14ymedio, Havana, 15 August 2019 — A few weeks ago he was a young man obsessed with playing video games, finding company and chatting through the night, but now he watches his back, seems nervous and has not touched a computer keyboard for days. Chen is his nick, the mask behind which he hides to talk about what some of the users of the SNet wireless network are experiencing in recent days.
“After the meeting we held in the park in front of the Ministry of Communications last Saturday, I went to my girlfriend’s house and was there for several hours,” he says. “When I left, there were two men waiting for me and they told me that they knew everything I was doing and that I should be very careful because I was being manipulating from the United States to go outside to protest.”
Chen’s astonishment did not fade. He is one of those few Cubans who has no family on the other side of the Florida Strait, but the two State Security officers who intercepted him assured him that “mercenaries paid from Miami are trying to get young people to throw themselves into the street,” telling them that the most recent chapter of frictions between SNet and the authorities “is the time to foster a confrontation and overthrow the Revolution.”
The young man is a specialist in video game heroes, he knows perfectly the story of Anti-Mage, Earth Spirit and Shadow Fiend, characters of the popular DOTA 2, but suddenly he has been caught in a saga of “revolutionaries” against “mercenaries,” according to the State Security officer who spoke more as the meeting continued. “You crossed a line, because you were summoned very close to the Plaza of the Revolution and there were minors among those who were there,” he was warned.
“If this Saturday, August 17, you reappear there, we will respond with the full weight of the law, and those who called the meeting will be responsible,” concluded the agent, who only identified himself with the brief name of Camilo.
In the conversation, some SNet administrators were accused of having sold themselves to imperialism and were told on the web “things happen that undermine morale and there are people who are lining their pockets.”
The largest wireless network that exists on the Island, with more than a decade of existence and 40,000 users, is experiencing days of internal tension. A group of node administrators has decided to abide by the new regulations that came into force on July 29 and accept the official offer to be subordinated to the Young Computer Club (JCC), a decision that will make them lose autonomy and scale.
If these conditions are accepted, SNet users will have to wait for the JCCs to evaluate videogames and other tools that they want to add to the network and they will have to go through a commission that determines whether or not they have political problems, or if they threaten morality, ethics or the figure of national political leaders, as was clear in a meeting held on Monday between several administrators of SNet, officials of the Ministry of Communications and executives of the JCC.
Some of those who called the public protest a few meters from the Ministry of Communications for August 17 have retracted and have called on social networks for people not to attend. For that reason there is great confusion about whether SNet users will come next Saturday.
Chen’s story agrees on several points with the complaint made early this Thursday by Ernesto de Armas. On his Twitter account, the young man reported that State Security stopped him at home a few hours earlier. “They threatened me, falsely accused me of things, even threatened me with jail. I am very sad that this happens just for defending SNet in my country. I don’t hurt anyone,” he wrote.
Armas has been one of the most active Internet users in favor of the permanence of the wireless network and has published numerous messages with the hashtag #YoSoySnet (I Am Snaet). After learning of his arrest, dozens of Twitter users responded with words of encouragement and showed their support. “Be calm Ernesto, that’s the way things are here, don’t worry much, nothing happens, they’re just creating a bit of terror, don’t let them do it. Raise your head and move on,” a tweeter advised.
Among the arguments put forward by State Security officials who have interrogated several members of SNet is that the call for protest has been made in a place very close to the Plaza of the Revolution, “a strategic point that the enemy wants to defile,” one of those detained who preferred anonymity told this newspaper. “They repeated that all this is manufactured by the same people who staged the LGBTI march of May 11.”
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