Editor’s Note: The Progressive, a monthly magazine/website that touts itself as “A voice for peace, social justice, and the common good” announced last week that internet censorship no longer exists in Cuba. Writer Reese Erlich came to this stunning conclusion because, in part, because that’s what alleged academic Néstor García Iturbe told him. What Erlich failed to tell his readers is this “former Cuban diplomat” is actually a retired Directorate of Intelligence (DI) officer. In fact, Colonel Néstor García Iturbe is one of the regime’s top experts in the targeting of Americans. Well known within U.S. intelligence circle, he is believed to be the longest serving Castro spy to have ever operated in the United States. He culminated his official espionage career as the Director of the Superior Institute of Intelligence (ISI), where Havana’s civilian intelligence officers are trained. He continues to publish pro-regime propaganda on a regular basis.
Foreign Correspondent: Does Cuba Censor the Internet? Think Again.
So far, U.S. government attempts to kickstart a Twitter revolution have failed.
by Reese Erlich, The Progressive
A group of Cubans stare intently at their smart phones here in Old Havana, checking emails and Googling news stories. They, and the millions of other Cubans who got access to Internet upgrades last month, defy the image of Cuba as a totalitarian state where citizens face Internet censorship.
Cubans can now subscribe to monthly plans providing roaming Internet connections for $7 per month. Others access the Internet from wifi hotspots for even less.
The Cuban government blocks access to the U.S. propaganda station TV Marti, as well as to some pro-U.S. blogs, but citizens have easy access to The New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and even the ultra-conservative Spanish edition of the Miami Herald. Twitter, Facebook, and cell phone apps such as IMO are also easily accessible.
“There’s virtually no Internet censorship in Cuba,” a U.S. journalist based in Havana told me during a recent trip.
Cuba has vastly improved Internet connectivity over the past fifteen years, but only about 40 percent of Cubans have Internet access, compared to a projected 61 percent for the rest of Latin America. This is largely because all smart phones must be imported and remain expensive for the average Cuban, who earns about $30 per month. I saw older model Samsung phones priced at $60 at one Havana store. A monthly plan providing 1 gigabyte of broadband with roaming costs $10.
Conservatives in the U.S. have argued that the Cuban government deliberately uses the high cost of connectivity to keep Cubans unaware of the benefits of U.S.-style democracy. When I first began reporting on the issue in the early 1990s, connecting to the Internet meant paying $12 an hour at a tourist hotel. In the ensuing years, Cubans could use a computer at a local post office at the rate of $5 an hour for an extremely slow connection.
But Internet access improved after 2012, when Venezuela laid a new optic cable to Cuba. More Cubans became able to use home dial-up connections along with wifi hotspots in parks, cyber cafes, and other public spaces. Students at University of Havana and other colleges now have free, but slow, wifi access.
Cuban government officials told me that the U.S. embargo on business dealings with Cuba serves to keep connectivity costs high for some users. The U.S. government stopped U.S. phone companies from laying new cables from Florida to Cuba, forcing the island to rely on far more expensive satellite connections.
Juan Fernández, a professor at the University of Information Sciences and advisor to the Communications Ministry on Internet issues, told me during a previous trip that U.S. companies control a lot of the computer hardware used for modern Internet connections.
“The U.S. is very close and could sell everything very cheap,” he said. “Yes, we can buy it in Asia, but it’s more expensive.”
Article continues here: Cuban Censorship