Cuba: government in line with its people

Governing is becoming a more agile and participatory exercise in the Largest Antillean island, also based on the possibilities offered by social networks. We are Cuba on the Network of Networks.

Barely a year ago and perhaps less, it would have been unthinkable to know about an event such as the recent fire at La Cabaña Fortress a while after it was made public, with a tweet posted by the Minister of Culture on the subject.

But this has been the case and it will become more and more agile, informative and guiding because the exercise of governing in Cuba is achieving contemporaneity twists also from the use of social networks.

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Before October 10, some executives and especially institutions had accessed Web 2.0. But after the President of the Councils of State and Ministers, Miguel Diaz-Canel, joined Twitter that day and undoubtedly that marks a before and after.

So much so that today, according to data published by Cubadebate, a total of 7 members of the State Council, 15 of the Council of Ministers and 22 ministries and institutions, in addition to Diaz-Canel himself, have twitter accounts right now.

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The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MINREX) was the first Cuban institution to join social networks

Since December of last year, CubaSí had called the attention with the text "The Island between networks" on the incorporation into social networks, even slowly then, of institutions and executives. When the comment was published, Facebook was the social network privileged by those who rule. Now, for obvious reasons of leadership in Cuba, twitter gains the upper hand.

But maybe the best is yet to come, maybe it's about to appear soon.

With the startup of 3G service, that is, the Internet connection through mobile data via cell phones, the possibilities for a two-way communication between Cubans and their government are further expanded.

If before December 6 there were nearly four million Cubans active on social networks, this figure will gradually grow and with it, the voice of the inhabitants of this Island in dialogue with those who rule them.

It is known that the process has been slow conditioned by the economic limitations of the country. The first to appear was the so-called institutional connectivity, through which 60% of the more than 5 million Cubans who currently access some of the services are connected to the Internet.

Then, more than two years ago, the Wi-Fi zones enabled more than two million people to have access to some of the alternatives of the Network of Networks. If we add to this the more than 1,200 surfing rooms and the Nauta-Hogar services, the increase of the Cuban presence on the Internet becomes visible.

As is logical, these connections are still mainly aimed at communicating with family and friends living in other latitudes. But as the connections continue to expand and tariffs go down - if they fall drastically today there is no infrastructure in Cuba to respond to such a demand - surfers will also look for other objectives.

And that's when it will become even richer, with a double-way road, the presence of Cuban executives on the Internet. Although they already receive criteria, they will increasingly be an exercise in citizen democracy with potentialities still unexplored on the island.

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The startup of the 3G service fosters communication between government and people.

The conviction of its importance exists. The president himself has been an example and an incentive. And the citizenship, for its part, although up to now it had not had massive possibilities of connection, does have, in general, and for a long time, a technological literacy that paradoxically places it among the populations best prepared for the new technologies.

Anyway, it cannot be forgotten that the Cuban population is one of the oldest in the world and despite the abovementioned technological literacy, there are still and will be some who do not get along with touch screens or mice. That is why, as Diaz-Canel has also demonstrated, the face-to-face exchange with the people, far from formality and well-informed visits, will remain.

The conviction that all roads are valuable to enrich communication and to respond to concerns has also been conveyed in recent broadcasts of the Mesa Redonda TV program, where ministers and other top executives have appeared on three occasions to answer questions and concerns emerged in the population.

It is true that ministers and other personalities have taken part in this program on many other occasions, but in the aforementioned cases it was specifically to clarify and respond to citizens' concerns, a part of which, precisely, the social networks expressed themselves on self-employment, transportation and regulations for artistic work.

As long as the two-way digital road increases its traffic, opinion messages will surely make more room and mark stances, like the one posted by the president on December 7 with respect to the round table debate on self-employment –in addition to the informative or descriptive messages that update the citizens on the agenda of this or that executive:

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"There is no need to believe that rectifications are setbacks nor to confuse them with weaknesses when one is listening to the people. Revolution is changing everything that needs to be changed. None of us can do as much as we all of can together."

The presence of Cuban leaders and citizens on social networks is also ratifying it.

Translated by Jorge Mesa Benjamin / CubaSi Translation Staff

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Cuba's President Ratifies Commitment to E-Government

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel ratified Monday e-government as a priority for strengthening ties with the population and boosting Cuba's socioeconomic development.

The President, speaking at the National Assembly of People's Power's Service Attention Commission, stressed that this kind of management represents a key component of society's computerization, along with electronic commerce.

Diaz-Canel said that establishing e-government involves computerizing all processes and the presence of entities on the Internet, through websites and social media.

