The Internet in Cuba and a Sense of Guilt

April 12, 2012 | Print Print |

Janis Hernandez

The now infamous cable from Venezuela to Cuba was supposed to increase capability by over a thousand percent. However, instead, the deadlines have long passed and service is progressively slower for the few that have access.

HAVANA TIMES, April 12 — In Cuba, access to the Internet is a privilege held by a small group that includes foreign residents on the island, PhDs in any field, senior political leaders, military officers, reporters, a few artists and writers, and people with sufficient money to pay for an illegal account.

Another group — such as medical doctors who have served missions abroad or academics — also have Internet access, but with more restrictions than those just mentioned. This group can only get on line from their jobs, and therefore they don’t have access from home.

As an example of the restrictions they suffer, the connections of this second group prevent them from opening web-mail accounts like say Gmail, Yahoo or Hotmail. In addition, certain websites are blocked nationwide or by the work center.

A friend of mine who has an Internet account — and therefore has much more of an opportunity to get online than me — from time to time lets me check my Gmail, for example. As one might imagine, I’m normally unable to access Internet sites, all I have time to do is just to check my inbox.

‘Tunnels’ and Increasing Surveillance

To get around the government-controlled servers, “tunnels” or proxies are used, which allow you to enter some of the forbidden sites through other webpages. However, these are now being detected and any deviation from the regulations is punishable by a suspension of access and is subjected to an investigation.

Surveillance activities relating to computer security have increased (this is understood as a measure to prevent access to any site that doesn’t suit the authorities).

So many filters placed on an already low bandwidth make our internet speeds much slower; it’s to the point of almost eliminating access to anything. Still, each day more and more sites are blocked, either nationally or by filters placed on servers at individual workplaces.

Unfortunately, I tried to apply my skill on those tunnels while using my friend’s account on my job. Apparently my tinkering was discovered and a three-month block was put on his Internet access as a reprimand – like one applied toward a misbehaving child.

He won’t have Internet access for a good while and I’ve been overcome by a tremendous sense of guilt.


What's your opinion?

  • John Goodrich

    What exactly does the Cuban government fear from open web access ?

    Do they have any legitimate reason to do what they are doing any reason that is not just totalitarian thought control.

    Can the revolution really be damaged or subverted by opening Cubans to the net ?

    An informed populace is essential to a democratic society and I cannot understand this censorship.

    What are the reasons given by the government and what might be reasons other than what they arev presenting ?

    Are there not hackers in Cuba who can circumvent government controls ?

    Perhaps these things have already been discussed here at HT but, if so, I have missed them and would like as clear a picture of the situation as anyone knowledgeable can provide without putting themselves at risk..

    • Francois

      Uhh…Cuba is not a democracy. Or haven’t you heard?

  • http://www.GRDPublishing.com Grady Ross Daugherty

    One-party social and political absolutism has presented, to date, under every Marxian state monopoly socialist government. The most extreme of course is North Korea; the least perhaps is Cuba.

    When private productive property rights are abolished by full state ownership, an unnatural authoritarian and bureaucratic regime must come into play to take the place of natural socialist market forces. These restrictions on internet access seem to be an inevitable expression of such a constipated statist mode of production.

    The answer of course is progress to a modern cooperative, state co-ownership form of socialism that needs and brings forth social and political openness and democracy. Cuba hopefully, with the forthcoming cooperative law that will allow the proletariat to develop as a cooperative entrepreneurial class, and slowly merge with the highly productive small bourgeoisie, should see the discarding of all such restrictions on internet access and all such paternalistic absurdities. Let’s hope so.

  • Mark G

    Janis’s article is certainly a discouraging reality check suggesting that the Castro regime’s information blockade against its own citizens will not be ending any time soon.

    Kudos to the Havana Times for giving bloggers like Janis a voice.

  • Luis

    “As an example of the restrictions they suffer, the connections of this second group prevent them from opening web-mail accounts like say Gmail (…)” and “A friend of mine who has an Internet account — and therefore has much more of an opportunity to get online than me — from time to time lets me check my Gmail, for example.”

    Well is Gmail blocked or not? The whole time people say that internet is blocked in Cuba but *never* illustrate this information with a single example of a blocked site.

    A while ago there was an article on rebelion.org that takes a deeper look into the subject – http://rebelion.org/noticia.php?id=106011. There according to http://www.alexa.com which is a monitoring webcenter it says that the most visited website from Cuba is… El Nuevo Herald. Paradoxal, isn’t it?

    • Luis

      I’m sorry I mistranslated. El Nuevo Herald is the #1 amongst the newspapers sites in Cuba, being the #8 amongst all sites.

