Censorship / Regina Coyula

The filmmaker Miguel Coyula shooting. (Personal file MC)

Jorge Enrique Lage interviews Miguel Coyula (extracts) 6

[Miguel speaking]… I am against censorship, as we’ve seen what happened with that film in the Havana Film Festival in New York; it spreads beyond the geographical limits of the island for extra-artistic interests. I mean, politics touches everything.

The worsening of the position goes back to the censorship of the film El Rey se Muere (translated into English both as “Exit the King” and “The King is Dying”) in 2015. Many people defended Juan Carlos Cremata’s work, saying they did not believe that the censors would interpret the king as being Fidel. That is, they used the language of the government to try to address the problem, when it was clear that the reference point was him. What they should have said was “Yes, it’s Fidel. And what of it?” continue reading

To the extent that artists draw up their mental blueprint to go “as far as they can” there will never be a truly independent art form. It ends up affecting not just the content, but also the form.

Liberty has to be absolute, in order to be able to take risks, and to take off. Nothing can be sacred. At least, that’s how I see art. I’ve never been interested in being part of the political game, of religion, of the consumer society, or of drugs. It seems like a nothing, but a film-maker, interested in social or political issues, who cannot have one of his characters say “when are Fidel and Raul going to die?”, which is a such a common thing to say in Cuban homes, along with much more agressive variants on the theme, is symptomatic of a dysfunctional whole.

The artist documents his time, but, looking at Cuban films made in the island over the last seventy years, you’d think that no Cuban had ever asked that sort of question. Recently I was told, by way of advice: “You can fiddle with the chain, but not with the monkey, otherwise you are out of the game”. To which I replied: “Who said I see it as a game?”

It is essential that film producers are ready to completely defend their work,  because a half-assed attitude only gets you a slow-motion impact, which is inevitably reflected in subsequent works. You can’t give an inch.

But, returning to your question, the most recent case of censorship had to do with Nadie (Nobody), April 15th just gone, when the State Security and the PNR (National Revolutionary Police) blockaded the entrance to the El Circulo Gallery where they were going to show it. This censorship is not an institutional arrangement but a blatant governmental act, a complete invasion of a private space by way of a show of police force.

Many people outside Cuba ask me how can it be possible that no Cuban intellectual living in the island made any public protest about what happened. The film had its international premiere in the Dominican Global Film Festival, where it was awarded the Best Documentary prize, but it has been ignored by the island critics.

We don’t know if it’s good, or bad, or they were left feeling indifferent to it, or if, simply, they were afraid of writing about it, as it’s difficult to make a critical appraisal of Nadie without mentioning Fidel Castro. And, to this day, that’s the line almost no-one has dared to cross.The rock group Porno para Ricardo is one of the few who have dared to confront it, and, well, the price they have paid is that they are not allowed to play in Cuba.

Translated by GH

Anime Animates Coyula / Regina Coyula

The poet Rafael Alcides. (Regina Coyula / lamalaletra.com)

Jorge Enrique Lage interview with Miguel Coyula (fragments) 2

Miguel Coyula: [… the cinema where I first encountered anime.] [… like the video games of the late eighties and early nineties, the anime of that time had no big budgets for a fluid animation at twenty-four frames per second, Disney-style. Then they went to a visual design and assembly and sound very often shocking.] [… in the subconscious, that left a mark on the film I make.]

For me it is very important to work the space and design the storyboard to the last detail, so that no image is repeated during the editing of a scene. That is something that comes from anime, and the comic book in general. Each panel expresses an idea, just as in literature each sentence expresses something different.

As for video games, the animation was even more limited: 2D, but that same limitation …] [… it made me shape an aesthetic where the image is as loaded as possible with small elements that add density to the setting.

[… the anime stories often left me with a bitter taste. Yaltus, known as Baldios outside Cuba, was a film that marked me a lot. Its apocalyptic and depressing ending, where the earth is completely contaminated with radioactivity, left me in a state of discomfort that I have pursued in my films.

[… one of the most striking films for me, for the stylistic collage it represents, was Belladonna of Sadness, 1973. For some reason it’s the 70’s that keeps calling me over and over again as a source of inspiration.

Site Manager’s note: Once all the fragments of this interview are translated (by different volunteers) we will unite them in order, in a single post.

