By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
University student who challenged official denies being arrested, charges media manipulation
Placeholder Image
    HAVANA — A university student and Cuban government officials on Tuesday strongly denied reports that the student was arrested for questioning the Communist country’s travel and Internet restrictions last month.
    ‘‘There was no arrest’’ — as some dissident sources had claimed — student Eliecer Avila said in a video produced and published by the government’s CubaDebate Web site late Monday. ‘‘This is part of the information war.’’
    But Avila did not back away from the tough questions he and other students posed to Ricardo Alarcon, president of Cuba’s parliament, during a Jan. 19 meeting at the elite Computer Sciences University in Havana. A videotape of the earlier encounter posted last week on the Internet was widely circulated.
    Local dissidents, quoting secondhand sources, reported that Avila had been picked up by police in his native city of Puerto Padre over the weekend, sparking sporadic news reports Monday in Spain and Miami that he had been detained.
    Avila said he went home to be with his family while he had his wisdom teeth pulled, and fellow student leaders from a satellite campus of his university gave him a ride back to the capital — about 430 miles away — so he could deal with the aftermath of the international airing of the tape.
    His questions to Alarcon were designed to ‘‘construct a better socialism, not destroy it,’’ Avila said in a five-minute Internet video, ‘‘CubaDebate Talks with Student Victims of Manipulation.’’
    CubaDebate’s stated mission is to fight ‘‘media terrorism’’ against communist Cuba.
    Avila’s earlier questions challenged limits on Internet access and travel, as well as the fact that many basic goods in Cuba are sold in convertible currency meant for tourists and foreigners — making them unaffordable to citizens paying in local pesos.
    For many outsiders, the complaints freely aired during the meeting showed a loosening of public debate under the caretaker government headed by Raul Castro during his older brother Fidel’s illness.
    But the Communist Party daily Granma on Monday complained that international news reports about the video were ‘‘a media exaggeration of citizen criticism and reflection.’’
    ‘‘They have distorted Cuba’s reality so much that any variation in our pattern of public conduct moves analysts, journalists and soothsayers searching for news about ’the final hour of the Revolution,’’’ said the editorial.

Sign up for the Herald's free e-newsletter