Between Analogue and Ideologue. Internet Access in Cuba / Regina Coyula

Ideas shared at the Internet Governance Forum events of the Internet Society of Latin America and the Caribbean, which recently took place in Costa Rica.

Regina Coyula, 5 August 2016 — Now recognised as a human right by most people and most governments, internet access in Cuba has been a bumpy road. Cuba connected to the internet in September, 1996. The first dial-up internet access, by telephone, was via government information offices, although some users could access email .cu from their homes.The speed of the noisy connection through a modem some three or four years ago, hardly got to 50-56 kbps.

In 2010 news came out of the extension of a powerful underwater fibre optic cable, from Guaira, Venezuela to Santiago de Cuba. According to the report, this cable would be the solution for data transmission speed; we would no longer depend on satellite connections. When the cable reached Cuba, for nearly four years its use was a mystery – something was happening, therefore there must be something there. The last mile, most of us thought, was the expensive technological challenge which was delaying access for the public. But a solution was found in the form of wifi connections. Continue reading “Between Analogue and Ideologue. Internet Access in Cuba / Regina Coyula”

In a little under three years, they opened internet rooms in diifferent parts of the country, at a charge of 4.50 cuc an hour. That availability did not increase until 2015 with the provision of wifi points in principal town centre locations. ETECSA (Government-owned Cuban Telecoms Company) only offers services at home to foreign residents in Cuba, to officials and to certain personalities and journalists.

There are various information networks which make up the internet (Informed, Cubarte, Rimed, Upec, etc.). The great majority of their users don’t have internet access in their homes. Those who do, have an access packet of 25-100 hours a month.

Universities, and some colleges, offer access. Students have an increasing allocation (250 Mb a month in their last year of study).

When you hear talk in the press and in international forums about percentages of access to the internet, above all they are referring to the above-mentioned Internet which is generally limited to .cu sites, to an email provider and some news sites.

Cuba, with illiteracy erradicated, free education, and with a high percentage of university professionals, technicians and skilled workers, has the lowest level of internet penetration in the region.

One hour of connection now costs 2 cuc, and the average salary is about 20-25 cuc a month. People use their connection time mostly for communicating with family and friends. Use of mobile data in the CUBACEL network costs $1.00 CUC for every MB and is only available by going into the email service @nauta.cu.

In the broadcasting media you often come across references to negative aspects of the internet, such as child porn, racism, violence, loss of privacy, which influences people who only know the internet by hear-say. The government is the only IT service provider  and importing routers, hotspots and other digital tools for private use is prohibited by law.

People don’t know about the power of social networks to help them get organised and achieve consensus about things which matter, from local issues up to the desire to elect the President of the Republic. In fact, many people imagine that Facebook IS the internet.

The internet has not been free from profound ideologisation. If the terms of the embargo laws imposed by the US government have particularly impacted IT, it is our duty to insist on the importance of eliminating the internal blockade on information and vindicate the open and democratic character of the internet, wihout any censorship of the contents or personal opinions inside or outside of the web.

An additional factor in Cuba is that video gamers, prevented from gaining access to the real internet, have put together a cable connection which is free but contributory, which nowadays is not used just for games but also for online chat and the notorious Weekly Packet, which the authorities prohibit  but cannot sanction as it is not for profit.

Priorities

  • Lower access cost
  •  Improve the quantity and quality of connection locations
  •  Attack digital illiteracy

Objectives

  • Initial public discussion on the Media Law
  • Public education by way of courses on browsers, digital business, social networks, cyber security, ethics, etc. In Council computer clubs for kids.
  • National education channel
  • Open access internet
  • Transparency over payments for internet connections in order to improve public access
  • Permit private connections at market price with equal transparency and for the same reason as the above.

Make public internet connections, where you now have to pay, free.

Translated by GH

Domain Names and an Internet Debate / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 30 June 2016 — For Cubans who update their home entertainment weekly with the now famous, private and anonymous Paquete (Weekly Packet), they are familiar with a subtitle in bright, greenish-yellow letters at the beginning of the movies. This inevitable “http://www.gnula.nu” which comes up so much, piqued my curiosity. It was impossible for me to recognize the country that corresponded to that extension, so I resorted to the always-useful Wikipedia.

