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Cuba cracks down on private movie and video game venues

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The Cuban government recently began a crackdown on privately-run movie theaters and video game parlors, with its Vice Minister of Culture telling a local newspaper that they promote "a lot of frivolity, mediocrity, pseudo culture and banality," The New York Times reports.

The announcement of the crackdown, published yesterday in Granma, Cuba's Communist Party newspaper, said that cinematic exhibition (including 3D rooms) and computer game parlors will cease immediately in whatever kind of private business activity. Vice Minister Fernando Rojas said in an interview earlier that the kind of entertainment promoted by these parlors "flies in the face of a policy demanding that quality comes first in Cubans' cultural consumption."

According to The New York Times, movie and video game businesses have been operating in a legal gray area, often under restaurant licenses. They were not explicitly prohibited in the country, but they were not acknowledged in the list of nearly 200 types of independent enterprise authorized by President Raúl Castro, either. The announcement made over the weekend declared these cinemas and salons illegal, and that violations would not be tolerated. Instead of stepping in to regulate the industry, the Cuban government chose to ban it.

Private movie theaters and game parlors were an alternative to Cuba's state-run cinemas, which usually show higher-brow films that are in line with Cuba's cultural policy. In a country where internet penetration is low and the right to use the internet granted in only a few locations, many young people sought out privately-run theaters and gaming rooms for entertainment.

"Young people need these salons," said Rafael Gonzáles, a 53-year old father of five interviewed by the Times. "They spent time there instead of being on the streets."