Cost-benefit, Right-freedom / Joisy García Martínez

To Tweet from a cell phone in Cuba is disproportionately costly, almost impossible, and only comparable with the draining of the Cienaga de Zapata swamp, the eradication of prostitution, computer illiteracy or the forbidden game.

To write 140 characters via a cell phone in Cuba, however simple it may seem, is a luxury few can afford and there are few people who enjoy the privilege of being able to access the social network Twitter because of the high price of this service on telephones and in hotels. One hour of internet access in one of the cybercafes, that are proliferating more and more in the major cities, cost between six and eight dollars, which represents a fortune if you consider the average monthly wage for the average Cuban is around 20 dollars.

On the island, there are few who have a quality computer in their homes. Those who manage to break the limitations of this internal blockade and get a computer, then have to deal with the nonexistent connections in home and the high costs of surfing the internet on the island. Although social networks like Twitter and Facebook are not blocked by the Cuban government, like some other sites of a critical and dissident nature, for the average Cuban to access the, outside the monitored schools, is a luxury not granted to most. But before these critical hurdles, Cuban bloggers who are active on sites like Twitter have found other alternatives, although they remain expensive, they allow us to get on the network more often and to express ourselves.

This alternative is through text messages of 140 characters send via cell phones and subsequently published on the accounts of the microblogging site. To participate in the social network in this way cost one convertible peso, around 24 pesos in national money, for each Tweet sent, something that many call “the luxury of expression.”

This option, as expensive as it is, at least some of the dozens of Cubans who have a web presence use. Access to the Internet, and in particular this latter alternative of tweeting in our country is as scarce as beef and tolerance. The officials say the island doesn’t limit Cubans’ access to social networks, and that platforms like Twitter and Facebook don’t have agreements with the Cuban Telecommunications Company to allow free messages to these networks from mobile phones, but the reality is that communication is complex and excessively expensive for the citizen in the XXI century. An issue that makes me question the supposed social function of the Cuban telephone monopoly.

This reflection brings to mind the solidarity shown by a person who recently recharged my cellphone from the internet, so I would transmit via Twitter the essentials of the hunger strike undertaken by Dr. Jeovany Jimenez Vega in Guanajay in March. Thank you, actions like these make me thing that those of us who want to communicate and express ourselves through tweets in Cuba are not alone, but be must analyze the cost-benefit, right-freedom that this option brings.

3 April 2012