Internet for Cubans vs. Helping Castro's Censorship

Friday, August 29, 2014
A centerpiece of recent lobbying efforts by Cuba sanctions foes is for U.S. companies to be allowed to invest in the Castro regime's telecom monopoly ("ETECSA").

Pursuant to the 1992 Cuba Democracy Act -- and subsequent regulations -- there's nothing in U.S. law that prevents telecommunications and Internet services between the United States and Cuba.

The one thing that is prohibited by law is U.S. investment in Castro's domestic telecommunications network, namely its monopoly ("ETECSA").

Yet, that's exactly the latest spin by anti-sanctions advocates.

Just recently, former State Department official (and now Richard Feinberg's cohort at UC-San Diego), Charles Shapiro, wrote:

"Anything we can do on our end to facilitate real Internet access in Cuba is worthwhile, even if the 'price' of doing that is working with the Cuban government telecommunications monopoly."

(This was also mentioned in the the Council of the Americas' derelict Cuba letter.)

We recalled this as we posted a tweet from Cuban blogger and democracy activists, Yusnaby Perez, who reminded us today:

"Internet and Cable TV services provided by the Government, can only be contracted by foreign residents in Cuba."

In other words, Internet services are available in Cuba. The only reason the Cuban people are unable to access them is because the Castro regime doesn't allow them to.

So how exactly would further enriching Castro's ETECSA monopoly change this?

Perhaps Mr. Shapiro is unaware that Telecom Italia owned 27% of ETECA from 1995-2011.

(The rest is owned by the Castro regime's Ministry of Information and Communication, led by ruthless General -- and former Minister of the Interior -- Ramiro Valdes.)

Did Telecom Italia help Cubans access the Internet through its investment?

Perhaps Mr. Shapiro is unaware that ETECSA is responsible, together with Castro's secret police, for tapping phone lines, monitoring conversations, Internet censorship and persecuting Cubans with home-made satellite dishes.

Should U.S. companies partake or contribute to such activities?

Perhaps Mr. Shapiro is unaware that the Cuba-Venezuela fiber optic cable was laid by France's Alcatel-Lucent.

Has France's Alcatel-Lucent helped Cubans access the Internet through its fiber optic cable?

The evidence clearly shows that investments in ETECSA only help Castro's censorship and control.

Instead, why not push for companies like Google to provide Internet connectivity -- via satellite -- to the Cuban people?

This can -- and should -- be done with or without Castro's approval.