Isbel Díaz Torres
HAVANA TIMES – A year ago, when the Cuban government issued a new foreign investment law that benefitted foreign companies interested in investing on the island, some people wondered whether the information and telecommunication industries would be included in the bargain (given ETECSA’s terrible performance as a company).
Some days later, Cubadebate invited Deborah Rivas, Director General for Foreign Investment at the Ministry of Foreign Trade, and Armando Cuba, the head of the ministry’s legal department, to clarify this and other points.
Let us recall that, at the time, without anyone knowing it, the secret conversations between Raul Castro and Barack Obama were taking place.
The response of these officials was clear and explicit: “the communications industry has not been included in the policies that have been prioritized to draw foreign investment at this moment.” In other remarks, they added that it was a question of “national security.”
After decades of confrontation, conscious of US strategies aimed at using communications to destabilize the Cuban government, it was clear to everyone that such “national security” issues referred to the United States.
In mid-January of this year, after the unforgettable declarations of December 17, 2014, the US government put into effect a series of measures that encompassed a broad range of operations, including telecommunications.
“With a view to offering efficient and adequate services for telecommunication between the United States and Cuba, a new, general OFAC license will facilitate the establishment of commercial telecommunication facilities to link third countries and Cuba, and to operate within Cuba as well,” the note announced.
This way, they authorized the commercial export of certain items that will supposedly contribute to “the Cuban people’s ability” to communicate under a new kind of commercial license (“Support for the Cuban People”), which eliminates the need for a different kind of license.
This included the possibility of selling certain communication devices, software, applications, hardware and services, as well as products used for establishing and updating communication-related systems.
Other additional Internet-based communication services and the export and re-export of communication products will also be authorized by the new, general OFAC license.
The sale and donation of communication devices and software will also be authorized under the exception clause of “Consumer Communication Devices (CCD)” and will be exempt from the license they had required to date.
One would think the Cuban government would be hard pressed to admit these things, if it wishes to be true to its historical and sick paranoia, it’s supposed anti-capitalism and its current and self-restrictive investment policies, that is. But, lo and behold, it isn’t!
After the round of conversations of January 23, involving MINREX’s Director General for the United States and Roberta Jacobson, US State Department Undersecretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, everything has become much clearer.
With respect to telecommunications, Cuba announced that it was willing to receive US telecommunication companies in order to explore the possibility of conducting business in spheres that are beneficial for both parties.
On February 20, a Services Agreement for the Operation of International Telecommunications (just entered into by ETECSA and the US company IDT Domestic Telecomom Inc. (IDT), was announced.
On March 11, ETECSA published a very brief note announcing that a direct telecommunications connection between the two countries was put into operation – “initially”, it will only provide phone services, indicating that these services will be expanded in the future.
Finally, on March 24, a delegation headed by Ambassador Daniel Sepulveda, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy, and made up by officials from the Federal Communications Commission, traveled to Havana to work towards broadening Internet connectivity on the island.
So, it’s clear that the Cuban government reserved the country’s information and telecommunication industry portfolio for the United States, waiting to announce these decisions after the secret dialogues were made public.
All the while, a man like Alan Gross was kept in prison for five years for working towards this opening of the country to Internet services, and Cuban State Security launched its “anti-Zunzuneo” campaign to justify its salary and keep the public entertained.
As for me, I think it’s great that Internet access should be broadened (though I have my doubts about who stands to benefit down here). I only wish to point out, particularly to the “well behaved Left”, that what we have been warning about year after year is happening almost word for word.
We won’t be seeing an emancipatory initiative that integrates South countries over here. Cuba isn’t choosing Mexican, Dominican, Venezuelan or even Brazilian companies, but IDT, the largest US international phone services provider.
Cuba’s political and military elite does like to think big!
Cuba is in fact opening itself up to the predatory and consumerist First World, for whom Cuba is no more than a place of recreation where it can send its golf-playing tourists and its destructive transgenic seeds.
The worst part is that they, the ones making the speeches on TV, know this more than we do.