Cablegate: Canada's Response to Internet Freedom Restrictions in Cuba

DE RUEHOT #1359/01 1941620
R 131620Z JUL 07




E.O. 12958: N/A

REF: STATE 89911

OTTAWA 00001359 001.2 OF 002

1. Summary: Embassy Ottawa delivered information regarding the lack
of internet freedom in Cuba to Foreign Affairs Canada's Cuba desk on
July 6. Canadian officials expressed concern for Cubans' lack of
internet access and reassured us that they place no credibility in
Cuban claims that this is due to USG sanctions. DFAIT officials
were intrigued by the scope and scale of the USINT internet effort
and promised to consider whether and how they might emulate our
efforts. DFAIT officials also briefly discussed Canada's
"two-track" strategy for engagement with Cuba. End summary.

2. Emboffs delivered on July 6 reftel information regarding the lack
of internet freedom in Cuba to Michael Kaduck, Deputy Director for
Cuba, Dominican Republic and the Central American states and Louise
Crosby, Cuba Desk Officer at the Department of Foreign Affairs and
International Trade (DFAIT). We stated that Cuban government claims
that USG sanctions are responsible for the country's restrictive
internet laws and low levels of internet accessibility lacked
validity. DFAIT officials expressed concern for Cubans' lack of
internet access, and dismay at Havana's accusations directed toward
the USG and reassured us that they were well aware of the lack of
credibility to the claims. DFAIT officials agreed with the USG
assessment that poor infrastructure and Cuba's restrictive internet
laws are responsible for the lack of unobstructed internet access
for Cubans.

3. Emboffs suggested to DFAIT officials that the Canadian Embassy in
Havana consider offering services similar to those currently
provided by USINT Havana, such as internet workstations to allow
Cubans access to the internet and long-distance communications
without strict monitoring by the Castro regime. DFAIT officials
were intrigued by the scope and scale of the USINT internet effort
and promised to consider whether and how they might emulate our
efforts. DFAIT officials acknowledged the importance of internet
access and unrestricted information sharing among Cuban civil
society groups and those outside Cuba. The Canadian government
views the unimpeded access to technology and information as being
instrumental to the development of a strong civil society and
functioning democracy. Canada is constantly monitoring the
situation in Cuba and will continue to provide what it deems as an
appropriate level of representation and involvement. Kuduck and
Crosby did offer the caveat, however, that Canada's diplomatic
presence in Cuba is modest (seven Canadian officers) and it was
unlikely that there would be a Canadian effort to provide internet
access in the very near-term.

Canada's "two-track" strategy for engaging Cuba
--------------------------------------------- --

4. Kaduck and Crosby also described Canada's two-track engagement
strategy. The GOC is trying to position itself to better facilitate
an orderly transition from the Castro regime to a new government and
therefore within the last year, Ottawa has taken a somewhat more
active stance toward Cuba. It is a "two track" approach, where
Canadian officials engage with both the top level of the Cuban
government and with a broader swath of the Cuban citizenry,
including civil society groups in an attempt to slowly change the
mindsets of the population of Cuba, without being seen as
interfering in Cuba. Our interlocutors noted the approach needs to
be very carefully balanced in order to be accepted by both groups.

5. For example, Canada's Deputy Foreign Minister Len Edwards visited
Q5. For example, Canada's Deputy Foreign Minister Len Edwards visited
Cuba in May 2007 and met with, among others, Cuban First Deputy
Foreign Minister Bruno Rodrguez Parrilla. In a statement Edwards
noted that both countries recognized the need to continue to deepen
trade, investment, and tourism ties.