Counterrevolutionary or Communist / Regina Coyula

Sadly, the above video is not subtitled, but whether or not you understand the words, you can observe Miguel Coyula and Rafael Alcides speaking.

Jorge Enrique Lage interview with Miguel Coyula (fragments) 3

Miguel Coyula: … And it’s [Rafael] Alcides for several reasons. First, because in my opinion he is the best Cuban poet alive. Pata de paloAgradecido como un perro and Nadie are indispensable books; Especially Nadie [No one], written and censored in 1970, and that doesn’t see the light until 1993, when I read it for the first time and it hits me.

Alcides is often described as a sensualist, but his range is very wide. Take, for example, his poem “El Extraño“, which appears in the film: it is very brief, stripped of artifice, combines the existential and the political in a universal way, with an admirable economy of means.

But even if Alcides had not been able to write anything …] [… his own person is poetry; he has the gift of speech, a diaphanous word, he speaks of beauty and poetry without intellectual poses, despises politicians and yet can speak of them with poetry, to the point that the passion of his gestures makes him a force which seems more typical of the field of fiction than of the documentary. continue reading

[… probably Alcides is one of the few Cuban intellectuals of his generation (in fact, the only one I know of) who, residing on the island, has no qualms or filters when it comes to making public what he thinks. He has paid the price for his honesty with ostracism. Also contradictions and guilt coexist in his person. He gave himself up to a dream, sacrificed himself for it and accepted failure. I’ve always been interested in misfits. Alcides contained all the elements that interest me in the construction of a character. Perhaps his honesty and his nonchalance mean that the film can not find a place anywhere: neither in the diaspora nor in the intellectuals of his generation who remained on the island.

The fact that the film is indistinctly labeled “counterrevolutionary” and “communist” is something I am very pleased about.

The first thing we recorded was a four-hour interview, from which came a short web mini-series, seven chapters, titled “Rafael Alcides.” (Many people believe they have seen Nadie but what they have seen is the miniseries on YouTube that only totals twenty-nine minutes).

At first there was no theme at all, it was about Alcides talking freely, but he himself was outlining the theme of the Revolution and then we began to record more specific questions.

Site Manager’s note: Once all the fragments of this interview are translated (by different volunteers) we will unite them in order, in a single post.

Perverse Uchronia* / Regina Coyula

Jorge Enrique Lage interview with Miguel Coyula (fragments) 7

Miguel Coyula: So after editing it in Miami [the novel Red Sea, Blue Sea] I sent it out to Union Publishers and also ICAIC Publishers, but this is already four years ago.

The universe of this novel, post-apocalyptic, with genetic manipulation, strongly influenced by the science-fiction anime, later became Red Cockroaches and right now Blue Heart.

…In Blue Heart, Fidel Castro has undertaken an experiment in genetic engineering to construct the New Man and to save his life’s work, his project. These experiments result in failures: they result in individuals with psychological disorders, but very intelligent, which, once they are rejected by the regime that created them, they unite to destroy it. In this alternative future the system is very similar to that in China, which continues to say it is socialist, but behind the facade is brutal capitalism. continue reading

[I have been filming Blue Heart for] five years. What I don’t have in money I put in in time: hours in front of the computer to virtually build the universe that could never be built in physical reality, in ordinary filming without permits and extras.

Every time I have approached institutions to ask for money they have rejected me. The people who have become patrons of my films have approached me on their own. This is important, because when it is you who knocks on the doors, you have to be willing to accept compromises.

It is very difficult for me to sell a project because the script is constantly changing. The script is no more than a map, a skeleton without flesh, and this skeleton could change itself into an unknown creatures because, being a long process, I end up using mutations of everything that happens around me to integrate that into the narrative. It’s about filming with the same freedom as a writer have, having an idea and writing.

…more and more I choose not to go out into the street: I record the actors against a green screen

In the street, once you set up a tripod you have ten or fifteen minutes of impunity before they come to interrogate you. You may have more time, but you have to have studied the location and rehearsed the actors to be able to film very quickly. It’s the only want to have any certainty when you are filming without permission. And if the location is very complicated you have to resort to digitally unifying the different scenes and actors. The film crew is just me and my partner, Lynn Cruz. So because I don’t have the money I have to put in the time.

