Last week State Security censored the popular Mexican-Colombian-American series El Señor de los Cielos (The Lord of the Skies) in its current season, its sixth. The "narcoseries" is not aired by Cuban television, but rather by the audio-visual content collection Paquete Semanal (Weekly Package).
The information came via an announcement distributed via the Package itself, an alternative means for the consumption of audio-visual content produced mainly abroad, which is a very unique business in our country. The reason cited was that: "the content defames Cuba and our government, alleging its involvement in international drug trafficking."
The government does not want the Cuban people to be exposed to these ideas, regardless of whether the plot is fictional.
In the fifth season the connection between the Castros and trafficking was addressed in the plot, and the political police apparently overlooked it. In contrast, the series The Commander (El Comandante), about the life of Hugo Chávez, was prohibited because its portrait of the Venezuela leader departed from the one officially promoted in Cuba.
The difference between the forms of censorship used in the two cases is noteworthy, perhaps due to a refinement in their work methods. For The Commander they met last year with all the country's broadcasters, at each municipality and explained to them that "they had to eliminate the series, and that if they didn't, they could have their work permits canceled," and, presumably, lose their means of work, which was only insinuated.
In the case of The Lord of the Skies they went directly to the parent companies to perpetrate the censorship, which was much more effective, because the "pernicious" content was never distributed. However, the impact on the population this time was different, because it is a highly regarded and eagerly awaited series. The Commander, on the other hand, did not have much of an impact, and fewer people heard about the censorship. The prohibition of The Lord of the Skies became news, immediately.
Everything indicates that, for this reason, the broadcasters were able to negotiate with State Security in order to distribute the "edited" series. Before reaching viewers, each episode is reviewed, and all content related to Cuba is cut out. Therefore, after the announcement of the censorship, another message arrived in the following Package explaining that "the series will be distributed again, but with a one-day delay, to be able to edit it".
The Cuban Government, through its censorship mechanisms, not only controls and subjugates official media based on its interests, but also does so with the private sector that distributes content. The veiled threat of suspending work permits and confiscating resources, and leaving them without any legal defence, cows the self-employed into obedience. It obliges the distributors of the Weekly Package to imitate the PCC's censors within the official media, who filter the information that we can consume.
In the Weekly Package a few broadcasters dominate the distribution of digital content, previously received by satellite dishes or via the Internet. The programs are selected and adapted to the characteristics of our audience, creating a package of around one tegabyte of varied information. Initially it was aired weekly (hence its name) but it is currently distributed twice a week, and the other days updates are provided to satisfy an impatient audience.
In a few hours it is distributed throughout the country, and supplies thousands of broadcasters, located in each neighborhood. In fact, it is common to see lines at the entryways of places where it is shown. According to some specialists, it is currently the most popular means of audio-visual consumption in Cuba, surpassing the regime's television.