6. To balance these interactions, the GoC also sponsors Canadian
speakers to come to Cuba to meet with a broad range of Cuban
citizens. For example, the Canadian Embassy in Havana hosted
Supreme Court of Canada Justice Michel Bastarache in Cuba from
February 23 to 28, 2007. The centerpiece of Justice Bastarache's
visit was his speech at the historic "Aula Magna" of the University
of Havana, in which he discussed Canada's system of government and
the transformative nature of the Canadian Charter of Rights and
Freedoms on Canadian society. The audience was composed of
academics, law students, government officials, Havana-based
diplomats and the Cuban media. The Canadian government has also
invited eleven Cuban economists later this autumn to attend a forum
hosted by Carleton University (in Ottawa) on the Cuban Economy and
the potential for a transfer to a market economy. This forum, it is
anticipated, will help bring new insights on freedom and market
economies to the Cuban public.

7. This cable was prepared jointly by ECON Intern Ben Mazer and POL
Intern Brittany Breakwell.


OTTAWA 00001359 002.2 OF 002

Official conversations took place on May 25, 2007 in Havana between
the First Deputy Ministers of Canada and Cuba, Leonard J. Edwards
and Bruno Rodrguez Parrilla.
During the meeting, Rodrguez Parrilla said that Cuban-Canadian
relations are "an example of exchange between two countries with
different systems but similar interests". He also highlighted their
common stance on many international situations, and expressed
gratitude for Canada's support at the UN General Assembly to the
resolution condemning Washington's embargo against the island.
For his part, Edwards noted the continuation of bilateral relations

despite some differences, and the two countries' capacity to talk
sincerely and with "mutual respect" about all topics. Edwards also
said this visit was a great opportunity to exchange opinions with
Cuban leaders and review the state of bilateral trade relations.
"Both parts coincided on the need of continuing deepening trade,
investments, tourism and other spheres of cooperation" between the
two countries, he reported.

On April the 6th, 2006 a big reception was held at the Embassy of
Cuba to celebrate the occasion. Officials of the Canadian
Government, Members of the Parliament, businessmen, scholars,
journalists, friends of Cuba, members of the Cuban community in
Canada, and members of the Diplomatic Corpse were among those seen
in the celebration.

Rafael Dausa, Cuban Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, attended
this important event as part of his one-week official visit to
Canada from the 3rd to the 9th of April.

The Cuban Ambassador, Ernesto Sent, was in charge of the ceremony
opening speech, highlighting the solid links between the two
countries in different fields such as tourism, trade, investments,
and cooperation and expressed the interest that Cuba has in
strengthening the bilateral relations under the conditions of mutual
respect and understanding.

Speeches were also delivered by important personalities in Canadian
politics: Andy Mitchell, Minister of Agriculture; Peter Harder,
Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs; and Senator Marcel Prudhomme.

Minister Andy Mitchell highlighted the excellent results of his
recent visit to Cuba and the meeting with the Cuban President, Fidel
Castro. He also expressed his satisfaction with the Cuban decision
to open again its borders to Canadian cattle imports as well as with
the new trading contracts recently signed between the two countries.
He also predicted the interest of Canada to widen and increase the
commercial and economic links with the Cuban nation.

The 60th Anniversary of Diplomatic Relations offers a good
opportunity to promote better understanding between the people and
Governments of the two countries.
Canadian authorities have expressed deep concern and strongly
protested to Cuban authorities the incarceration and harsh
sentencing of 75 Cuban dissidents in March and April 2003. Senior
government officials have directly raised concerns about the health
and prison conditions of the "75" at meetings with senior Cuban
officials. Given the peaceful nature of the dissidents' activities,
Canada's position is that the severe restrictions on freedom of
expression cannot be justified on the grounds of national security.
The Canadian government has therefore requested the release of the
imprisoned dissidents, with immediate consideration for those in
poor health.
The last public statement this government has made about Cuba was
last summer (2006), when Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay
Qlast summer (2006), when Foreign Affairs Minister Peter MacKay
emphasized Canada's "sovereign, independent position vis-a-vis our
relations with Cuba." In Novemberm 2006, Canada was among 183 other
countries to vote against the U.S. embargo of Cuba at the United
Nations General Assembly.

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