*From Wikipedia: Uchronia refers to a hypothetical or fictional time-period of our world, in contrast to altogether fictional lands or worlds. A concept similar to alternate history but different in the manner that uchronic times are not easily defined (mainly placed in some distant or unspecified point before current times), sometimes reminiscent of a constructed world. 

Site Manager’s note: Once all the fragments of this interview are translated (by different volunteers) we will unite them in order, in a single post.

From Joystick to Canon / Regina Coyula

Cuban Filmmaker Miguel Coyula

From Regina Coyula’s blog, 9 June 2017 (Ed. note: These interview fragments are being translated out of order by TranslatingCuba.com volunteers. When they are all done we will assemble them in order into one post.)

Jorge Enrique Lage interview with Miguel Coyula (Intro) 1

The country was falling to pieces, there were people drowning in the sea and on land, there was something called the Diaspora, but we bourgeois teenagers of Havana’s Vedado neighborhood knew nothing. Our lives revolved around a company and Japanese console. In my SuperNintendo years, Miguel was already a legend. Coyula was a gamer before gaming. His name passed like a password between initials. You don’t know how to kill a boss on one of the levels of the game? Ask Coyula. You don’t know how to activate this or that power? Go see Coyula.

We were playing Street Fighter II Turbo and Coyula already had Super Street Fighter II. We went to see him so he could show us the four new fighters and the recent versions of others. I remember that he revealed on the screen the improved attacks of Vega, the Spanish ninja that was my favorite fighther. Afterwards he started to clarify for us some technical doubts about The Lion King.  And I remember that, while he was leading Simba over some cliffs, I looked at his hyperconcentrated face and had a revelation, “This guy is alienated, bordering on autism, he’s going to melt, he probably does nothing else in his life,” I said to myself. “I have to give up video games, because if I don’t, I’ll end up like Coyula.”

Unfortunately, I quit videogames. Then time passed and I saw [Coyula’s] movie Memories of Overdevelopment. I saw it, by the way, before I saw Memories of Underdevelopment, which now seems to me like a regular prequel and a little drawn out. Sergio, the protagonist of Memories of Overdevelopment, ends up in a desert landscape that looks like another planet. He’s carrying a Barbie doll and his brother’s ashes, which are the ashes of the Mariel boatlift and, after that, of the Revolution.  To summarize. In 2010, Miguel Coyula scattered the ashes of Cuba in the desert in Utah; he dispersed these ashes in a psychotronic dust, between mutant and Martian. Seven years later, there are many people who still haven’t noticed.

I like that there is a guy like him in Cuban cinema.

Citizen Kastro-Citizen Alcides / Regina Coyula

Miguel Coyula (tallest in photo) and Rafael Alcides (3rd from right) collect the prize for the documentary ‘Nadie’ at the Dominican Global Film Festival. (Facebook FCGD)

Regina Coyula, 14 June 2017– Jorge Enrique Lage interviews Miguel Coyula (excerpts) 4

… at many times during the interview, Alcides interrupted himself and began to speak to Fidel as if he were right in front of him. It’s something one saw a lot in our parents’ generation: bothered by something Fidel was saying on TV and arguing with him, but supposedly there was no one listening inside the box. Documentaries offer that opportunity, that fantasy secret for many.

For me the film is a love-hate story between two men and a woman. The men are Rafael Alcides and Fidel Castro; the woman is the Revolution. Alcides lost her, and deeply resents the man who snatched her from him to dominate her, strangle her, and make her into an unrecognizable ghost. But in spite of it all, Alcides continues loving her somehow.

When he died I said that one of my actors had died, but Fidel appears in Memories of DevelopmentNobody, and Blue Heart. In the three films, I had to listen to many hours of his speeches and conversations to be able to edit and construct the dialogs in them. I can tell you it was pretty exhausting to work with him, who’d succeeded in telling me the lines I needed. But definitely he was one of the great actors of the 20th Century, including at the beginning of the 21st.

Supposedly, now one can read it as a great hallucination too, but when Alcides speaks, he addresses him in the present, as if he were alive. This doesn’t come out of nowhere. Anyone who reads Granma and reads the recycled quotes from Fidel in every issue can, as in the persistence embedded in all the talking heads you see on Cuban television, arrive at the conclusion that we’re being governed by a dead man.

Translated by: JT

#SaferInternetDay / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 7 February 2017 — Today is the worldwide observance of Safer Internet Day. Best practices should guide navigation for the benefit of the user; thus, she would never have the sour sensation that her Facebook page has been taken down for having undesirable content or that he has lost access to his email account containing all his correspondence–not to mention the disaster of a hacked web page–and all for not selecting a password other than “password” or “1234.”

Often when I speak of these matters, people stare at me in surprise or with frank indifference and think that “my contents are not secret.” I always say that mine aren’t either, but to maintain the security and privacy of my data is my right, even more so in a country where intrusive (bad) practices are part of daily life.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison

Embezzlement Today / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 17 February 2017 — The long laissez faire of the government with the “if you behave well, I look the other way” has given birth to a generation (just one?) of the cheerfully shameless, known generically as “fighters.” The nice denomination that began by being applied a few, no longer has color, sex or occupation. The common denominator is a very short wage for very long prices. Yes, those same people who cried in front of a photo with flowers* not yet three months ago.

Poles as distant as commerce and culture converge on this news that can only be half-confirmed because the official press never covers it without prior permission, and the friends, family, or co-workers of the enthroned acquired long ago the Pavlovian reflex of “not getting involved in things.” continue reading

The first of the cases, is in the Puentes Grandes Shopping Center, not yet three years from its opening and it already seems like a place in decline. There is an internet navigation room equipped on its opening with five computers and air conditioning. Something happened there that we have already become accustomed to. The PCs didn’t always work, the air conditioning didn’t either. In the room itself there was a counter with electronic devices such as USB memories, keyboards, headphones and the like, which was a point of sale for ETECSA, the Cuban Telecommunications Company that runs the place and maintains the monopoly of communications and as such keeps its users in a state between dissatisfaction and disgust.

And I speak about this in the past because no one can tell me if it will ever operate again; just very hastily in the parking lot an employee with a corporate image in a uniform one size smaller than necessary, acrylic nails, keratin-strengthened hair, and black-lace leggings, without raising her eyebrows or her voice, told me there had been a “tremendous explosion.” An informal taxi-driver on the hunt for a home refrigerator, was the one who told me that she was very pleased to be selling articles privately, much more cheaply than in the store.

It’s not just the stores. I remember, many remember, some fifteen or twenty years ago, the scandal in the International Relations Department of the Ministry of Culture, where artistic delegations were assembled without artists for the modest price of 500 CUC. Now it was the turn of the Council of Scenic Arts, and the information came from Colombia, Mexico or Central America with all the migratory connections, where some of the vigorous claimants of rights overseas, both university professors and lowlifes, learned to act although they never made it on stage. They demanded a red passport, that is an official one, authorized by the aforementioned Council that is supposed to authorize the travel of actors and theater groups.

Before, the same or similar matters had been in Heritage and Cultural Welfare and because of something missing in the works of art and some surplus in the construction works, appears to have been the reason for the exit through the back door of the previous Minister of Culture.

Even an octogenarian revolutionary fighter had amassed a modest fortune for the future, the future that was supposed to belong entirely to socialism. Barely two months after an anodyne article in the ’90s by Fidel Castro in the already anodyne newspaper Granma.

Nothing astonished Cubans, and from time to time we notice that corruption accompanies us wherever we go. The employee with the corporate image and the cultural officials as I already said, share the salary as a symbol. In the other case, I don’t know about you, but to me to the affair of the octogenarian fighter (for the uninformed his name is Héctor Rodríguez Llompart), tells me something about how things go among “the historicals” — as the original leaders and fighters of the Revolution call themselves.

*Translator’s note: A reference to Fidel Castro’s death

Translated by Jim

With Regards to ‘Santa and Andres’* / Regina Coyula

Cuban poet Delfin Prats

Regina Coyula, 30 January 2017 — In 1988 the Holguin poet Delfín Prats won the critic’s prize with his poetry collection “To Celebrate the Rise of Icarus,” and a friend of that time who didn’t want to see his name on my blog, on the night of the award ceremony brought Delfín to my house.

It was a moment of celebration and joy, because the prize came as a vindication of Delfín, a homosexual and poet in a provincial city. But that too was a trap.

In the middle of the toasts and after he dedicated his recent prize-winning book to me, I told him I had a present for him, and put into his hands “The Language of Mutes,” his David Prize winning poetry collection of 1968.