Surprise. The country of the pirated movie site that we see at home is Niue, an atoll with airs of a small island, assigned to New Zealand. In 1996, a North American (who doesn’t live in Niue, of course) claimed rights to “.nu” and, in 2003, founded the Internet Society of Niue, which allowed the local authorities to convert the quasi-island into the first wi-fi nation of the world. They supplemented the offer with a free computer for every child. Nothing spectacular; we’re talking about a population of barely 1,300 inhabitants. Continue reading “Domain Names and an Internet Debate / Regina Coyula”

The irony is that the .nu domain generated enormous income, while the inhabitants of Niue not only didn’t enjoy those gains, but also wanted to be connected from their homes and not from the only cyber-café on the island, and they had to pay for the installation and the service.

I also discovered another curiosity. The second extension that is most used on the Internet after .com corresponds to another little place in a corner of the Pacific that few know about, a group of little islands barely 11 square kilometers in size. Tokelau is the name of the place whose domain .tk hatched in 2009, upon offering itself for free. Today it’s the virtual home of hundreds of thousands of websites of doubtful integrity, although, contrary to Niue, the administrative earnings of the island’s government have benefited the infrastructure and services.

The form in which the geographic domains are managed on a higher level (ccTLD) is very different. The Internet Corporation for the Assignment of Names and Numbers (ICANN) has left it to the discretion of each country to do what it likes. Many countries keep them privatized, although in the hands of institutions or businesses created for that purpose, while in others it’s an entity attached to a state agency.

The ccTLDs (country code top-level domains, geographic domains of a higher level, which, for better understanding, is the name that the extensions receive that identify each country or geographic region: .cu for Cuba, .ru for Russia, .mx for Mexico, etc.) are even more curious.

Both forms of operating the ccTLDs described above have advantages and disadvantages. Deregulating the extensions shifts the balance toward the higher-profit businesses to the detriment of agencies, NGOs and institutions with social and cultural goals. This diminishes the influence of the governments, which can have a negative effect on the sovereignty of countries that are economically fragile, or on young or small countries.

State-regulated administration tends to protect social and cultural interests, and successful management can increase earnings, which has a positive impact on national life. It also happens that governmental norms for buying a ccTLD can be restrictive or discriminatory, protected by a deliberatively vague regulation to be applied at the discretion of the government.

In the Latin American environment, Argentina, the only country to offer its site for free and with millions of websites with the extension .ar, decided in 2014 to charge for them. In Chile and Nicaragua, administration is through the public universities. In Guatemala, it is also through a university, but a private one.

In Uruguay, regulation is by the State through the National Association of Telecommunications (ANTEL); in Venezuela by the National Commission on Telecommunications (Conatel); and in Cuba through the Enterprise of Information Technology and Advanced Telematic Services (CITMATEL).

Colombia reflects a debate similar to what is happening in other countries. A private enterprise manages its ccTLD, and 89 percent of the owners of the .co site are foreigners located outside the country which, far from violating the national identity, internationalizes Colombia and carries its trade name to the entire world. What underlies these debates is the idea that the market is imposing itself on cultural values, and national governments can do little in defense of their intangible patrimony.

But in short, who governs the Internet?

Any recently-arrived observer would say that the United States governs it. The institutions and most of the servers destined to organize what would otherwise be chaos are located in its territory. And the well-known ICANN, located in California, which assigns domain names (DNS) to the IP addresses, has a contract with the Government.

Businesses that have a lot of influence on the Internet, like Microsoft, Google or Amazon, are also in the United States. But this concept is changing: It is expected that in September, the process of transition for the custody of IANA, the authority for the assignment of domain names, will no longer be under the U.S. Secretary of Commerce, in order to give ICANN authority and independence.

Other parties that also participate in the Internet have interests opposed to this current asymmetrical influence. International organizations like the Commerce of Intellectual Property (OIC) or the International Union of Communications have been incorporating together with ICANN. Virtual space is modifying the notion of sovereignty, with the added danger for equality and diversity, so that the term “governance” is important in the designing of policies, where governments, civil society, businesses, academics and technical innovators merge.

In the same way in which the technical innovators have guaranteed open access to the Internet from any type of device, it is up to the governance to establish policies, even when they aren’t binding, to guarantee freedom of expression and information, full access to the Internet and limited control.

Translated by Regina Anavy

My Absence at the Meeting / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 25 April 2016 — The political police, who consider themselves such faithful followers of Jose Marti, know that with regards to the battles of thought, they’ve lost. Thus this weekend’s operation to prevent me from participating in a meeting in Pinar del Rio was unnecessary and ridiculous. Following is a report from the meeting.

