What took place
Granma International, that well known Cuban newspaper, is 40 years old. It first edition was printed on February 20, 1966 for the 1st Solidarity Conference of the Peoples of Asia, Africa and Latin America which was held in Havana.
The newspaper had its genesis when the tri-continental conference brought together hundreds of leaders of revolutionary , political and social organisations, including Salvador Allende of Chile, Amilcar Cabral of Cape Verde, Guatemalan Luis Agosto Turcios Lima, Guyanese Cheddi Jagan, Pedro Medina Silva of Venezuela, Nguyen Van Tien of South Vietnam and Rodney Arismendi of Uruguay. That meeting also drew many journalists and other guests.
It was in that setting that Cuban leaders decided to publish a daily newspaper in Spanish, English and French, the main languages of the conference participants. It was called the Granma Review, containing news from the conference and having its base articles from Granma daily. A Portuguese edition was later added.
That project was so successful that the Granma editing staff took the decision to convert it into a normal-size paper in two colours with 12 pages and maintain its name, principally for circulation abroad. It was published weekly.
The circulation grew. And what helped was when the Ministry of Foreign Affairs acquired thousands of copies and sent them to more than 132 diplomatic missions abroad; while the Cuban Institute of Friendship with the Peoples (ICAP) and Cubana Airlines distributed thousands of weekly copies for their related institutions and passengers, respectively.
The content of Granma Weekly Review during the early days included speeches by Fidel Castro and other leaders, editorials, historical documents and news about the Cuban Revolution including news about those American activities which were viewed as “provocations from Washington.”
Although that editorial policy continues today, other kind of articles have been included. There are articles about Latin American activities as well as cultural, sports and scientific sections, which are written by specialists and intellectuals from Cuba and other countries.
Another important factor is that the foreign language editions are translated by people for whom that foreign language is their native tongue, who are educated to university level and have experience in translation.
Despite economic challenges, by adopting a series of measures, it has been possible to maintain the publication of Granma on a weekly basis.
In 1992 an innovative method was started with Granma being reprinted (with the help of friends and political organizations) in Argentina, Brazil, Canada (in English and French), Spain, France, Mexico, Turkey and Venezuela. Due to diverse circumstances and political or economic junctures, that was halted in three cases, but has now been reestablished.
Over 100,000 copies of the newspaper are currently distributed in 132 countries.
For the last 10 years, Granma International has been on the Internet with daily updates in various languages and visits in excess of 500,000 per month, according to recent statistics. This places it among the digital editions preferred by surfers on the Latin American network.
Granma International has two editions. The weekly printed edition and daily edition on Internet. These have constantly reflected daily events in Cuba and occurrences in Latin America. This is in a language that is understood by overseas readers. It is stripped of national idioms or “Cubanisms.” It has a reputation for being accurate, objective, analytical and critical.
The weekly printed edition and the digital edition have received prizes, diplomas, recognitions and, most importantly, the acceptation of readers and visitors on various continents.
All of this professional journalism is undertaken by an experienced and qualified team of 52 people, including 15 foreign translators, 12 journalists and small groups of webmasters, designers and contributors.
Some commentators, including academics, from various countries have congratulated Granma on its anniversary and have praised it for its quality of reportage.
They talked about the kind of information, including news and features, that is published in Granma and not reported elsewhere. “This helps us get information that is either suppressed by other mainstream media or misreported by them:” said US university post-graduate student Helen Jennings.
However a few commentators were not terribly impressed with Granma. They say that it is a propaganda publication. “It mouths the viewpoint of an outdated regime:” said Carlos Espinosa , an American businessman who lives in Miami and who gives his views on radio.