RWB: The Castro Regime Has Developed an Original Model of Control /
Posted on March 17, 2014
Reporters without Borders: Cuba prohibits a free Internet
All content considered “antirevolutionary” is automatically blocked. All
information that is published in the media is filtered, according to the
criteria of the Party.
Cuba continues preventing the majority of its population from having
access to a free (i.e. uncensored) Internet, even though the submarine
fiber-optic cable, ALBA-1, coming from Venezuela and the unblocking of
some web sites constitute a ray of hope. The Castro regime has developed
an original model of control, based on the existence of a local
Intranet. Access to the Internet is excessively expensive. The prices
are prohibitive. Add to that the omnipresence of the government
The country’s organ of censorship, the Department of Revolutionary
Orientation (DOR), filters all the information that is published in the
official communication media, according to the Party’s criteria. They
automatically block all content considered “antirevolutionary.” This
censorship, that applies not only to the web, it is based on the Penal
Code in force that criminalizes “disrespect,” “defamation,” “slander,”
“insults,” and “offenses against the authorities, the institutions of
the Republic, and the heroes and martyrs of the nation,” among other things.
The Ministry of Computing and Communications
It was created in the year 2000 with the goal of ensuring respect for
the Revolutionary ideology defended by the DOR on the Internet. There is
very little information available on the technology that the Cuban
authorities employ in terms of censorship. The University of Computer
Sciences (UCI), as well as the Telecommunications Company of Cuba
(ETECSA) — the national provider of access to the Internet — work with
the departments of surveillance and censorship that back up the actions
of the Ministry. The blockade of Internet content is carried out by ETECSA.
The year 2011 was marked by certain concessions of the government, like
the unblocking of some web sites. This is the case with the sites Desde
Cuba and Voces Cubana (From Cuba and Cuban Voices), where numerous
opposition blogs are posted, among them Generación Y (Generation Y),
whose author is Yoani Sánchez.
However, the detention of a dozen bloggers and netcitizens at the end of
2012, among them Calixto Ramón Martínez, who was freed seven months
after being in prison, counteracted this small advance. Although these
interruptions were more sporadic in 2013, it’s accurate to note that the
changes in Cuba are millimetric and that the situation remains stagnant.
In 2008, the percentage of connectivity to the Internet was about 1.2
percent of the population. Since then, the number of public points of
access to the Internet has increased: According to the authorities, in
June 2013, 118 new cyber-salons were inaugurated.
However, the price of connecting continued to be prohibitive: the
equivalent to one-third of the average monthly salary of a Cuban (some
US $21). The authorities claim that in 2013, four out of ten Cubans
accessed the Intranet regularly, which allowed them to read their email,
as well as some pages of official sites. According to the independent
bureau of information, Hablemos Press, this figure is reduced to two out
of 10. It’s possible to get on the Internet in the international hotels,
but the usage is reserved for tourists, who can allow themselves to
spend US $10 (two weeks of salary for a Cuban, on average).
Furthermore, the connections are surveilled almost systematically. To
get on the national network, Cubans must present their identity cards;
they surf below the vigilant eye of cameras and the surveillance agents
in the cyber-cafes.
Also, the computers are equipped with programs like Avila Link (a link
in English), developed in Cuba, that can cut off the connection at the
least suspicion of “some violation of the norms of ethical behavior that
the Cuban state promotes.” Independent informative Cuban web sites
hosted outside Cuba, like Cubanet, Martí Noticias, Cuba Encuentro, Payo
Libre and Hablemos Press, are on the black list, and it’s not possible
to have access to them, even from the Internet in international hotels.
For a long time the Cuban authorities have attributed the difficulties
of connecting to the Internet to the U.S. embargo. However, now that
Cuba has the ALBA-1 fiber-optic cable, this argument becomes obsolete
and makes it obvious that the authorities want to control the Web,
showing their fear of Cubans being able to have free access to the
Internet. The use of the high-speed Internet, which is now possible with
ALBA-1, is mainly restricted to government officials.
