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.

  • Published in Now

US Has No Moral Authority to Judge Cuba on Human Rights

The US Government has no authority to point at Cuba on human rights issues, the island''s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez stressed, reacting to a statement by Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on alleged violations.

'Pompeo lies and libels,'underlines Rodriguez in a tweet the Foreign Ministry reproduced in social media.

The Cuban FM demanded from the US Government and its Secretary of State to lift the economic, trade and financial blockade Washington has maintained over almost 60 years.

He also wrote about Washington's poor performance on human rights for its condition as 'global repressor' and for its cruel treatment of migrants, minorities and poor people.

Director General of the US Office of the Cuban Foreign Ministry, Carlos Fernandez de Cossio, also lambasted Pompeo's writing on Cuba.

With usual lack of decency the US Government shows when dealing with human rights, Pompeo issued a letter he said he had sent to Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez, but it had not been received at the time he made it public.

He further said the US Government is dishonest when it expresses concern over human rights in Cuba or elsewhere.

'Its historical trajectory, its constant and flagrant abuses against its own population and that of many countries, and its alliance with dictatorial regimes guilty of vicious crimes disqualify the moral authority of US leaders,' emphasized Fernandez de Cossio.

To him, the letter and its public handling are actions of propaganda.

  • Published in Cuba

THE US STATE DEPARTMENT USES THE GRANTING OF VISAS TO AFFECT DIPLOMATIC RELATIONS WITH CUBA.

Statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba

During the past few months, the US State Department has been concocting a new pretext to affect bilateral diplomatic relations, associated to the granting of the diplomatic and official visas required by the staff of the respective embassies in Washington and Havana to perform their duties.  The maneuver consists in claiming that Cuba is hindering the granting of visas for designated officials at the US embassy in Cuba, which allegedly hinders the work of that diplomatic mission.

In doing so, the State Department deliberately conceals the fact that it was the US government the one that, unilaterally, decided to downsize its staff in Havana in September, 2017, including particularly the staff in charge of consular services, with the consequent encumbrance for Cuban and US citizens who depend on those services. The US government was the one which decided to arbitrarily and unjustly expel 15 Cuban diplomatic officials from the Cuban embassy in Washington in October of that same year.

Since that date, the work of both diplomatic missions has been affected by these unilateral decisions.  Likewise, the granting of the visas required by the staff of the respective embassies has been subject to whimsical approvals and delays by the State Department.

Data speak for themselves.  Since the end of September, 2017, the US government has only granted 26 visas and denied 6 for the staff required by Cuba at its embassy in Washington.  During that same period, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba has granted 105 visas for the temporary and permanent diplomatic and administrative staff of the US embassy in Havana, and has only denied one in reciprocity for the actions taken by the State Department.  This is a clearly unbalanced behavior which is not in accord with the standards of reciprocity that are considered an essential practice in diplomatic relations.

To accuse Cuba of creating an unsustainable situation for the work of the US embassy is a flagrant distortion of the truth.  The Cuban government is not responsible for the instability and irregularity generated unilaterally by the US government that affects the work of the diplomatic missions of both countries in the respective capitals.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is still willing to meet the requirements of both parties for the functioning of the respective embassies on the basis of reciprocity.

Havana, November 28, 2018.


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  • Published in Cuba

Opposition Strategy Affects Venezuelan People, Analyst Asserts

The subversive strategy implemented by sectors of the right wing and their adventurous maneuvers to take political power affects all Venezuelans in equal terms, assured analyst and journalist Jose Vicente Rangel.

At his program Jose Vicente Today, broadcast by TeleVen, former Venezuelan Vice President considered that, due to the failure of seditious actions, the December 9 municipal council elections are a favorable opportunity to retake the democratic path.

In this sense, he indicated that destabilizing actions of the right not only harm the left-wing militancy and the government, which is facing an economic war provoked by these sectors, but also the rest of the society.

'When will they abandon subversive and adventurous politics? It's a failed strategy that affects all Venezuelans,' he questioned during his usual television program.

On the other hand, Rangel stressed the need to strengthen institutions in order to generate appropriate responses to the demands of civil society and political organizations.

The functioning of democracy and its institutions is also a key factor,' he emphasized.