The Coexistence Study Center Begins its Second Meeting of Thoughts For Cuba

Convened by the Coexistence Study Center, for 23-24 April in Pinar del Rio, the Second Meeting of the Journey of Thinking and Proposals for Cuba, with the participation of more than 20 Cubans from five provinces began today. Continue reading “My Absence at the Meeting / Regina Coyula”

The theme of this Second Meeting is “Legal and Constitutional Transition” and its objective is to propose a set of laws that provide a secure framework and facilitate the reforms Cuban society needs. And, as a result, to prepare, with citizen participation, an orderly and peaceful constitutional text that will lead the Cuban nation to a future of freedom, social justice and progress, transitioning from law to law without traumatic ruptures.

The result is expected to be published on the Center for Coexistence Studies website, once the proposals have incorporated proposals from the session held in our Diaspora Center, as well as the proposals for  “The Cuban economy in the short, medium and long term.”

The debates and creative workshops on thoughts and proposals are animated by the presentations of renowned Cuban jurists among whom are Lic. Rene Gomez Manzano and Lic. Laritza Diversent, who, although she was prevented from leaving her residence in Havana to participate in the meeting in Pinar del Rio, offered her lecture by telephone.

When one wants to work and think for Cuba nothing it is impossible. Also prevented from participating in this meeting was Pedro Campos, a member of the Academic Board of the Centre for Coexistence Studies and Regina Coyula. All other guests were able to attend.

Dagoberto Valdes Hernandez, director of the Center for Coexistence Studies, said in his opening remarks for this second academic session that “Cuba needs organic thinking and constructive and feasible proposals emanating not only from experts in each topic, but also from an increasing citizen participation and broad inclusive consensus building , for the good of the whole nation.”

Trash and Condoms / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 4 May 2016 — The residents of 13th Street in Havana’s El Vedado neighborhood had quite a night on the eve of May Day, let’s say atypical. Near the intersection with Paseo, the gallent young people who would close the parade the following day camped out.

According to the Secretary General of the Cuban Central Workers Union, these young people would “make the Plaza tremble and would be a faithful reflection of the support of the new generations for study, work and defense, their usual trenches.”

Mobilized early in the morning and deposited there, the gallant ones decided to have fun as if they were on a camping trip; and before shaking the Plaza they shook the neighborhood. They pulled out their bottles, improvised some percussion and some farsighted soul brought a trumpet. But the improvised music didn’t compete with the reggaeton. And this was “shared” with great enthusiasm with all the neighbors.

With the parade, tranquility returned, and the neighborhood was able to observe the effects of the camp out: Empty bottles and other detritus.

“Trash and condoms! That is what we have left from May Day!” exclaimed an indignant old man in the area who had the task of cleaning out the passageway of his building.

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 7: The Stranger / Miguel Coyula

This video is the 7th in a series of vignettes extracted from a four-hour interview of Rafael Alcides conducted by the filmmaker Miguel Coyula. Below are links to the previous Chapters.

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 1: The Beautiful Things / Miguel Coyula

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 2: Artists and Politicians / Miguel Coyula

‘Rafael Alcides’ Chapter 3: Beautiful Things / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 4: Once Upon a Time in Biran / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 5: The People / Miguel Coyula

Rafael Alcides, Chapter 6: Capitalism in Cuba – Before and After / Miguel Coyula

The Backyard of My House is NOT Special* / Regina Coyula

First Screen:
There have been threats of drastic measures to be taken against any who do not comply with maintenance guidelines, and owners of vacant houses who have not had them fumigated. What you will see here is an open space of state property located just 30 yards from my house. All that’s needed is a light rain.

Last Screen:
Regina Coyula
Theme Music: The Mosquito’s Bite
J. Rudess; J. Petrucci
14 March 2016

*Translator’s Note: This is a take-off from a line in a Spanish-language children’s nonsense song, “The backyard of my house is special: it gets wet when there’s rain, just like the others.”

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

16 March 2016

Tangential Reaction to Obama’s Visit / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 23 March 2016 — The reactions of the press have been quick to come. Yet, the visit from the American president has given us much to talk about. But I want to talk about comments from Rosa Miriam Elizalde yesterday on the Roundtable program on Cuban state TV. With respect to the offering of internet made during Barack Obama’s visit, the director of the portal Cubadebate could not think of a better way to refute this offer than to appeal to the example of an African country where a Swedish NGO installed magnificent internet service and the Africans, because they didn’t know how to use it, have it “filled with noise.” The same thing, she said, could happen here to Cubans.

