For over ten years The Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba established a program named “Connect Cuba” whose purpose fully coincide with the decision of the current Administration of the United States of creating a working group (Task Force) about this theme.
The news that the United States has convened an official meeting of governmental agencies and civil society organizations to assess alternatives that may allow simple ordinary Cubans citizens to gain direct access to the Internet have been received with a crisis of “collective hysteria” by the Cuban government at Revolution Square. Why?
THE THREE PILLARS OF THE CUBAN REGIME
The regime, of totalitarian nature, that has governed Cuba since 1959, laid in 1961 it’s three pillars. First is the total control, granted by the state owned economy, over the possibility to access jobs that will allow the common person to move upwards in society. Secondly, is the total control over information, education and perspectives of the citizenry which is facilitated by the monopoly on the means of communication and education.
The third, and perhaps the most important, the ability to monitor and punish, in many visible and invisible ways the thoughts and behaviors that deviate from those blessed as “politically correct” by the ayatollahs of the Cuban Communist Party.
All this was possible because, for many decades, the regime was subsidized by other “friendly “countries”, which allowed the Cuban power elite the luxury of having an economy that in six decades have never, ever, been profitable or prosperous. But things have been changing in an accelerated fashion. The power elite does not have economic resources to co-opt the citizens and the ideology that legitimized their government is in total crisis.
The mechanisms of violent repression are still standing, as well as the administrative control (called ‘white-collar repression) against dissident workers who are dismissed or who are deny work permits as self-employed. Holes are growing in the news bubble that continues to insist on the myth that Cubans must endure living in dictatorship in exchange for free health and higher education services. Services that according to official propaganda are not available to citizens in democratic countries.
The direct access of citizens to the Internet would be a torpedo in the waterline to these control and repression mechanisms. That’s why the eruption of collective hysteria from those who hold real power in Cuba today.
INTERNET COULD CHANGE LIFE OF CUBANS
Internet would not only offer ordinary Cubans alternative political information. Maybe that would be less relevant than other things it will provide. Direct access to the Internet would actually open a door to another way of autonomously living and prospering.
If anything definitely facilitates citizen empowerment in the 21st century is the ability to access the Internet.
Without the need to migrate, the Internet will allow Cubans to be hired and paid directly by foreign companies while working from home. They may be able to study free courses in multiple professions prepared by some of the best universities in the world. They will find feasible to reestablish relationships with their relatives and friends that previously emigrated. But they will also be able to start many other partnerships with new peoples and cultures as well -as foreign institutions- that will offer new opportunities for their personal development,
In short, their access to the Internet can restore their right to dream and live their own life project without depending on the “good will” of the State. And in the process they will find out that in many democratic countries – developed or not – the loss of personal freedoms is not a price to pay for health and education services of higher quality than the current ones on the island.
Since we established the program “Connect Cuba” our goals were:
1- To educate Cubans on how to access the Internet and contribute to
prosperity and growth as individuals and as a nation.
2- Develop online initiatives to connect in order to allow:
✓ Students with online educational courses.
✓ Innovators with knowledge in their field of work.
✓ Entrepreneurs with useful technologies for the development of their
✓ Professionals with the global labor market that hires them to work from home
3- Promote technical and political solutions to connect all Cuban citizens to the World Wide Web.
The Internet it’s the culture that replaces the industrial society. Without its massive incorporation into the daily life of citizens, the Cuban nation is condemned to a negative spiral of impoverishment. Future generations will live worse than those in the present time, as is already happening.
The State use of Internet for waging a cyberwar of character assassinations against democratic activists is a crime against individuals and groups of citizens. Denying full access to the Internet is a crime against the nation. Perhaps one of the worst, if not the worst, of all committed by Cuban totalitarianism.
Connecting Cuba to the Internet is not only about restoring the political and civil rights to access and/or communicate information. Internet is today is an indispensable tool to exercise social and economic rights, as well as the right to development. The time has come to free Cubans from the regime’s blockade to this technology.
Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba