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”

Cuban Civil Society, For The First Time Present In The Regional Internet Governance Forum / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

The Regional Latin American and Caribbean Preparatory Meeting for the Internet Governance Forum, is a regional meeting prior to the upcoming global forum in Mexico. (Twitter)
The Regional Latin American and Caribbean Preparatory Meeting for the Internet Governance Forum, is a regional meeting prior to the upcoming global forum in Mexico. (Twitter)

14ymedio biggerRegina Coyula, Havana, 26 July 2016 — ¿Gover… what? That reaction has become increasingly familiar in a conversation discussing internet governance. Although many users who take advantage of it aren’t aware, governance is a fundamental issue for everyone when we venture out onto the World Wide Web. That our family email travels equally with the statistics of scientific research, with an online purchase, or with a bank account statement, is thanks to governance.

Behind any familiar and easily remembered address is a long string of numbers without which the internet couldn’t function. Early developers realized that the ordinary user would be unable to recall those long strings of numbers and so created a protocol to tie them to a name. Name and number indissoluble leading us unmistakably to the desired destination. These technical protocols that make our lives easier, also have to do with governance. Continue reading “Cuban Civil Society, For The First Time Present In The Regional Internet Governance Forum / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula”

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”

Manual For How To Buy Drugs At A Neighborhood Pharmacy / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

Pharmacy in Havana. (14ymedio)
Pharmacy in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Regina Coyula, 28 June 2016 – Unless it’s for a purchase of contraceptives, the pharmacy generally comes through when someone nearby is ill or is being treated for a chronic illness. The pharmacies themselves do not raise one’s spirits. Many are poorly lit or poorly ventilated or in need of paint or all of the above. The workers’ initiative is “embellished” with decorative garlands of various kinds and informative murals with indecipherable writing. The medications are arranged according to use, with each group in a little cardboard box in which the inventory is carried.

If you decide to put together a home first aid kid, be patient and visit the pharmacy assiduously to gather the basics. For the most part, medications are subsidized by the state. This does not prevent an aging couple with chronic conditions (don’t forget the aging of the Cuban population) from spending on medications the full retirement pension of at least one of them. Continue reading “Manual For How To Buy Drugs At A Neighborhood Pharmacy / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula”

Internet Domains, Sovereignty And Freedom / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

Of the approximately 7.4 billion people living on the planet, only 3.2 billion are connected to the Internet. (CC)
Of the approximately 7.4 billion people living on the planet, only 3.2 billion are connected to the Internet. (CC)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana, 25 May 2016 — For Cubans who update their domestic entertainment weekly with the now famous, private and anonymous “Weekly Packet,” a subtitle in bright greenish-yellow letters at the beginning of movies has become familiar. It is the ever present www.gnaula.nu, which appears so frequently that it spurred my curiosity: I found it impossible to recognize what country corresponded to the extension “.nu” so I turned to the always useful Wikipedia.

Surprise. The country where all the movies we watch at home are pirated is Niue, an atoll with the pretensions of a little island, attached to New Zealand. In 1996, an American (who of course doesn’t live in Niue) took the rights to “.nu” and in 2003 founded the Niue Internet Society, and offered to the local authorities to convert the quasi-island into the first wifi nation of the world. The offer was rounded out with a free computer for every child. Nothing spectacular; we’re talking about a population of barely 1,300 people. Continue reading “Internet Domains, Sovereignty And Freedom / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula”

Revolutions and Democracy / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

Entry of Fidel Castro into Havana in 1959 (Camilo Cienfuegos, Fidel Castro and (in profile) Huber Matos). (File)
Entry of Fidel Castro into Havana in 1959 (Camilo Cienfuegos, Fidel Castro and (in profile) Huber Matos). (File)

We observe a man who always speaks of patriotism and he is never patriotic, or only with regards to those of a certain class or certain party. We should fear him, because no one shows more faithfulness nor speaks more strongly against robbery than the thieves themselves.

Felix Varela (in El Habanero, 1824)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana, 19 May 2016 – Observing the tranquil surface of Cuban society offers a misleading impression. The stagnation is localized only in the government and in the party; and even there it is not very reliable. There is no doubt that many party members participated in and observed the 7th Congress of Cuban Communist Party (PCC) hoping for changes and, watching the direction of the presidential table, dutifully (and resignedly, why not) voted one more time unanimously.

Outside this context, where one thing is said but what is thought may be something else, there is right now a very interesting debate in which all parties believe themselves to be right. The most commonly used concepts to defend opposing theses can be covered in the perceptions of revolution and democracy, which each person conceptualizes according to his or her own line of thinking. Continue reading “Revolutions and Democracy / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula”

In the Dark / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

Residents of #2 Bernaza Street, between Obispo and O'Reilly, were victims of an accident caused by the Electric Company at the site of repairs
Residents of #2 Bernaza Street, between Obispo and O’Reilly, were victims of an accident caused by the Electric Company at the site of repairs

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana, 13 May 2016 — The municipality of Old Havana had its ancient underground water and electrical systems renovated last year. The streets were dug up to replace the pipes and wiring. Beyond the mess and the dust, these works have brought the residents two precious services, services without which it is unthinkable to live in a modern city. But the happiness has not been felt everywhere.

Residents of #2 Bernaza Street, between Obispo and O’Reilly, were victims of an accident caused by the Electric Company at the site of the repairs. An overload destroyed electrical appliances; a few stabilizers managed to protect a few. The jolt didn’t even spare many appliances protected by their owners’ surge protectors. Continue reading “In the Dark / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula”

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”

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.

He Failed to Immolate “His People” to End “Yankee Imperialism” / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula

Fidel Castro and Nikita Khrushchev.
Fidel Castro and Nikita Khrushchev.

14ymedio, Regina Coyula, Havana, 11 March 2016 — I remember clearly my mom in her militia uniform, kneeling beside me, instructing me to get under a bed, cover myself with a wet towel and bite the stick of cedar she had hung around my neck when the bombs began to fall. I remember nothing more of those days. The intensity of those recommendations was recorded in the precocity of a six-year-old girl.

They were useless recommendations for what was expected. My parents and my brothers were mobilized and I was left in the care of my grandmother. The Americans were coming. We Cubans expected to be disintegrated under a mushroom cloud.

This simple view of the October crisis took on form with the years. So I disagree with another myth of Cuba’s relations with the United States: “Cuba brought the world to the brink Continue reading “He Failed to Immolate “His People” to End “Yankee Imperialism” / 14ymedio, Regina Coyula”

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”