  • Zoltan

    According to US regulations hundreds of websites are blocked if trying to access them from a computer being in Cuba. Why is this so rarely mentioned? Or that Cuba for many years has been denied access to the fiber-optic cable running just outside of Havanna, and until now being dependent on a slow and expensive satellite connection? Or that the embargo/blockade stops Cuba from buying electronic equipment as well as software (if you are not a dissident, when US will supply you for free). Why accept all the US propaganda and not mention these facts?

  • john sparre

    grady is still looking for reform towards another vision of a socialist utopia. get real, grady and get practical. there are too many cake cutters and not enough cake bakers, in countries of every political stripe, tigers, tiger cubs and dead cats. eventually, there will be a business magazine in cuba. india has 4. havana times should invite experts to submit articles on what they believe should be the industries of the future for cuba. i have given a few of my opinions in comments after various articles recently. i don´t know if anyone in a position to do anything reads the havana times. australia will be number one in fish farms with a coast of 14,000 miles. cuba has a coast of 4,500 miles. cuba has a population density the same as france and france is a great agricultural country. cuba´s population density is 1/3 of britain´s. with the right management cuba could be a very rich country with or without the oil reserves which will take many years to develop. but first there must be plans and economic research and the easiest way to do economic research is on the internet and the the government doesn´t seem to realize that the internet is already the great generator of prosperity in south korea, japan and china more than america. north korea is a starving economic basket case and anything that the kims do or have done, cuba should do the opposite. all three kims are or were totalitarian, cult of personality nut cases and the result is than 2 million have starved to death. kim jong-il had 3 sons. one is gay, one is a playboy in macao and that is why the young one has been put forward as a front for the generals who claim that they can destroy south korea in 5 minutes. samsung´s industrial capacity is 5 times north korea´s GDP.

  • john sparre

    zoltan has a few delusions. most electronic equipment is made in china and there is no chinese blockade. money is more likely the problem with a $70 billion foreign debt. hugo chavez was going to put a cable throught to cuba but apparently the government didn´t want it. china, india, pakistan etc. are full of pirated software. the cuban internet was free and was american foreign aid probably to try and get political propaganda into cuba. the americans made a mistake thinking that and the cuban government has made an economic mistake by not using the internet much. the chinese, russians, ukrainians, english schoolboys etc. regularly try and hack sensitive american networks including control systems for nuclear and other power stations. in every country people are afraid that we have become too dependent on computers. the iranians block hackers invading from other countries and sometimes the motive is fraud especially from the ukraine. the israelis destroyed the iranian uranium gas centrifuge with hacking. west africans sell information from electronic trash. the chinese bought american military electronic trash and are now copying it. so america is not unique in being afraid of outside interference in their networks. americans can be blamed for a lot of things that have hurt cuba but they can´t or shouldn´t be blamed for everything. some of the worst things have been forgotten. the bio-warfare. dengue fever and african swine fever that the CIA introduced into cuba. there is a long list of countries that have used bio-war or have conducted bio-war experiments on unwilling subjects and some of those countries are in eastern europe. let the cards fall where they may.

  • john sparre

    john goodrich seems a naif to me. censorship works. it worked for president marcos but after many years it no longer works. censorship is failing in north korea. hungry people don´t listen. the chinese are afraid of the internet too. many young chinese know how to get around the filters but the chinese have had some success with the filters but micro blogs are now the problem. the news is out in 10 minutes before anything can be done to stop it. in my opinion, a lot of censorship is useless. america has the freeest media in the world but is still run for the 1% of rich and shameless. letting people whine and complain may be the best way for a regime to keep control. it works in america. let off steam or the boiler explodes. there is just enough welfare to stop revolution. just enough welfare for a joint and a bottle. and if religion is the opiate of the masses then americans are junkies. some think that franklin roosevelt was a dangerous communist. others think that he saved capitalism with enough welfare to prevent revolution.

    john goodrich says….an informed populace is essential to a democratic society. really? americans have a choice between the right wing party and the extreme right idiots party. a fat lot of good a free media does them. most americans i meet agree with me. when less than 60% of americans vote, why bother?, presidents and other scum are in office with 30% support. is that a mandate or a democratic society? hugo chavez has said that the cuban political system is more democratic than the american political system. is hugo completely wrong? america has food banks and soup kitchens and iraq veterans sleep on old mattresses under freeway bridges. they have the freedom to sleep under bridges. in 2 months i saw 2 mentally ill homeless peope in cuba. they probably refused help. how many homeless will you see in america in 2 months? there are more people sleeping in the street in america than india. but democracy has it´s uses. you can boot the scum out every now and again. then you get another lot of scum in an endless cycle. i see a lot of obese people in cuba. the castros feed them too well. cubans have the bread but not enough circuses and that is how to prevent regime change. bread and circuses or am i a cynic?