I will leave each of you to your musings provoked by the journalist’s reflection. In my case, I think the real reason for their eagerness to put a negative spin on it is nothing more than to deny access to the content that each person could choose for themselves had they the freedom that, in Cuba, the government keeps for itself without consulting its citizens. Elizalde, with privileged access to internet of the highest quality, chose to appear arrogant, ignoring the educational level of Cubans and putting Cuba at the level of Africa.

The Crosshairs in the Crosshairs / Regina Coyula

Screen Shot 2016-03-13 at 6.18.35 PMRegina Coyula, 12 March 2016 — In a decision that takes one’s breath away, even among commentators who defend official orthodoxy, the author of the blog El Colimador (The Crosshairs) has decided to stop publishing.

He had been “notified by the monitoring team for the Reflejos platform, due to the publications of comments approved by him that violate the conditions of use established by this platform.” Continue reading “The Crosshairs in the Crosshairs / Regina Coyula”

Accustomed to my WordPress blog, a .com platform, it was striking to me that in the Terms of Use of reflejos.cu moderation (I would say censorship) of comments is included (which are not part of the posts) under ideological considerations; while in WordPress the terms regarding comments are established by the author and WordPress limits itself to offering the tool to perform this function.

It turns out that in the conglomerate of blogs about sports, spirit, food, unfailingly full of applause, respectfully forgettable like almost everything on the platform, El Colimador stood out for being interesting and intense. It unapologetically defended what we know as the Cuban Revolution and its administration always managed a balance that fostered a respectful debate.

Who was the “regulator” (the author exonerates the technical team) who expressed the narrow viewpoint of a sector with power that appears not to live in the 21st Century but rather in the 19th.

Those with a better memory will remember the incomprehension with which La Polemica Digital and La Joven Cuba were dealt with, blogs that won their space and their readers not with obsequiousness but quite the opposite.

It would be lamentable if the enemies of El Colimador take advantage of my complaint to justify their censorship of the blog. These people can’t understand that I want a country where the Ruslans and the Reginas can express themselves without fighting under a nick and a false IP and accusing them of receiving “goodies” from the Cuban government or dollars from the American government.

The Functionary and the Poet / Regina Coyula

Rafael Alcides (Screen shot from Miguel Coyula's video interview)
Rafael Alcides (Screen shot from Miguel Coyula’s video interview)

Regina Coyula, 3 March 2016 — A consular official, in a flying interview lasting barely five minutes, told my husband he was not eligible to travel to the United States with a non-immigrant visa. According to the document he was given, my husband was not able to demonstrate that his proposed visit was consistent with the visa he requested.

What did this interview consist of? The official asked the reason for the trip, and the reason for the trip is a cultural meeting to deliver a tribute, in which my husband is the person to be honored. The second and last question was regarding whether he had family in the United States, to which he responded honestly that he has a son that he lost contact with a decade ago

The consular authorities of this (and any other country) have the right to approve or not approve the entry of foreigners to their territory. But haste should not make this interview a mechanical process. This awkward gentleman who face-to-face with the inquisitive functionary wasn’t able to remember the name of the institution intending to honor him, is one of the most important living poets of Cuban culture. A brief glance at Google could have informed the official about the gentleman in front of him, and relieved him of the idea that this traveler would be one more old man wanting to shelter under the Cuban Adjustment Act and Social Security benefits.

The decision — which cannot be appealed to anyone — recommends that he wait at least a year to return “if and when personal circumstances have significiantly changed.” It is lamentable, because Rafael Alcides will continue to live and write from his inxile in Havana in the same circumstances of today if he survives this year of being ignored awarded to him by the consular official.

Sent from my telephone with Nauta Mail.

“Periodismo de Barrio” (Neighborhood Journalism) / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 5 February 2016 — With a low media profile, sidestepping the incomprehension of establishment colleagues and the suspicions of the independent press, Periodismo de Barrio has begun its journey. Meanwhile, journalism-in-praise-of-the-government on one side and of-criticisms on the other, has appeared in this digital space that in its almost monographic issues has given us an accurate picture of Santiago de Cuba four years after Hurricane Sandy to present a straightforward and effective account of the half-life of those people who never make the headlines, those we are given to call “average Cubans.”

I would like to talk with Elaine Diaz, the lead on this project and former professor at the Faculty of Social Communication at the University of Havana, about this experience. We don’t even have to agree that the excellent articles from her news site not only confirms the government’s inability to provide a prosperous and sustainable life for citizens in the name of whom they say — and should — govern, but they leave them very badly off. I look forward to meeting Elaine; meanwhile I welcome this new site.

