President of Cienfuegos Government Falls in Police Raid / Juan Juan Almeida

He confused having a political position with autonomy and freedom, used the Internet service to call his daughter who resides in Canada, was summoned for it, and had to pay the price for believing in the future.

Eduardo Walfrido Coll Rodríguez, known as Eddy Coll, President of the Municipal Assembly of People’s Power in Cienfuegos, is one of those rare men who, occupying a certain medium rank, and possessing leadership skills to spare, accepts the word “change,” listens to the voice of an exhausted nation and, from a government position, defends and identifies with the people’s priorities.

He is known for the effort he puts forth when an issue concerns helping others, and for his perseverance in battling against bureaucratic pettiness. Perhaps because of this, he was only summoned, and not expelled from his post. Let’s review step by step.

In Cuba, the government provides resident foreigners (via ENET and its various plans) an option that it does not offer its own citizens: to legally contract with an Internet service and associate it with the telephone numbers of their domiciles.

To ignore this difference is not a good sign; but this particular type of apartheid opened a commercial breach used by some Cubans to purchase Internet service from foreigners, and turn their own computers into telephone switchboards.

This appears to be a good business, and produces significant savings for customers. Tariffs imposed by the Telecommunications Company of Cuba (ETECSA) fluctuate between 1.00 and 1.20 CUCs per minute, depending on the geographic zone with which a connection is being made. The parallel network for international calling offers an identical service at .20 or .25 CUC cents per minute.

I should point out that, according to unofficial data, the volume of calls out of Cuba via the Internet does not impact ETECSA’s revenue–but does impact the interests of the Interior Ministry (MININT) which, because it cannot monitor those calls, has circulated a resolution that punishes this activity with a decommission of the telephone line, and places its proprietors at the disposition of the court.

To enforce this regulation, ETECSA is constantly monitoring ENET users’ connection times and–if it detects a notable increase in usage on one of its lines–ETECSA will presume the existence of a business arrangement, and will alert MININT, which organizes the shutdown.

So, as if the “new economic model” were to also involve being implacable towards family communication, Eddy Coll was caught in one of these roundups, reprimanded for using the resources of the State for personal benefit, for visiting the clandestine cyber-café, nicknamed “the telephone booth,” of his neighbor, Lisette, and calling his daughter in Canada.

Some individuals who have a knack for staging events showed their solidarity [with the government] when they learned of the reprimand, and supported it as a warning. At this point, what’s the use? But it’s not surprising. What kind of legacy can we expect from a country that we can only view through the lens of folly? From a small nation which (according to what I’ve heard) has an Islamist terrorist living a pleasant life in Havana–in Siboney, to be exact–and that soon will be removed from the list of state sponsors of terrorism? Inconceivable, yes; but that’s another story.

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison and others

5 May 2015