Cable or Carrot? / Yoani Sánchez

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The mystery has been solved, the enigma of the fiber optic cable between Cuba and Venezuela has been cleared up because of an indiscretion. The Venezuelan Minister of Science and Technology affirmed a few days ago that it “is absolutely operational,” and what it is used for will depends on the government of Raul Castro. Just when we thought that the tendon lying in the depths of the sea had been eaten by sharks and turned into a home for coral, comes a sign that it is working. For now, it is just about words because there is no evidence that kilobytes are running through the cable, circulating data. No office has opened offering a domestic connection to anyone who wants to contract for it, and the prices of an hour’s navigation from a hotel continue to be prohibitive and abusive. In workplaces and schools the monthly quotas to peek into cyberspace continue scarce and supervised, while the official press makes no allusion to an immediate three thousand times increase in our bandwidth. The cable is, but it doesn’t exist; it exists, but not for us.

Between La Guaira, Venezuela, and Santiago de Cuba runs an umbilical cord that should turn us into a 21st Century country, remove our technological and communications handicaps. When it arrived at our shores in early 2011, not even the most pessimistic calculated that a year later we would remain in the same poverty of connectivity. There is not a single valid argument to delay any longer the mass influx of Cubans on the Web, other than the eternal fear of our authorities before the free flow of information. Every day that they delay our initiation as Internauts, they compromise the professional and social capital of this nation, they condemn us to the caboose of modernity. On the other hand, so much control only opens the door to a million and one illegal ways for people to get content from digital sites, blogs and on-line newspapers. Like the satellite dishes that are a reality which neither police operations nor threats from the newspaper Granma can eradicate, something similar will occur with access to the great WorldWideWeb. Pirate accounts, resold in the black market by State institution network administrators themselves, are already a preview of this cyber underground.

Amid so many calls for information transparency, it is paradoxical that one of the most pressing issues in our national life continues to be steeped in secrecy. Also too painful for the official journalists is that an official of a foreign government is the only person who has alluded to the actual state of such an expensive link. But even more sad is that the Internet is the new battlefield of the Cuban government and the fiber optic cable is the weapon — selective and hidden — in its media war.

29 May 2012