Speculations and Speculations / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 18 January 2016 — Alejandro Armengol is the author of articles full of common sense that often clash with the opinions of opponents of the Castro regime inside and outside Cuba, but his article about the aggressions inflicted on the couple Antonio Rodiles and Ailer Gonzales on 10 January, one more day of #TodosMarchamos (We All March) protests, seemed unwise to me.

And not because he’s not right about much of what he says, but because everything is not as explicit as it should be, and it is certain to leave many readers, among them myself, full of speculations about the intricacies of the recent trip of the two well-known activists to Miami. Continue reading “Speculations and Speculations / Regina Coyula”

The violations of personal integrity suffered by opponents at the hands of the repressive forces are real and frequently documented, on Facebook, on personal web pages, or on those of some group or organization. If Rodiles appears frequently as a victim and denouncer of these events it is far beyond “a pattern that repeats itself in Rodiles’ behavior as an activist,” because his activism, and especially his activism in the street, Sunday after Sunday for nearly 40 weeks, is prioritized [by the police and State Security] as a target of repression. Armengol seems to forget that the government intends to defend “Fidel’s streets” at all costs, and the effrontery of the actors, who don’t seem to diminish, predicts nothing more than greater repression.

It makes sense that after observing strange marks on their skin*, Rodiles and Gonzales sought independent medical advice. With regard to Rodiles’ broken nose, such a thing is usually no more complicated that a simple operation, and the spectacular photo — as any photo of a broken nose would be — made clear that a blow from a fist had fractured that bone.

At the risk of being wrong, I believe that the “Ladies in White of Halloween” were apocryphal — a “performance art” action let’s say — by some people in exile with bad taste**, but probably with the best intentions in the world, who wanted to pay tribute to the Ladies, and in particular to one of them who was said to have suffered a miscarriage after a repressive day months earlier.

With regards to the allegations made by Frank Calzon, I don’t know what it’s about, but if it has to do with the idea that historic exile confronting this aggression against activists in Havana is “a sign of clinging to the past or an indication of looking for other means of confrontation with Havana,” it is not surprising that groups on both shores that have openly expressed their opposition to the reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States try to demonstrate support and show that that political decision was a mistake.

Let me quote Armengol: “More symptomatic still is this evolution, of a simple and crude display of the Cuban reality — poverty, homelessness, imprisonment — another in the repressive mechanisms that fall within the area of speculation.”

To speculate that one has been injected — or not — with those puncture wounds, is just that: speculation. I do not expect the medical check up to uncover any anomalies, although to merely inject fear would be cruelty enough. To speculate that the event even happened — that is to doubt it — is to try to discredit the couple who founded Estado de Sats (State of Sats), and turn them into mere buffoons.

Far beyond likes and dislikes, whether or not they are personal, or have to do with methods or programs, any opponent who faces systematic repression deserves respect.

Translator’s notes:

*Recently, after participating in violently repressed street march, Antonio Rodiles and Ailer Gonzalez discovered what looked like puncture marks on their skin and were concerned that in the melee they might have been injected with some noxious substance without their knowledge. (See photos below)

**Photos of individual Ladies in White were altered to show injuries as an illustration for an article.

rodiles y su parejaneedlemarks

Rodiles naiz

Antonio Rodiles showing apparent needle marks on his arms after violent repression at a protest.

A Doubt / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 21 December 2015 — With his general’s uniform, the Cuban president delivered his summary of the past twelve months of relations with the United States. I imagine that much has been written on the subject, but I would like someone to me help to understand what share of sovereignty is surrendered when one is attempting to build a democracy. To a good year’s end and a better 2016.

Translated by: Araby

The Translators / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 11 December 2015 — There are moments when not even knowing grammar saves you when the time comes  to decode information. News arrives of change in Latin America and on discussing it with people better educated and informed than average — people I know, who are convinced of the need for change in this country and want it as much as I — it turns out I see them repeating like a catechism the same views from a lady who commented on television, someone not characterized by the acuity of her arguments, or those of the announcers and guests on the Telesur channel, which though it is a paradigm of media manipulation from the left (?), at least has the decency to cover events “in real time,” and when I put this information together with what I got from other means, I can judge for myself.

