U.S. tech giants may be helping Cuba’s socialist dictatorship build an ‘internet cage’

John Suarez in Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter:

Déjà vu: Tech firms building the perfect cage in Cuba today as they did in China in the 1990s?

“Companies like Facebook and Google must step up to combat undemocratic forces … to stop being co-conspirators in their schemes. These companies don’t want to share responsibility or recognize that they are undermining the foundations of the free world.” – Gary Kapsparov, Oslo Freedom Forum May 27, 2019

News abounds about the internet in Cuba and the latest hype is about the Cuban government “legalizing private WiFi networks” and that “internet restrictions are crumbling,” but  the Castro regime’s telecom monopoly, Etecsa, remains the only internet provider in the archipelago of islands.

Despite this reality their are voices that insist progress towards freedom in Cuba comes from the economic empowerment of the dictatorship while calling it euphemistically “economic democratization.”

Cuba Internet Taskforce
The State Department’s Cuba Internet Taskforce formed in early 2018 was split up into two working groups.

One was composed of human rights organizations and focused on recommendations to improve rights standards and freedoms in Cuba. This working group recognized the Castro regime “the main obstacle to the free flow of information in Cuba due to its deliberate restrictions” and called for U.S. regulations to strengthen restrictions for filtering and surveillance-related technologies.

This was in stark contrast to the other.

The second was a working group composed of technology firms and industry representatives focused on modernizing and expanding Cuba’s internet infrastructure. They also recommended reducing barriers to the export of U.S. technology, subsidizing with taxpayer dollars building up the Castro regime’s technological foundation, and companies engaging in a dialogue with the dictatorship.

Google’s troubling history in Cuba
Capitol Hill Cubans on April 7, 2016 reported the following on the presence of Google in Cuba and how engagement with the regime manifests itself:

Reports from Cuba have noted that the center has been given priority use by Ministry of the Interior (‘MININT’) officials and trainees. The MININT is home to Castro’s intelligence services. Thus, the Google + Kcho Mor center has become a playground for Cuba’s spies and future cyber-warriors. Furthermore, after passing various security checks, when regular Cubans finally get to enter the center, they are treated to censored online access. Webpages like Cubaencuentro, Revolico and 14ymedio remain blocked.Thus, Google has now officially become an extension of Cuba’s censors.

This led to a coalition of independent Cuban civil society organizations gathered in Puerto Rico in 2016 to condemn Google for siding with their oppressor.

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