Cuba’s Communications Apartheid

The Obama Administration liberalized Cuba sanctions a few years ago. The regime responded, in kind, by arresting a U.S. citizen on a trumped up espionage charge. This post has nothing to do with the arrest of Alan Gross, but I mention it because it reflects the mindset of Cuba’s rulers. The only change they are interested is finding ways to clinging to power.

Gross’s arrest was a message to the Obama Administration, we are not interested closer relations with you. You see that same year that Gross was arrested, the Obama Administration began an unprecedented easing of economic sanctions on the regime. Usually, you ease sanctions to reward good behavior. Not this time. But what is logical about the Obama team’s foreign policy and national security decisions?

It has been close to three years now that telecommunications equipment, fiber optic cables, and satellite services were authorized for export to the island by U.S. companies. Critics of U.S. sanctions have argued for years that U.S. policy, not the regime, is to blame for the extremely low Internet connectivity rates throughout the island for ordinary Cubans. This has never been the case.

The Communist Party of Cuba needs to control information to stay in power. Always has, always will. The regime is obsessed with controlling what the people read, write, or say. Allowing unfettered access to the Internet is not an option. So it is no surprise that a former regime official, Jose Remon, told the Miami Herald recently that “the communist government fears the impact of broader access to the Internet.” Remon was responding to a story involving a fiber optic cable that Venezuela recently helped Cuba install, but that only the military and other government officials can use to surf the web.

In a blog published early this year by Yoani Sanchez, one of Cuba’s leading independent bloggers, she writes that efforts underway around the world to regulate Internet. She worries that the web “is going to die before we [ordinary Cubans] ever experience it … it will become a cage before we could have used it as wings.” Read her piece. It explains how, if your lucky enough to find a computer, as well as a computer with Internet connectivity, it can take as long as an hour for internet pages to load. If your a tourist, no problem. The hotels are usually well-equipped with the greatest and latest communications technology.

The Obama Administration should have never eased sanctions on the regime, but they are not very good at tough love. You see that is all that this hardcore regimes understand. There is no rationalizing with these people. Rather than prolong this agony, we should shut down a lot more commerce with the island, including remittances. The regime will scramble and it will not be able to survive for very long. By cutting its economic lifeline, communications will follow as well as a new government.

P.S., negotiating for the release of Alan Gross is a colossal waste of time. Squeeze the regime economically, target regime officials’ wallet. Gross will be reunited with his loved ones in no time.

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