  • Published in World

COALITION OF U.S. AG GROUPS MEET WITH CUBAN OFFICIALS TO ADVANCE TRADE

Representatives of U.S. agribusiness, the farming lobby and related industries opened a three-day conference in Cuba on Thursday aimed at increasing sales and cooperation with a country that the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly lambasted and promised to tighten sanctions on. 

Cuba, which seeks increased trade with Cuba and the lifting of the trade embargo, is sponsoring the event. 

U.S. farmers and agribusinesses have sold $5.7 billion in food to the Communist-run Caribbean island since 2000, when an amendment to the trade embargo allowed agricultural sales for cash, according to the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, a New York-based organization that monitors the bilateral trade. 

Cuba imports up to $2 billion a year in food products. U.S. farmers want a larger piece of the pie, but are stymied because Cuba cannot make purchases on credit and there is no U.S. trade cover as with other countries, according to Paul Johnson, co-chair of the U.S. Agricultural Coalition for Cuba. 

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"Rural America supported President Trump and will continue to support President Trump and we want him to remember those people also want to open up the Cuban market," he told Reuters. 

Trump has promised to undo the gradual improvement of relations with Cuba begun by his predecessor, President Barack Obama, and has drastically reduced staff at the U.S. Embassy in Havana and Cuba's Embassy in Washington. 

However, much of the economic relationship, from food sales to travel and communications, remains partly due to the political clout of organizations such as the coalition. 

Johnson said trade had not met its potential and changes under way in Cuba, including market oriented reforms and a new president without Castro as a last name, represented an opportunity to be grasped. 

Republican Congressman Rick Crawford from Arkansas, whose state was a major exporter of rice to Cuba before the Revolution, made the opening remarks at the conference. 

He later told Reuters "polling shows the majority of Americans favor improved relations" despite opposition from hard line Cuban exiles, many of whom are in Florida. "There are 49 other states," he said. 

  • Published in Cuba

China Urges US to Stop Meddling in Other Countries' Affairs

China urged the United States on Wednesday to focus on solving its social problems instead of meddling and criticizing internal affairs of other countries, such as the anti-terrorism program developed in the Uygur Autonomous Region of Xinjiang (northwestern region).

Hua Chunying, the spokeswoman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, criticized that US legislators intend to pass a law condemning the alleged violation of human rights with this project.

She considered it inadmissible that these congresspersons take the power to question issues of other nations when they only spend taxpayers' money without serving them properly and ignore their social reality.

How much do you know about the real situation that happens in other countries? How much do you know about the situation of your own people? (...) they are more concerned about the internal affairs of other countries, based on misinformation and strong ideological prejudices, Hua said.

At that point, the spokeswoman recalled a report from last year on the persistence of racial discrimination in the United States, the mistreatment of African-Americans and other ethnic minorities.

Hua responded in this way to information about the presentation in a few hours before the US Congress of a bill to empower the government of President Donald Trump to respond to the alleged violations of China's human rights in Xinjiang.

On repeated occasions, the Foreign Ministry defended the educational programs developed in centers of that autonomous region to instruct in the domain of the language, legal knowledge and professional techniques to individuals instigated, linked, coerced and attracted by terrorist and extremist activities.

Western media in recent times disclose materials criticizing the opening and operation of such facilities.

  • Published in World

American farmers need the Cuban market

Farmers across the country are worried. Net farm income this year has hit a 12-year low and is expected to drop nearly 20 percent overall. With falling domestic demand, higher production prices, and competition from foreign producers already hurting our farmers, retaliatory tariffs on U.S. farm exports by China, the EU, Canada, Mexico and Turkey are an added weight on the shoulders of our growers and producers. American farmers are tough patriots, but they need strong export revenues to stay in business. Building new export outlets for American farmers and allied industries has become an imperative, and Cuba should be part of that mix.

The list of farm sectors reeling from punitive foreign tariffs is long and getting longer. In soybeans, for example, nearly $14 billion worth of exports to China -- or roughly one third of total US soybean production in 2017 -- will be impacted by China’s new tariffs. In dairy, retaliatory tariffs will cost our farmers $1.5 billion this year and another $3 billion in 2019. In pork, almost half of all U.S. exports are being impacted by tariffs. This is not just a near-term concern. Once foreign market share is lost, reclaiming those sales is an uphill fight.

