disrespectful or degrading manner,” Cuban cartoonist Arístides Hernández, one of the event’s organizers, reportedly said last week when the event was first announced.

“It is a very important topic to deal with in such convulsive times, with wars in between. Reflecting so many opinions through the vision of graphic humorists makes society understand these processes better,” Danaisy García Roque, president of Cuba’s National Council of Plastic Arts, said this week. “To do it in Cuba, which is a bastion of struggle for Latin America and the world, and to have so many artists join in speaks for itself.”

The communist Castro regime, which has ruled Cuba for over six decades, has brutally persecuted dissidents and severely restricted freedom of speech and access to the internet and unauthorized media. The regime has arrested several Cuban citizens for ridiculing or mocking the ruling communists online through videos or even memes. In one such example, Cuban comedian Yoandi Montiel Hernández was arrested in 2021 and sentenced to two years in prison on charges of “contempt” for having mocked the regime’s figurehead President Miguel Díaz-Canel in a social media video.

Montiel Hernández was released in April 2023 at the end of his sentence but remains banned from leaving the country after regime officials refused to issue him a passport.

The Castro regime reformed Cuba’s Penal Code laws in late 2022. Among the reforms were included punishments for citizens who “disrespect” regime officials of up to three years in prison. In early June, the Castro regime published a controversial Social Communication Law to further censor media and journalism on the island-nation. The law, among other restrictions, forbids the dissemination of information in both regular media and on the internet that the Castro regime deems could “destabilize the socialist State.”

“It’s not that I question the quality of the participants, including the Cubans who live here. Each one makes the political humor that defends and there are participants who have quality and I do not doubt that there is some other exhibition that is worthwhile,” Cuban writer and humorist Jorge Fernández Era, who resides in Havana, told Martí Noticias on Thursday.

“But the fact is in organizing a festival of political humor in a country where no political humor that goes out of the established canon is allowed, the same for humorists as for writers,” he continued, “or if you do not defend the line drawn by the party and the government you are an outcast and that is what has been happening with me for more than a year.”

“That is where the great irony lies and it seems to me that it is a great mockery,” Fernández assessed.

As part of the “political humor” event’s competitions, Cuba’s National Council of Plastic Arts announced on Friday morning that it would run a “meme” contest related to the “fight against neofascism.” 

The content’s flyer notably features a character from the dark humor webcomic Flork of Cows. The “Flork” characters were widely used by Cubans in 2022 to peacefully protest against the Castro regime alongside the slogan “De Pinga El País De Pinga Este,” which loosely translates in English to “this shitty country sucks.” Usage of the characters and the slogan to peacefully protest against the Castro regime grew as the ruling communists prepared to hold their Marxist “May Day” celebrations.

At the time, the author of the Flork of Cows webcomic published a message in solidarity with the Cuban people against the regime. The Castro regime tried to censor both the Flork characters and the profane slogan that often accompanied them.

Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.

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