Delfín looked at me, looked at the book and broke into tears. It was the first time he’d seen the printed book, because that notebook in a landscape format did not circulate, it had been turned into pulp for including poems with homosexual content.

Translator’s note: “Santa and Andres” is a new Cuban film whose story revolves around a gay intellectual who was censored in 1980s Cuba. The government refused to allow the film to be shown in last year’s Havana film festival, saying that the plot of the movie “aims to highlight political persecution and attacks on the island that did not take place,” and that it follows “a course of action that is not consistent with history.”

The following video about Delfín Prats is not subtitled, but even if you cannot understand all the words, it is a delight to see his smile:

Three Days Without Fidel / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 20 January 2017 — I was asked for this by a press agency, and they didn’t publish it. Then came the official reaction and we couldn’t have much time without his image. It’s like what a wise lady said in line at the pharmacy, “It would be preferable that the (National) Assembly approved an enormous monument, and not this Fidel that comes at us from all sides and doesn’t just die.”

Friday, already late in the evening, in front of the TV, idly I switch it on. Raul Castro is talking. A good part of the city was sleeping when the phones began to ring.

Perhaps for those who loved him, the reaction was emotional, but there is no surprise in the death of an old man who’s been sick for more than ten years. Yes, there is the irony that he was killed so many times, and now his death takes us all by surprise. continue reading

The programming continues and they even start playing a film, American of course. It was not until the movie was well along that they interrupted it to replace it with images from the documentary Fidel from Estela Bravo. It gives the impression that the TV directors never dared to make a plan for this moment; and on receiving directions “from above” that they began to look for film materials for the new days of “history and patriotism.”

It’s already dawn and groups of young people are coming from the Art Factory, their party having been interrupted. The drunkest obey the “on your feet!” that they learned in military or farming encampments, and add to the amusements and loquacious, “Turn on the TV, Fifo died!” These heralds continue on their way and others camp out in the park in front of the Acapulco Cinema; two girls dance little skip steps to their own music. It is a group without tears, these displaced from the Art Factory.

Saturday. A clueless man raised his eyebrows on hearing the news in the Tulipan agricultural market and continues on. Full as ever, the market is quiet without the loudspeakers; the buyers are very discreet moving quickly among the stalls to get a few vegetables at import prices.

In the morning there are still shops that haven’t received instructions to suspend sales of alcoholic beverages; a dry law and nine days of national mourning will be a tough test for those who live between hits of rum and reggaeton. I don’t see sad faces, rather serious ones. Or cautious.

Sunday. The television broadcasts endless materials about Fidel. Fidel at the UN, at a school, at a market, with Garcia Marquez, omnipresent Fidel.  Now he is a bigger star than ever, such a focus in the media, he who spent hours at the microphone on the national channel and on Radio Havana Cuba.

On the news, the announcers are dressed in black, they provide information about the funeral rites in the Plaza of the Revolution, the journey of the ashes to Santiago, the closing of the streets. On TV there are tears, but there is no children’s programming. And no one talks about causes of death.

My neighbor in the back, who has been so worried, talks with someone on the phone about the pills she has to take for the disgust. A woman is interviewed under the marquee of the Yara cinema, at the corner of 23rd and L. She is dressed in white and wears a black mourning band on her arm. She reads a poem about her soul being torn apart at the news.

Behind her, on the wall of the Habana Libre Hotel, you can see the enormous graffiti by El Sexto. “He left,” it says on the wall, and El Sexto is in prison for this graffiti with seconds of posterity on camera.

Monday. The buses are like always, going by full. Nothing seems to have changed, but in the workplaces and schools activities are suspended so people can go to the Plaza of the Revolution. At the base of the José Martí monument that have arranged sites with flowers and huge photo and the people file by.

No one stops in front of the photo where there are no ashes. The ashes are under control of the Ministy of the Armed Forces and the people don’t file past there. Many cellphones film the flowers and the photo. The real mourning does not happen on camera.

There is disgust and angry protests from those who spend hours in line and see groups of soldiers and people from other work centers who are allowed up the ramp to the base of the monument as soon as they arrive. A note of social indiscipline without public order to order it. The solution: to extend the hours of the line and people parading by until midnight so people can pay their respects.

In a country where saying yes while thinking something else has been a practice for years, we won’t know how many bottles were uncorrked, how many complicit hugs were given. But even those legitimately struck by the loss understand the before and after.

