A team of top Google executives visiting Cuba to promote open Internet access displayed “monumental ignorance,” on conditions in the Communist state, said an exiled Cuban intellectual.
“As someone who had to flee Cuba at a young age and has ever since remained in touch with people on the island, I am dismayed by the essay you have just posted, in which you describe your trip to that giant slave plantation and offer tips on how to bring it out of the Dark Age into which it was plunged fifty-five years ago,” wrote Carlos M. N. Eire, T. Lawrason Riggs Professor of History and Religious Studies at Yale University and a historian of late medieval and early modern Europe:
First: did you take a close look at the list of 187 professions that Raul has earmarked as legitimate in his kingdom? The list is a joke. Dog groomer. Mattress re-stuffer. Button-coverer. Dandy. Yes, dandy is one of the 187 private enterprises allowed by the magnanimous Castro regime. None of these occupations will open up the Cuban economy in a significant way or lead to substantial privatization or genuinely free enterprise. …
Second: what’s this nonsense you spout about women being in control? Cuba remains one of the most sexist societies on earth. Equality? What you observed was a carefully crafted mirage. Did you meet with any of the military men who really run the country and control its entire economy? Not only are they all male, nearly all of them are white too, descendants of European immigrants, in a country where nearly 70% of the population is of African descent. …
The team, led by Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, met with Cuban officials as well as independent people in the technology and digital field, according to a report on the independent news website 14ymedio.com, started last month by blogger Yoani Sanchez, Reuters reports:
Google is on an official two-day visit “to promote the virtues of a free and open Internet,” the report said. …Cuba does not allow open Internet access. Only 2.6 million out of a population of 11.2 million have Internet access, almost entirely limited to government-run centers, foreign companies and tourist hotels. ….
The 14ymedio.com site seeks to draw attention away from the communist-ruled country’s state-controlled media and challenge the government’s heavy media restrictions. Cuba has been tolerating more criticism in recent years but not yet from such a professional-looking website produced on the island. …Sanchez’s blog on daily life and politics in Cuba, Generation Y, has rattled the Cuban establishment, and she has won prestigious media awards in the United States and Europe.
A magazine editor who has tested the limits of free speech believes the Cuban government has no option but to allow universal Internet access, and he plans to exploit that opening to promote a more pluralistic Cuba, Reuters reports:
“The government is obligated to allow it because the country’s development demands it,” Roberto Veiga told Reuters. “The government is aware it has to make political openings.”
Veiga and his partner Lenier Gonzalez turned the Roman Catholic magazine Espacio Laical (Lay Space) into a rare forum for critical, open debate in Communist-ruled Cuba, where authorities monopolize the media and censor the opposition. …..Espacio Laical operated freely but after 10 years Veiga and Gonzalez resigned under pressure from within the church in May. On Tuesday they announced they were launching a new website and debating forum called Cuba Posible.
Like the previous venture, Cuba Posible will air a broad range of views, but now they will operate without the protection of the church, which is by far the largest and best organized institution on the Caribbean island with a different ideology than that of the Communist Party…
Veiga, 49, was confident a measured tone would protect Cuba Posible from official censorship, even though he said Cuban officials disliked Espacio Laical, “especially from the ideological sector,” Reuters adds:
Veiga declined to discuss the division within the church that led them to resign, except to repeat his previous public statement that the church wanted the magazine to be less political. Cuba Posible will promote “transitional change” with views from a wide range of Cubans, Veiga said.
“Cubans want a change, a big change, but generally they yearn for a change without disruption, change without confrontation, without annihilation,” Veiga said. “They want peaceful change within a process of inclusion.”
The last thing the Castro oligarchs want is for Cubans to have access to the internet or freedom of communication, notes Yale University’s Eire, author of Waiting for Snow in Havana: Confessions of a Cuban Boy.
“The knowledge economy and open platforms you seek to bring to Cuba will not come from the lifting of the so-called embargo, but only from the removal of the military junta that rules it with an iron fist,” he writes to Google’s Schmidt.