“If you want to free a country, give it the internet.” Wael Gonium
Jeovany Jimenez Vega, 25 February 2015 — A vice president who gives an assurance that the country “… is committed to social information” but who then automatically sees it as being led by the communist party, and who sees it as “…a key weapon for the revolutionaries to get participation in the social project we desire“: who at the same time emphasises that “… everyone’s right to the internet presupposes the duty to use it properly and in accordance with the law, and also presupposes the responsibility to be vigilant about the defence of the country and its integrity“, and a Deputy Minister of Communications assuring us that along with the economic development of this sector there must also be running in parallel the “political and ideological strengthening of the society,” are indications that we will not see anything different anytime soon after the recent Information and Biosecurity workshop ends.
The underhand warning which indicates the presence in the front row of Col. Alejandro Castro — implied candidate to inherit the family throne — and the silence whenever the subject turns to his father, President Raúl Castro; Comandante Ramiro Valdés’ permanent position in charge of the Ministry of Communications — twice ex-Minister of the Interior, the most rancid relic from Cuba’s historic establishment and the chief implementer of current repressive methods — all reciting together the same refried speech and the repeated ignoring by the Cuban government of the latest offers of the US telecommunication companies for when the embargo controls are relaxed, are factors which make us think that nothing is about to change in Cuba in relation to the internet, and that we are only starting a new chapter in this soap opera of demagogy and cynicism.
The Cuban-in-the-street can’t see it any other way, living under a government which, up to now, has charged him a quarter of his monthly basic salary for every hour on the internet; for him, every word heard at the end of the workshop referred to continues to smell of bad omens, sounds like more of the same, especially when we bear in mind that this shameless tariff is not for any high quality high-speed service, in the comfort of our homes, as you might expect, but which they have characterised in the worst way, only available in cyber rooms of the dual-monopoly ETECSA-SEGURIDAD DEL ESTADO, and, because of that limited to their opening hours, at a 2 Mb/second speed, and using PCs with restricted copy-paste and often with disabled USB connections, with all keystrokes tracked and with more than one “problematic” page blocked. In fact, nothing you wouldn’t expect from a government which recently created a brand-new Cyberspace Security Centre, presumably intended to become a virtual equivalent to the notorious Section 22 of its police policy.
Meanwhile, in Guayaquil, Ecuador, I repress my swearwords every time I stop in front of a cyber room’s poster offering me three hours of internet for a dollar!, in a country with an average monthly salary of about $500, a country which is also third world, but which offers free wi-fi in many public places, including bus stations, in restaurants and malls, where internet and TV satellite dishes are a common urban sight even in the poorest neighbourhoods. There couldn’t be a more obvious contrast between this reality and what we Cubans have to live with in Cuba.
All the above confirms for me every day more strongly my ongoing conviction that information control will be the last card in the deck that the Cuban dictatorship is going to give up. Nothing will have changed in Cuba for so long as all Cubans don’t have open unconditional uncensored access to the internet from our homes. This is such an obvious truth, and would represent such a decisive step forward toward the real opening-up of Cuban society, that only on that day will I believe that change has started. It’s as simple as that.
Translated by GH