[Marxism] Cubans go to unusual lengths to post blogs ???

Horacio Oliveira horaciooliveira at mac.com
Wed Oct 10 13:41:48 MDT 2007

I wonder how accurate this one is. I know it's $25 a day at some San  
Francisco Hotels... so while expensive it is not that outrageous if it  
is designed to alleviate foreign tourists of their currencies....

Cubans go to unusual lengths to post blogs

By Reuters

Story last modified Wed Oct 10 08:51:54 PDT 2007

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When 32-year-old Yoani Sanchez wants to update her blog about daily  
life in Cuba, she dresses like a tourist and strides confidently into  
a Havana hotel, greeting the staff in German.
That is because Cubans like Sanchez are not authorized to use hotel  
Internet connections, which are reserved for foreigners.

In a recent posting on Generacion Y, Sanchez wrote about the abundance  
of police patrolling the streets of Havana, checking documents and  
searching bags for black-market merchandise.

She and a handful of other independent bloggers are opening up a crack  
in the government's tight control over media and information to give  
the rest of the world a glimpse of life in a one-party communist state.

"We are taking advantage of an unregulated area. They can't control  
cyberspace out there," she said.

But they face many difficulties.

Once inside the hotel, Sanchez has to write fast. Not because she  
fears getting caught but because online access is prohibitively  
expensive. An hour online costs about $6, the equivalent of two weeks'  
pay for the average Cuban.

Independent bloggers like Sanchez have to build their sites on servers  
outside Cuba, and they have more readers outside Cuba than inside.

That's not surprising, since only 200,000 Cubans, or less than 2  
percent of the population, have access to the World Wide Web, the  
lowest rate in Latin America, according to the International  
Telecommunications Union.

Only government employees, academics and researchers are allowed their  
own Internet accounts, which are provided by the government.

Regular Cubans are allowed only to open e-mail accounts that they can  
access through terminals at post offices, where they can also see  
Cuban Web sites, but access to the rest of the World Wide Web is  

For Cuba's freelance bloggers, the difficulties in getting online can  
mean days, weeks and even months between one post and the next.

"My access to Internet is very irregular," said the anonymous author  
of a blog called My Island at Midday.

"Like all things in Cuba, one has to resolve the problem of scarcity  
by hook or by crook, be it Internet or toilet paper," he told Reuters  
by e-mail.

The Cuban government blames the limited Internet access on the U.S.  
sanctions that bar Cuba from hooking up to underwater fiber-optic  
cables that run just 12 miles offshore, a highway of broadband  
communication. Instead, Cuba must use expensive satellite uplinks to  
connect to the Internet via countries such as Canada, Chile and Brazil.

Critics say that is just a pretext to maintain control over the  
Internet, a powerful tool that some believe could play the same role  
in spreading information in Cuba as the fax machine played in the  
dismantling of the Soviet Union.

Cuba has already had a taste of openness, since ailing Cuban leader  
Fidel Castro handed over power last year to his brother Raul, who has  
encouraged debate at all levels of Cuban society on Cuba's  
unproductive economy.

But the reaction to television programs in December that honored  
notorious censors from the early 1970s--when Cuba adopted Soviet  
policies and cracked down on writers, artists and homosexuals--showed  
the potential of the Internet to effect change.

There was such a flood of e-mails from Cuban intellectuals, and  
academics and others with Internet access, that the government was  
obliged to meet with them and issue an apology for the program.

Dozens of government supporters, mainly state-employed journalists  
with Internet accounts, have blogs. But most of them avoid commenting  
on the travails of daily life in Cuba and stick to the official line.

Many reproduce columns that Fidel Castro has written from his sickbed,  
along with criticism of Cuba's ideological archenemy, the United  
States, taken from the state-run press.

One exception is Luis Sexto, a columnist for the Communist Youth  
newspaper Juventud Rebelde, who recently posted a blistering attack on  
state bureaucracy.

"Without public criticism, mistakes will continue to hurt our  
country," Sexto wrote last month.

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Others prefer to avoid politics and discuss cinema and literature, or  
nostalgia for the Soviet cartoons Cubans were brought up on.

But Cuba's independent bloggers take a very different line, and prefer  
to remain anonymous or use pseudonyms in order to protect themselves.

A blogger who goes by the name of "Tension Lia" posts photographs of  
the ruinous state of Havana's architectural treasures on a blog called  

The creator of "My island at midday" told Reuters by e-mail that the  
anonymity of the blog has allowed him to say some things that nobody  
has dared write about. "Dissent has always been frowned upon.  
Intolerance is still the rule in Cuba, even though Cuban society is  
starting to adapt to diversity of opinions."

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