The Internet Is Widely Accessible in Cuba. Why Is the US Insisting It Isn’t?

Sitting at an outdoor café, Alian Rojas deftly thumbs the small keyboard on his iPhone as he calls up The New York Times website. Then he shows a reporter how easily he can use WhatsApp, Facebook, YouTube.

“I can access any website I want,” says the 30-something tour guide.

Over the past 10 years Cuba has made great progress in internet accessibility. Nevertheless, U.S. government officials, right-wing Cuban exiles in Miami, and conservative human rights groups assert that Cuba intentionally limits internet access.

Freedom House, a conservative think tank, argues that the Cuban government keeps the country technologically backward and censors dissident websites as part of repressing political dissent.

“Cuba remains one of the world’s least connected and most repressive environments for information and communication technologies,” according to a Freedom House report on internet usage.

That claim plays well to those who assume that governments led by communist parties must, by definition, be totalitarian. As Rojas’s ready access to a wide array of sites shows, however, Cuba’s reality is far different.

As part of enforcing the unilateral embargo of Cuba, the U.S. government prohibits Cubans from using hundreds of commercial websites, including Amazon, computer companies and banks. The U.S. government blocks more websites than the Cuban authorities, says John Nichols, a Cuba expert and professor emeritus at Penn State University.

wifi cuba

“The U.S. government has long criticized Cuba for violations of human rights,” he tells Truthout, “yet the U.S. policy response restricting the right of both U.S. and Cuban people to freely communicate via the internet is both hypocritical and counterproductive.”

The Cuban government would like to expand internet usage as part of a plan to develop new computer-related industries. Cuba’s free education system has produced high-caliber computer scientists anxious to compete with their peers worldwide. Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who came into office last year, has been promoting computer sciences.

In the early 2010s, the Office of Cuba Broadcasting, the U.S. government agency in charge of propaganda broadcasts to Cuba, smuggled in smart phones loaded with apps called ZunZuneo and Piramideo, which sought to mobilize Cubans to create a Cuban version of the Arab Spring.

“My students started getting text messages on their cell phones with news reports about demonstrations that never happened,” said Nestor Garcia, former head of Cuba’s Mission to the UN. “The U.S. is trying to create a climate to protest against the Cuban government.”

The social media apps failed to spark rebellion, but that didn’t stop the U.S.

In 2018 the Office of Cuba Broadcasting funded creation of phony Facebook pages designed to appear as if they were posted by Cubans discontented with the government. When Russian hackers carried out similar activities during the 2016 U.S. presidential elections, U.S. politicians across the political spectrum expressed outrage.

U.S. actions against Cuba are similar to Russia’s actions against the U.S., according to Nichols. “It’s covert interference in the communications system of another country for the purpose of changing the relationship of the government and people,” he said. “If we do not like others interfering in our domestic affairs, it only makes sense we shouldn’t do the same to other countries.”

Needless to say, the phony Facebook pages also failed to spark an anti-government rebellion.

  • Published in Cuba

USA Hindered AP Probe into Subversive Plans against Cuba

An investigation into US subversive actions against Cuba was seriously hindered due to US Government slowness in implementing the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA), AP news agency revealed today.

A probe carried out by AP in 2014 showed that the US Agency for International Development (Usaid) spent millions of USD of the taxpayers to create a program similar to Twitter, called Zunzuneo, aimed at sobverting internal order in Cuba, but it was a failed attempt.

The plan consisted in creating a communication network to win popularity among Cuban young people and then lead them to carry out anti-government actions, supported by secret shell companies and funded from foreign banks.

After two years of intensive efforts, last week AP got a series of partly censored e-mails about such programs aimed at encouraging changes in Cuba in line with Washington's interests.

The US Government did not have copies of the documents that served as a basis for the investigation, but its officials feared that if they asked the contractors to deliver the copies, even more details about those actions, described by some legislators as rash, silly and irresponsible, would be made public.