We expect to close this year a first step, consisting on the creation of digital websites of Central State Administration agencies, although not all of them offer immediate interaction opportunities with citizens, he said.

The head of state insisted on the importance of sites activated for e-government being updated, complying with good practices of computer platforms and ensuring positioning and exchange of criteria with the population, as well as facilitating future procedures.

The positioning issue is vital, when searching in Internet information on certain country issues or specific territories and subjects, it is not the manipulated or distorted information to be imposed, Diaz-Canel warned.

According to the Cuban president, in 2019 the country needs to take steps toward the other key aspect of the computerization of society, related to e-commerce.

Regarding social media, he said it is a space in which all revolutionaries must be present.

The social media constitute an ideological combat instrument against imperialism which tries to impose its values, or rather its anti-values, destroying people' identity, he stressed.

Diaz-Canel illustrated his comment with the battle in social media to explain the reality of Cuba's decision not to continue participating in Brazil's More Doctors program, in response to President Elect Jair Bolsonaro's threats and conditions.

We faced a lot of manipulation and scamming, but thanks to the struggle in social media the justice of our position was known, he said.

The Commission for Service Attention focused its debates Monday on the computerization of society, a session in which some 15 MPs took part, among them the Minister of Communications, Jorge Luis Perdomo.

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Foreign Investment Grew in Cuba in 2018

Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) grew in 2018, Foreign Trade and Investment Minister Rodrigo Malmierca said, adding 40 new business deals were struck amounting to 1.5 billion dollars.

Of those contracts, 35 are already being executed, the official pointed out at the Round Table TV news hour last night.

Malmierca recalled that since 2013 Cuba open business to FDI under a new policy on foreign capital with a sectorial approach.

The Minister mentioned the flow of FDI has been hindered by Washington's hardened economic and financial hostility. He added the US blockade not only damage Cuban companies, but enterprises from around the world as well.

He also spoke of problems resulting from the use of a double currency and liquidity shortage, plus 'subjective hurdles' such as delays and lack of trained staff. However, he expressed hopes these issues can be solved gradually.

Cuba needs 2 billion dollar FDI a year to boost the economy and put it on solid manner, but it has been unable to reach that figure so far, he admitted.

For her part, the Ministry's investment manager, Deborah Rivas, told the Round Table that since 2014 the number of business opportunities in the country's investment portfolio has been growing. In 2014, Cuba offered foreign investors 246 business projects and this year, 525, she added.

Some of those projects are being executed in tourism, such as hotel building and other infrastructure works, Construction Minister Rene Mesa said.

He highlighted there are 6,000 builders currently working in Mariel Special Development Zone (ZEDM, in Spanish), where they have completed 217,5 kilometers of road, 103 kilometers of railroad, 132 kilometers of aqueducts and 384,7 kilometers of power grid.

Invited to the Round Table, ZEDM's general manager Ana Teresa Igarza said this special business project in the western province of Artemisa has taken a big economic step.

She mentioned 300 million dollar investment was required to complete 200 hectares of infrastructure this year, including the completion in March 2018 of a multimodal terminal, which will be connected to the railway network.

The ZEDM has an employment potential of 10,000 people on diverse sectors; 43 business contracts have been struck so far, amounting to 474 million dollars of FDI, Igarza outlined.

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Cuban People Are the Protagonists of Diplomacy, Foreign Minister Says

Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said on Monday in Havana that the Cuban people are the main protagonists in the country''s diplomacy.

Probably the popular participation of citizens is unique in the experience of the Cuban Revolution, explained Rodriguez after participating in the debates prior to the Ordinary Session of the 9th Legislature of the People's Power National Assembly (Parliament).

Our people deserve to congratulate themselves, because thanks to their effort and loyalty, to the thought of Commander-in-Chief Fidel Castro, to the leadership of Army General Raul Castro and President Miguel Diaz-Canel, we had outstanding results this year, he pointed out.

We can talk about popular participation and Cuban emigration in the debate on the draft Constitution, Rodriguez noted.

Thousands of amendments to the document were submitted regarding foreign policy, and the constitutional commission will surely take them into account, as will the Parliament, said the foreign minister.

We see how the people participate in the struggle against the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States for more than half a century, now with more aggressiveness.

'The year that is about to end has been tremendous, a difficult year, of commendable, encouraging results and of a foreign policy that continues and will always be faithful to our independence, patriotic tradition and to our revolutionary and deep popular tradition', the foreign minister stressed.