Fidel was in charge of embodying the Revolution. It doesn’t mater how many commitments we Cubans are invited to sign*, in an illusion of continuity. His phrase, “To change everything that should be changed,” will recur in the immediate future.

*Translator’s note: At the time Fidel died, the government asked all Cubans to sign a loyalty oath to his socialist ideology.

Impressions of a Novice (Part 1) / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Regina Coyula, 8 December 2016 — A novice in Mexico and a novice in the Internet Governance Forum (IGF). The city surprised me because I had attributed to it a rural character it does not have. Zapopan and Guadalajara, to the eyes of a stranger, are a single city; one city with the equivalent of three-quarters of the entire population of Cuba. Many construction sites, many luxurious apartment towers that don’t seem to be inhabited, never mind the information from Miguel, my taxi driver to PALCCO.

PALCCO is the Convention Center and is enormous. The security measures are extensive, because it is a world event filled with people, including famous people, sponsored by the United Nations.

Numerous social, academic, journalism and other organizations have set up little stands in the entrance to present their programs. continue reading

Once inside the main building it is very difficult to orient yourself; an army of young volunteers, smiling and helpful, help you find your way in that labyrinth of meeting rooms and a place to have coffee.

I look at the agenda. All the topics are interesting and it’s hard to decide which to attend because up to ten sessions overlap at the same time. The technology is a wonder, because you can follow them on Youtube or watch them later.

For personal reasons I’m interested in the forums on public policy about access and internet rights, digital security, and surveillance; but I also attended sessions on other topics such as on-line education, and the lower levels of use among women, the disabled and minorities.

The sessions are in English and there is no simultaneous translation, which requires all my attention. Huge screens transcribe it and thus I can follow the topic.

I make the briefest comments on the panel on the Right of Internet Access in Latin America. I am listening to my Latin American colleagues, realizing the uniqueness of Cuba: not only has Cuba not ratified the UN covenants on human rights, but it voted against considering Internet Access a Human Right; and although the “cable” (Alba 1, from Venezuela) came to Cuba, the Internet has not come.

A synthesis that seems to be interpreted literally by another Cuban delegate, a woman representing the business sector, feels the need to remind the audience that Cuban has free education and healthcare, about the impact of the “Blockade” (the American embargo), and in my opinion, the most pernicious idea: the concern about giving people Internet when no one knows what they will do with it.

Here is the video with my comments, which occur roughly between 1:17:53 and 1:30:25.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWpZ9PMFobk&t=1h17m53s

The Cybernaut and Digital Security / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 7 November 2016 — The leaks of presidential candidate Hillary Clinton’s emails and those of her campaign chief have revived a debate that began with evidence that the National Security Agency (NSA) was spying on communications, with both national and foreign politicians suspected.

But the NSA is not the only one, nor is the honor of those with the ability to spy verifiable. Under labels as sonorous as national security, sovereignty, media war, competition, soft coup, industrial secrets, etc., government spies, companies spies, and, on more than a few occasions, innocent people are those under scrutiny. continue reading

It is, on the other hand, the fact that the great technological companies have given way to government pressures and have delivered inside information. Furthermore, the companies supplying information and communications technologies possess metadata about their users which, in context, may be relevant.

No one watches over one’s personal interests better than oneself, so the protection of data acquires an individual character. Arguments such as having nothing to hide is weakened before the possibility of joke in bad taste that you cannot handle an email account because someone changed the password or erased the contacts; or following the jokes, you see your profile on the social networks with photos and comments that are not yours and spend enormous efforts to regain control. These would be the simple cases.

It seems that the foregoing and what follows are only loosely related. The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers (ICANN), which was until last month was under the control of the an agency of the Department of Commerce of the United States Government, has been turned over to an independent agency with the management of multiple interested parties.

This transition has been a subject of controversy regarding the roles appropriate to each one of these multiple actors.  Representatives of controlling governments and some founding entities that, to save themselves from the hegemony of the great powers and of the great businesses of the sector, a minding international regulation is necessary for the use of cyberspace.

They have put into place a closed model with the services of the internet but without internet (for example, Reflejos, Tendedera or Weibo), which favor control of information traffic. In the name of a 20th century mentality, they try to put something as global as the internet in a straitjacket.

