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Scoop Feedback: The Cuban Ambassador On Amnesty

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Dear Sir:

The fact that very little has been published about the real conditions on Internet in Cuba, even after a very clarifying statement by the Cuban Minister of Communications indicates the need for me to request you to shed light on the Cuban position on this issue after the very negative article covering a statement by Amnesty International published in SCOOP some days ago.

The very absence of alternative information with the Cuban points of view in your publication or elsewhere in Internet is a clear indication of the weakness and traps of considering Internet as the ultimate and better medium for free information among nations.

Although we, Cubans, do not deny the opportunities to use Internet as a tool to convey the message of Cuba in this globalized and westernized world ruled by corporate media, it is anyway, an uphill battle, because today censorship comes not by deleting or denying access to information, but through “embedding” it to the tanks of the masters or by hiding the real news behind a mountain of frivolous propaganda and commercials, mp3s, movies and games.

I cannot but consider the assessment of Amnesty International against freedom of expression in Cuba as totally biased and full of prejudices according to the values of western and developed countries that do not take into consideration particular and historical conditions in Third World countries and always try to extrapolate those values naively and with utter ignorance of historical backgrounds. Being an organization with a long experience I can accept it is naïve, and therefore immediately the possibility that this NGO is supporting the Bush Administration efforts to demonize Cuba in order to create the timely momentum for a regime change as they did in Iraq, comes to my mind.

Why when Cuba implement measures to regulate access to Internet and avoid hackers, stealing passwords, access to pornographic, satanic cult, terrorist or other negative sites it is considered a repression on the freedom of expression and when other countries do the same thing it is just a process to regulate the Internet use?

Why is AI trying to give the impression that the private access to Internet in Cuba is so high that its better regulation can constitute an attempt to repress the flow of information?
Is Amnesty International not aware that Cuba is a poor (but with a great dignity) Third World country in which the typical conditions of connectivity of the first World do not apply?

Is AI considering condemning the western world for not allowing free flow of information to Africa, where less than 1% of their population has access to Internet? Is AI saying anything to the fact that 90% of the world population does not have access to Internet and more than 70% of those connected live in developed countries and 75% of the sites are in English? Is Amnesty International saying anything to the fact that according to the INTERPOL there are more than 17 000 pornographic sites in Internet and most of them are in developed countries?

Why is Amnesty International following the routine path of the anti Cuban mafia in Miami of trying to compare Cuba with the United States on what we should have and not to the rest of Latin America, our logical historical context?

In Central America, Internet access is a luxury. In Guatemala, 0.6% of the population has access; in El Salvador, the rate is 0.7%; in Nicaragua, 0.04% and in Honduras, 0.03%. Even in large and populated nations of the Third World, there are very few citizens with Internet access: in Mexico, 4.6% of the population; in India, 1.6%; in Indonesia, 1.8%.

In a world where Internet access is just for the elite, where billions of people have never seen a telephone set and have no hopes of ever accessing the Net – because a large portion of them cannot read or write – the possible path to be followed by underdeveloped countries, and the most democratic and massive, is the one we are travelling down.

Furthermore, Amnesty International forgets at the risk of being considered totally ignorant, on which concrete conditions Cuba have had to develop its Internet access and connectivity. Why there is no condemnation of the US Administration of the cost that Cuba has to pay to connect to Internet, and the obstacles they put in order to avoid that we may have greater width, which will be the necessary condition to have a larger amount of users connected to Internet?

The US blockade against Cuba seriously hampers our country’s access to new Information and Communication Technologies:

- Since 1962, Cuba has had no access to telecommunications and computer equipment owned by any US company or subsidiary.

- Because of the blockade, the Cuban telecommunications sector has suffered million-dollar losses in basic and wireless telephone activities, alarm systems, e-commerce and postal communications. In telephone activities alone, losses amounted to US$ 21.7 million in 2002.

- On 10 April 2003, the US Department of Commerce refused to give an export license to USA/Cuba-INFOMED, a humanitarian NGO based in California, which intended, as on previous occasions, to donate 423 PCs to Cuban hospitals and polyclinics to support the diagnosis and medical information network. “This export would be deleterious to the foreign policy interests of the United States,” it stated.

- When the US Army developed the e-mail, Cuba had no access to that service or to technical know-how or equipment. The access by the Cubans to US sites on the Internet was blocked until May 1994. Therefore, Cuba could not take part in the Internet process at an earlier stage.

- It is not up to Cuba to be connected to the Internet at the speed it would like to or with as many independent channels or providers it can choose. Each time Cuba tries to add a new channel to the Internet, the US counterpart must procure the appropriate license from the US Treasury Department. Likewise, if an American company wants to open a new channel for Cuba or decides to upgrade the connection speed, a license must be issued.

- Cuba’s current connection to the so-called Infoband does not offer the appropriate bandwidth to meet the country’s requirements. The blockade compels Cuba to use an expensive and slow satellite-related bandwidth and connection. The problem could be solved with the connection of a fiber-optic cable between Cuba and the Florida Straits, but the US has not allowed so.

Furthermore, Amnesty International completely ignores that Cuba’s electronic space is continuously violated by the US Government through US government controlled radio stations and that the groups from Miami with the support of the US Administration continuously try to disrupt the Cuban connection to Internet through spamming the Cuban servers.

Amnesty International knows, because it has mentioned it in other reports with the extraterrestrial and surgical objectivity of somebody that does not want to aggravate its master that the US Administration has announced a new Commission to see through the rapid Transition of Cuba, in a disguised title that smells too much to “regime change” and that the US Government have allocated more than 25 million USD dollars to Internet sites based in Miami to “convey the truth” to the Cuban people.

Therefore, why Amnesty International may consider that Cuba does not have the right to regulate for the best use of the Cuban people its access to Internet, while at the same time defending its sovereignty against the imperial power that very people dare to face these days?

As this reply is already becoming long I would highly appreciate its publication, at which point I would like to have a second part to be published: What we are doing in Cuba in favour of the Information and Telecommunication Technologies and why everything that Amnesty International has said does not reflect Cuba’s reality.

Just to conclude for the time being let me quote the Cuban Minister of Communications:

“I can ascertain that there’s no change whatsoever in the policy set forth for Internet use, whose tenets are that those who abide by the existing regulations will continue to gain access to the Net; that the access by Cubans to the Internet will continue to rise as allowed by connectivity and that we are going to crack down on all unlawful acts to defend the Net.

I would highly appreciate if this article is published in your prestigious publication.

- Miguel Ramirez
Cuban Ambassador

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