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Cuba Foresees Economic Growth of One Percent in 2019

Cuba''s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has a growth forecast for 2019, slightly higher than one percent, Economy Minister Alejandro Gil said today.

According to the report presented by the chairman to the Economic Affairs Committee of the National Assembly, on the fulfillment of the 2018 plan and the projections for next year, it is a realistic vision, in tune with the situation of the country and the external tensions.

Gil explained to the deputies present, including President Miguel Diaz-Canel, that the international scenario is complex, ratified by the Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) with its forecast of 1.3 percent regional growth.

He also recalled Cuba's particularities, such as the impact on its development of the economic, commercial and financial blockade imposed by the United States, a policy intensified by the current administration in the White House.

The minister also highlighted at the Havana Conference Center that on the island progress is inclusive because the entire population benefits from the advances.

It is an important element, in some parts of the world the GDP grows more, but is distributed among a few, he said.

In the parliamentary session, Gil informed that a better performance of the harvest, tourism, trade, agriculture, construction, and exports is expected in 2019.

Therefore, we anticipate growth in key sectors, he warned.

Gil insisted on the need to meet the expected income, which is due to the adherence to principles such as diversification of exports, efficiency, and import substitution.

He also called for materializing the potential of the economy with adjustment to available resources, in order to avoid increasing indebtedness.

In the case of the national production, he called to not import anything that can be produced in Cuba with quality and on time.

According to the Minister of Economy and Planning, the Cuban GDP will close 2018 with a growth slightly higher than one percent, although lower than what was predicted, around two percent.

It is important to note that the country's development does not stop and the economy grows despite the tensions, he stressed.

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Cuba, Internet and the Media Change

Cuba is not foreign to the media change. Several social networks are among the most visited websites by internet users. Much less on the sidelines of disinformation through the ICTs.

Although the existence and consequences of the climatic change are still questioned by some - for example, the United States current administration -, apparently the same doesn't happen with what could be called the media change.

The latter is a fait accompli, if we take into account the results of a recent survey by the Pew Research Center, where they supported that at present it’s more likely that North Americans read news from social networks rather than from newspapers.

According to a survey published on Monday by this institution, 20% of North Americans mentioned the social networks as frequent source for news, in comparison to the 16% who said to read them on newspapers.

According to the AP agency, is the first time that Pew has found websites like Facebook and Twitter to surpass newspapers, a more than proven fact if one keeps in mind that Pew has been monitoring the consumption of news since 1991, when 56% of North Americans still mentioned newspapers when asked where they had obtained yesterday's news.

The survey also demonstrated that not only newspapers suffer the decadence against the muscle of social networks. In the case of television: 81% of people 65 years old and older more frequently consume news from television, in comparison to the 16% of people with ages between 18 and 29.

"Misinformation"

Although, like every change, the use of social networks has its advantages, among them immediacy – we don’t need to wait long hours for the printed edition of newspapers to find out something, because thanks to internet facts are transmitted live from any mobile -, the other side of the coin is misinformation.

Professional intrusiveness, the "sage" with many followers and the uncontrollable wishes of social acceptance (Facebook, therefore I am) has turned social networks into a sort of virtual common ground where are mixed, besides the news produced by newspapers, all type of information. The variety is wide and ranges from the most transcendent and serious event to the most hilarious joke or the broadcasting of private life to the Truman Show style. With such excess of information, it’s not odd that truth gets contaminated of lies, sometimes innocently and others with the worst intentions.

No wonder only a few days back the website Dictionary.com chose "Misinformation" (deceiving information) in opposition to "Disinformation" (disinformation), as word of the year. According to Jane Solomon, linguist of Dictionary.com, the website chose "mis" deliberately instead of "dis" as a "wake-up call", to stay vigilant in the battle against the propagandist ones, those that raise campaigns who believe Earth is flat and other fake news creators.

According to AP, "what the enterprise with base in Oakland, California wanted to highlight was the intention concept, of whether the deceit was unnoticed or on purpose."

For Solomon: "The widespread diffusion of deceiving information generates great challenges to navigate life in 2018. Misleading information exists since long ago, but for over a decade, social networks booming have changed the way to spread information completely. We believe that understanding the concept of deceiving information is essential to identify it when we find it in everyday life, and that would help to dampen down its impact."

The deceiving information, added the linguist: "comprises everything we have experienced in the last 12 months", hence the website with 90 million users per month has been in charge of adding the definitions of “bubble filter”, “fake news”, “post-fact”, “post-truth” and “homophilic”, among others.