These commentators on the news have the habit of translating for the Cuban public the intentions, personality and projects of government opponents (in the interests of the government, if it relates to the Cuban government), but never, for variety, do they let me hear it from the mouths of the protagonists themselves. Continue reading “The Translators / Regina Coyula”

Thus, Macri, the brand new Argentine president is almost always “the ultra-rightwing millionaire,” and “the neo-liberal,” a terrible man who systematically and out of pure envy will dismantle all the achievements of the “Gained Decade,” as the Kirchner era is referred to [as the previous ten years are referred to as the “Lost Decade.”]

Yesterday, this terrible gentleman surprised me with a temporizing and patriotic speech. Without raising his tone or relying on boastful histrionics, he seemed an individual of sufficient intelligence to not reject the positive left by his predecessors. Despite the lugubrious tones in which I have painted him, he is aware that he will govern with the approval of half the voters and, therefore, was very attuned to building bridges to understanding.

To talk about the fight against corruption, the independent character of the judiciary, and adherence to the law sounds pretty good for a Latin American where both issues are scourges that corrode citizen wellbeing.

With the Venezuelan opposition that just took over the parliament, I’m left with the desire to know what it thinks, because my information only endorses what the losers will do: I see Capriles on the screen, but for those who don’t know who he is, it was a face in the background for a few seconds while in a voice over one of those translators, the preachers of Armageddon, didn’t stop predicting catastrophes.

And there must be great nervousness given the spoils of Chavismo achieved by Maduro, because the prerogatives of a two-thirds parliamentarian majority like that achieved by the opposition, range from reassigning crucial positions (such as that of Tibisay Lucena herself, president of the National Electoral Council), to promoting referendums and changes in the Constitution.

But we don’t hear this; we Cubans see on the screen agitated Venezuelans asserting that they won’t let the Revolution end. Seeing such venting before the cameras, I would tell them: “You keep on with your revolution while the rest of Venezuelans are busy rebuilding a country.”

I won’t talk about the treatment of events in Syria, Russia, Brazil, Spain, China or the United States, because I would have to surrender to fatigue. Meanwhile, the translators with broadband who can look at any newspaper, webpage, interview or analysis published, prepare a corrected and degraded version of reality for the masses.

Jokes from Argentina and Other Cold Cuts / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 25 November 2015 — There is a joke that goes, in short, if Napoleon had owned a newspaper like Granma and lost the Battle of Waterloo, the newspaper would have acted like it never even happened. So true. Something similar occurred on Sunday evening with the presidential elections in Argentina and the victory by “the billionaire Macri,” as the Cuban media likes to describe him. Oddly, they never showed any curiosity about Mrs. Kirchner’s fortune.

It took the Venezuelan broadcast network Telesur half an hour to report the results. After the losing candidate acknowledged defeat and Marci addressed the Argentine people, the news anchor was “informed” that “preliminary polls indicate the possible winner to be…” when there were neither polls nor fortune tellers saying any such thing. Continue reading “Jokes from Argentina and Other Cold Cuts / Regina Coyula”

Cubans have nightly news shows, news magazines, news every ten minutes, a twenty-four hour radio news channel, print and digital newspapers, and national, provincial and even municipal television stations. Yet, except for North Korea, we paradoxically remain the worst informed people in the world.

There is a rumor going around that Etecsa’s Nauta* internet service was unavailable not because of technical problems but because of a decision to cut off communication between Cubans stranded in Costa Rica and their relatives on the island in order to suppress information about a mass protest intended to raise awareness in Cuba, and by extension throughout the world, of the humanitarian crisis.**

Whether true or not, the fact that people without Communist Party affiliation are casually discussing this serves to illustrate the lack of transparency in our news media. It should be added that the visit by the Cuban foreign minister to Ecuador and Central America was reported in a way that suggested a trip scheduled some time in advance, one in which emigration was to be only a tangential topic of discussion. The visit by the president of the International Red Cross was reported in a similar way.

This is nothing new. Quite the contrary. Once again the press has managed to turn conferences, workshops, meetings and seminars into crumpled paper. It shows a lack of self-respect, but even less respect for citizens, whom it is trying to keep uninformed. It is an accomplice to a political decision that interferes with a right as basic as the right to information.

Translator’s notes:

*Nauta is service by Cuba’s state telecommunications monopoly that offers wifi internet access in public spaces such as parks and hotels throughout the island. Accounts can be refilled from overseas at a cost of roughly US$2.00 for every two hours of access.

**Thousands of Cuban migrants trying to reach the United States by first passing through Ecuador have been stranded in Costa Rica after the government of Nicaragua denied them passage through that country.