The most modern and predominant vision supports the strengthening of ICANN as a global and autonomous organism with a transparent management, in such a way that neither governments nor great private entities could take control of this institution whose functions include more than just naming and numbers. These names and domains and IP addresses allow access to data such as the source and destination of data packets.

The concept of global internet on a fragmented model puts the human being above any other interest with the intention that their approach to the network is free of any monitoring, whether to track their tastes and inclinations for commercial purposes without their consent, as well as their right to inform and be informed to avoid the search of the sites they visit and with whom they communicate.

Whether one lives in a democratic state, or not, is not determinant when the time comes to protect personal data, although it could seem more important in some places than others and, in some cases, determinate of the integrity not only of data, but of one’s physical self: journalists who report on complex scenarios and issues.

Every cybernaut has an idea of the importance of protecting their bank accounts and social network accounts, but digital security, more than a right, is also an obligation. An urgent obligation in complex environments. Even mega-corporations have tried to distance themselves from the lack of confidence that is created by giving out private data and putting in users hands the tools to strengthen the securities of their communications and interactions. It has been a joint achievement of organizations and people who insist on behaving responsibly in the face of the privacy of the numerous but also most indefensible link.

Some basic recommendations for better digital security:

1. Implement complex passwords for one’s devices and accounts.

2. Use email accounts that have two-step verification.

3. Use instant messaging services that are encrypted end to end.

4. Use blog platforms with double verification.

5. Always think before sending a text, and image a video that could affect you or third parties.

6. Check (insofar as is possible) the integrity of programs and downloaded attachments.

Goodwill / Regina Coyula

Regina Coyula, 20 October 2016 — It is said that the choice of the word “embargo” or “blockade” to define the US policy toward Cuba, clarifies the position of the speaker-writer. Those who speak of the “blockade” are not better Cubans than those who call it the “embargo” (although they believe themselves to be). It is a policy that doesn’t depend on Cubans; not even the international community can eliminate it.

A goodwill gesture on the part of my leaders would be the elimination of the internal blockade to which we are subjected, in the name of the country and the imperialist threat. Clearly, although this policy toward Cuba has been dismantled little by little, it is there and we will have to wait for the goodwill of the American government for its total disappearance. continue reading

“The international community has denounced the US embargo because it violates international law, and also for moral, political and economic reasons.”

This quote is from a report by Amnesty International and reflects the rejection of the extraterritorial character of the set of laws that makes up the embargo. The bold text is intended to bring out the fundamental reason for the widespread rejection of this body of law, which is its extraterritorial nature. International law prohibits any national law to be applied beyond the country ’s borders. The Helms-Burton law is extraterritorial and retroactive, as it applies to events prior to the adoption of the legislation.

The Cuban citizen has become accustomed to hearing only about the damage the blockade  has caused and continues to cause in our economy and society; this citizen ignores in many cases the origin of these measures versus those taken in response to it, but above all, it serves as a smokescreen for domestic disaster resulting from a willful and failed policy. Neither the US blockade nor the one caused by our government have affected even for one second the life of our leaders.

The Flame Tree of Discord / Regina Coyula

Flame trees in Havana, dropping their petals int he street. Source: Caridad, Havana Times
Flame trees in Havana, dropping their petals in the street. Source: Caridad, Havana Times

Regina Coyula, 3 October 2016 — A powerful flamboyán tree, in English often called a flame tree, dominates the entrance to my house, more beautiful at this time of year with its explosion of fire, which also provides shade and spreads its colorful petals across the ground.

But two of my neighbors don’t see it that way; they dislike the dirtiness of it and feel obliged to sweep the sidewalk almost every day. And they protest greatly, but I never feel it’s about me, even though the other day they were gossiping and not imagining that I could hear them, one of them said, “I’m breaking my back over that filth, and ‘la Señora’ (a marked edginess in señora), who owns the bush acts like it’s nothing.”

I am not the owner of the flame tree, I didn’t plant it, it is in the parking strip and it is beautiful; and the señora sounded very nice coming from one trying to mark a difference between us. And so, without reaching for her style — inimitable for me as I am neither volatile nor rude — to her surprise I told that that the flame tree isn’t mine, but the red flowers that line the sidewalk don’t bother me at all, unlike the bags, cans, boxes and other trash that lines the city, product of indolent humans.

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

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