The Media Contamination

A leading role in "disinformation" has had it Facebook, where the contamination by fake news seems to have reached levels only comparable to those attained by plastic contaminating oceans. The best example was the crucial role of Facebook in the Cambridge Analytica data scandal, as well as the reiterated use of that social network to encourage violence.

Facebook’s disinformative contamination, the hatred speech and the published rumors, according to the expert from Dictionary.com promoted "violence against the rohinya Muslim in Myanmar; there were riots in Sri Lanka after fake news incited the Buddhist majority against Muslims, and false rumors about children kidnappers in WhatsApp raised violence in India."

As for WhatsApp, it is an example of how social networks were used in the recent elections in Brazil. As denounced by newspaper Folha de Sao Paulo, that social network worked as platform to Brazilian far-right managers to spread thousands of “fake news” to discredit the candidate for the PT and assure Jair Bolsonaro’s victory.

Task Force or Fake News?

Cuba is not foreign to the media change. Several social networks are among the most visited websites by internet users. Much less on the sidelines of disinformation through ICTs. In the aggression plans against Cuba play a fundamental role the use of social networks with subversive ends. Since the appearance of new technologies in the media field, the propaganda machinery, directed "on purpose" from the United States, has used them to stir their campaigns of lies. Among the antecedents of those intentions the fail attempts of ZunZuneo, Piramideo, Conmmotion and Operation Surf.

The second public meeting of the Task Force for the Internet in Cuba that, under the eye of the U.S. Department of State has as objective to promote "the free flow of information and without regulations toward Cuba and inside the island", has just taken place in Washington, a few weeks after made public in the budget documents of the Internet Diffusion and Adoption in Cuba, part of the Task Force, the purpose of using Facebook Cuban accounts of "native Cubans" and "unmarked" to spread content created by the U.S. government without informing Facebook Cuban users.

According to statements in the aforementioned meeting by the director of the Office of Cuba Broadcast, Tomás Regalado- who was against the meeting to alleviate the technological blockade of the United States, the main cause for Internet limitations in Cuba -: "In United States there are the best brains in the world and the widest range of resources to completely disregard the aid of the Cuban, with the régime of Havana, to offer Internet to Cubans."

The best brains in the USA were a bit slow, if we take into account that, despite the blockade imposed by the U.S. against Cuba, on the same day that took place the Task Force meeting in Washington, in Cuba was taking place another important change: the implementation of Internet access in wireless cell phones.

Cuba Will Close 2018 with More Than 4.7 Million Tourists

Cuba will close 2018 with the arrival of four million 750 thousand tourists, a figure higher than 2017 but lower than the expected plan, Minister of Economy and Planning Alejandro Gil said in Parliament today.

The owner presented to the Economic Affairs Committee of the National Assembly the fulfillment of the economic plan this year and the projections for 2019, a session in which President Miguel Díaz-Canel participated.

According to Gil, weather phenomena and the resurgence of the US blockade prevented the arrival of five million 100 thousand tourists on the island and caused that the expected income was not met.

Tourism did not have the desired impact on the growth of the Gross Domestic Product of Cuba, which will close in 2018 slightly higher than one percent, below the two percent plotted in the plan, he said.

According to the official, despite the tensions arising from the actions of nature and the US blockade, the sector grew over last year by 1.3 percent.

By 2019, Gil said that tourism should grow, although without entering into details of figures.

He also highlighted investments in a strategic sector for the development of Cuba, with the incorporation of new hotel capacities, among other issues.

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President Diaz-Canel Denounces the Blockade Impact on Cuba's Economy

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel denounced on Sunday the impact of the US blockade on Cuba's economy and the resurgence of this hostile policy at the National Assembly of Popular Power.

The blockade is present and has intensified with the current administration, he warned at the Economic Affairs Committee of the parliament, in which its deputies analyzed the fulfillment of the Plan of the Economy this year and the projections for 2019.

Diaz-Canel pointed out actions framed in the blockade as the financial persecution of the operations that have to do with Cuba, translated, among other aspects, in pressures and fines to foreign banks.

In this scenario, he described as meritorious the anticipated increase in 2018 for the Gross Domestic Product of the country, which will close the year slightly higher than one percent, although below the expected two percent.

It is a discrete growth, which still does not impact as we need in the lives of people, but it is meritorious given the complexities we face, he said.

According to the statement made by the Minister of Economy and Planning, Alejandro Gil, in addition to the US blockade and its resurgence, Cuba suffered significant damage due to the impact of weather events, including Hurricane Irma, at the end of 2017, and the rains associated with the subtropical storm Alberto.

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