The positive reactions out of American agriculture to the new North American trade deal is testament to the urgent need for U.S. agribusiness outlets. In the case of Cuba, however, which offers an important growth opportunity just 90 miles away and an overnight voyage for shipping containers from U.S. Gulf and East Coast ports, a different solution is needed.

Cuba is one of only a very few foreign markets where the potential for U.S. agricultural growth is quantifiable and achievable. That island spends $2 billion a year on agricultural imports to feed its 11 million people and 3 million annual tourists. Most of its imports are from Vietnam, China, the European Union, and other faraway locations, where freight rates are many times higher than ours.

Arkansas for instance is the No. 1 U.S. rice exporter, and Cuba has the highest per capita rice consumption in the Western Hemisphere. However, since FY2009, Cuba has not imported any significant quantity of rice from the U.S. The U.S. held nearly 40 percent of market share in FY2004, but it has been lost to Vietnam and Brazil, who offer credit to Cuba.

Likewise, soybeans are also a top export item for states like Arkansas and others and with recent trade disputes, it is important to diversify our trading partners. Of Cuba’s nearly $2 billion in agricultural imports, 13 percent are soybean products. In Minnesota, U.S. soy exports could mean combined sales of up to $14 million, corn sales could reach up to $16 million; dairy has potential of $4.3 million. Similarly, many of Kansas’ top agricultural products are staple imports for Cuba. Kansas exports over $800 million annually in wheat, but there is virtually no wheat trade between Kansas and Cuba.

Cuba would readily buy our high-quality agricultural products were it not for our outdated financing rules on U.S. farm sales to Cuba. While the farm bill amendment allowing market promotion monies to be spent in Cuba is a step in the right direction, to position American farmers as the No. 1 agricultural supplier to Cuba, we need legislation allowing private credit and financing in agricultural sales to that market.

Now more than ever, when simple fixes like this could help our farmers make export strides in our own backyard over Vietnam, China, and other distant locations that compete with our farm community, we should quickly make them happen. The savings represented by this fix -- $690 million over 10 years according to the Congressional Budget Office -- is all the more reason to get this done now.

For lasting export growth for American farmers, we should also advance efforts to provide reciprocal bilateral trade improvements that help foster a more stable, mutually beneficial US-Cuba trading relationship.

As China and other U.S. export markets are redefined, our country no longer has the luxury of shunning meaningful agribusiness markets located right under our nose. Expanded access for U.S. agriculture into Cuba and other new outlets has become nothing less than a matter of economic health, if not survival, for rural America.

Crawford represents Arkansas’s 1st District and is chairman of the Agriculture Subcommittee on General Farm Commodities and Risk Management. Marshall represents Kansas’ 1st District and is a member of the Agriculture Committee. Emmer represents Minnesota’s 6th District. All three are members of the Congressional Cuba Working Group.

  • Published in Cuba

U.S. to Ban More Cuban Entities from Transactions

The U.S. government will expand the list announced almost a year ago of Cuban entities with which U.S. citizens are prohibited from making transactions, national security advisor John Bolton reported.

During a speech given in Miami, Florida, about the increased pressure from the Donald Trump administration on Cuba, Venezuela and Nicaragua, the adviser announced more than twenty new institutions subjected to that measure.

The aforementioned list was released on November 8, 2017 as part of additional limitations imposed by Washington on travel and trade with the neighboring nation, and included about 180 entities allegedly linked to the island's defence sector and national security.

That relationship includes the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces, five business groups, 83 hotels, two travel agencies, five marinas, 10 stores of different types, among other organizations of various kinds.

According to Bolton, the Presidential Memorandum of National Security on strengthening U.S. policy toward Cuba, signed by Trump in June 2017, is just the beginning of his efforts to put pressure on this country.

Although Cuba has expressed its willingness to engage in a bilateral dialogue on a basis of respect, without conditioning or impositions, the adviser said they will only approach a Cuban government that 'is ready to undertake necessary and tangible reforms.'

  • Published in Cuba
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