According to AP, when the US authorities were forced to face the repercusions of the Cuban secret Twitter, they had a factor to their favor: the slowness in implementing the FOIA regulations.

AP had previously won access to thousands of leaked documents about the program against Cuba, conducted by Creative Associates International, a Washington-based private contractor.

After the revelations were known, the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations ordered Usaid on April 10, 2014 to deliver all the documents about Zunzuneo, and started a thorough revision.

Meanwhile, the Cuban Foreign Ministry declared then that the intentions to create this program for destabilizing purposes showed Washington's persistence in its subversive programs against the Island.

  • Published in Now

U.S. Embassy in Cuba: Condition, the Decency

The main brake lies in the sort of relationship existing between North American diplomats and the Cuban civil society.  

Thus wrote this Tuesday a journalist from the French agency AFP, Alexandre Grosbois, repeated by the New Herald in Miami.

It would be necessary to begin clarifying what does this society mean for Washington?

So far a group that includes groups fully developed in the island for many years to which they have openly given generous amounts of money.

Some of them grew really angry some time ago with the former senator John Kerry because he hindered the delivery of 20 million dollars for their actions against Cuba.

What was the pretext? Fighting for democracy and the human rights under the parasol of official institutions of the North American government.

Among them, as an example, their Agency for International Development USAID.

As it’s known, that entity has been expelled from several countries due to the services they give to the CIA.

Cuba denounced before the First World Conference of Internet about seven months ago the use in its territory of information technologies and communications with subversive purposes.

Among those deeply involved appeared the USAID, mother of the secret program Zunzuneo, a.k.a. the Cuban Twiter.

But the most brutal expression in the behavior of the U.S. Interests Office in Havana is in short Mr. James Cason.

He wrote a dirty history since in September 2002 the republican president George W. Bush, so far-right as ignorant, put that office in his hands.

There is one event, among so many, that summarizes his work, it took place on July 4, 2005 and was reported by the New Herald and news agencies.

Back then, on Independence Day of the United States, he gathered in the gardens outside his residence the heads of the "dissident" groups to celebrate that day.

He also orchestrated in those diplomatic grounds a charade of elections at the same time and day that took place in the United States.  

This along with the long chain of provocative declarations and concrete actions of open subversion.

Late last May, on the eves of the new meeting between both governments, a Cuban official declared that it is pending to solve "the régime of diplomats’ movement".

And he added, "Plus his behavior", an idea related to his work regarding the so-called promotion of democracy.

The aforementioned AFP journalist, Alexandre Grosbois, commented that that activity angers Havana, later he explained the reason why.

To achieve this goal he turned to Marc Hanson, from the center Washington Office for Latin America (WOLA).

In Cuba, - asserted the expert - "those activists have a tendency to be working or acting in the opposition to the Cuban government".

Grosbois adds that, despite everything, the North American mission offers Cuban internet access and "training at their own headquarters or at the official residences".

Later on he remembers that President Raul Castro noticed that the reopening of a North American embassy won't be possible until the rectification of certain "behaviors."

“I spoke the president (Barack Obama) concretely about what worried me the most is that (the North American diplomats) keep doing the illegal activities they have done up to now", like the training to "independent journalists, either at the Interest Office or at the diplomats' houses".

The AFP correspondent, Grosbois, added another quote from the words of the Cuban leader:

"Those things can’t be done. Simply, what we say is that we all must stick to the agreements on the behavior of diplomats, approved in the Vienna Convention of 1961."

Alexandre Grosbois dared saying, the day the Interest Office becomes an embassy, and it would be very delicate to justify this sort of activities.

Cuba, with Internet, is a great threat to the US

Speaking of Zunzuneo and the banning of his Facebook profile, CubaSí talked to writer Raúl Antonio Capote, the man who evaded CIA for many years. Thanks to the AP, the world learned about Zunzuneo, one of the US subversive projects financed by the USAID aimed at undermining Cuban stability through an SMS service for cell phones in social networks.

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