If we believe the official declarations, 2014 should be a good year for
accessing the Internet in Cuba. ETECSA forecast that it would begin to
install DSL lines at the end of 2014 in zones that have the adequate
technology. It’s cruel, but the country lacks infrastructure and the
necessary funds to install it. The telephone network is not developed
for this type of connection and is under total control of the national
service provider, ETECSA. Under these conditions it’s difficult to
imagine that the arrival of DSL on the island would have a big impact.
Last January they also announced that Cubans could access the Internet
from their mobile phones, thanks to the vigorous entry of a measure that
permits telephone bills for users on the island to be paid by people in
the Exterior. But the cost of the foreign recharge, more than an opening
for Cubans, is an economic strategy to get hard currency into the country.
In spite of this, some analysts observe that there is a tendency toward
opening. The informative website Cubanet, based in the U.S., made seven
technological predictions for Cuba in 2014. Among them were access to
the Internet through mobile phones, the development of WiFi on the
island, and even the possibility that the activists could travel outside
the island, and acquire knowledge and education in computer science
useful for their security online: all this thanks to the immigration and
travel reforms that entered into force on January 14, 2013.
The bloggers, those “mercenaries”
In the report on the “Enemies of the Internet” in 2012, Reporters
Without Borders denounced the Cuban propaganda, which “didn’t stop
attacking the bloggers who were critical of the regime, whom they accuse
of being mercenaries in the service of the ’U.S. Empire’.” The bloggers
“have been victims of campaigns to discredit and defame them in the
State media, on propaganda sites outside the island, and in blogs like
Blogueros y Corresponsales de la Revolución (Bloggers and Correspondents
of the Revolution) and Las Razones de Cuba (The Reasons of Cuba).
The cable from the U.S. government — spread by WikiLeaks in 2009 — that
suggested that the Regime feared the bloggers more than other types of
dissidents, is more real than ever. During her world tour, Yoani Sánchez
announced that she would launch a digital daily newspaper in Cuba. “The
first day that we do it could be the worst; they could shut it down and
attack all of us by blocking us from the web,” she said. “But it could
also happen that we are sowing some seeds of a free press,” she added.
By contrast with the obstacles to access the Internet, information
passes from hand to hand through USB flash drives. Some also try to
create illegal points of access to the Internet. But government agents
are in the streets to detect and destroy satellite antennas, so that
there are real risks for people who try to have them.
Furthermore, they have positioned antennas to block the signals every
five square kilometers. The netcitizens sometimes can use Twitter to
send an SMS, without being sure that their messages will appear on
Twitter. This microblogging frequently is not detected by the blockades
orchestrated by ETECSA, which sometimes last for months.
The bloggers and collaborators of opposition websites like Hablemos
Press or Payo Libre, are obliged to turn to certain diplomatic locations
in order to publish their writings on websites outside the island.
Others, like the group Martí Noticias, located in Miami, count on
correspondents on the island. The purveyors of information found there
often are victims of raids in the communication media where they work,
or of arbitrary detentions.
Such was the case with Mario Echevarría Driggs, David Ágila Montero,
William Cacer Díaz, Denis Noa Martínez and Pablo Morales Marchán,
detained for several days in October 2013.
The writer and author of the informative blog, Los hijos que nadie quiso
(The Children Nobody Wanted), Ángel Santiesteban, was imprisoned, and
his lawyer was suspended, so that she couldn’t practice law in the
courts for a period of six months. The blog continues informing us about
the situation of Ángel Santiesteban Prats, thanks to the work of
activists who collaborate outside Cuba.
CubaNet, 12 March 2014
Translated by Regina Anavy
13 March 2014
Source: RWB: The Castro Regime Has Developed an Original Model of
Control / Angel Santiesteban | Translating Cuba –