Cuban comedian denounces discriminatory policies, attitudes on island

Luis Silva and his popular television character Panfilo

HAVANA – Cuban comedian Luis Silva, better known as his popular television character Panfilo, denounced discriminatory policies against Cubans in their own country in a Facebook post on Friday, in an unusually strong, public criticism of the government.

In a country where the Communist government tightly controls the media, Silva’s bumbling old character Panfilo in the widely-popular comedy show “Vivir del Cuento” is allowed to poke fun at official policy but stops short of attacking it.

The actor, who has around 200,000 followers on Facebook, posted a link to an article in state-run newspaper Juventud Rebelde headed “Are Cubans second class tourists?” that described tourism workers providing worse service to locals than to foreigners because they do not tip as well.

Silva opined that the history of government rules restricting Cubans more than foreigners was more to blame for discrimination of locals.

“It is our own country that has created the differences between Cubans and foreigners,” he wrote.

For many years, Cubans were not allowed to stay at resort hotels exclusively reserved for foreigners, or to buy and use cellular telephones or computers.

President Raul Castro has lifted those restrictions since taking office in 2008, although others remain.

In the post that was shared more than 600 times and commented on hundreds of times, Silva mentioned a directive banning Cubans from taking a catamaran with a motor.

“Why? No one knows,” he wrote. “We are potential terrorists, who might steal the catamaran to go to Hialeah’s Walmart to go shopping,” he joked.

“Vivir del Cuento” in 2016 featured a famous skit with former U.S. President Barack Obama after his historic visit to Havana in the wake of the U.S.-Cuban detente, fostering the leader’s popularity in the country.