Isbel Diaz Torres
HAVANA TIMES – Cuba’s wealthy visual artist Alexis Leyva, better known as “Kcho”, is offering access to his broadband Internet connection as part of a socio-cultural project offered by his studio. The connection, however, is extremely bad.
The two times I have tried to use this service, I’ve gone away disappointed, unable to do two very simple things: send an email and publish a blog entry.
On Tuesday, the second time I went, I was determined to wait as much as needed and type in the vacuous password, “aquinoserindenadie” (“noonewillsurrender”) as many times as many times as required.
I arrived at Kcho’s modern properties at 10:30 am, when some 20 people were using his Internet service.
My repeated attempts at logging into Facebook met with the following error message: “The connection with the specified server could not be found (java.security.cert.CertPathValidatorException: Trust anchor to certificate path not found. [javax.net.ssl.SSLHandshakeException].”
When I tried to access my Gmail account, I ran into this error message: “Can’t establish a reliable connection to the server.”
After many attempts, I then tried to visit Havana Times. I didn’t get any kind of error message, but I still wasn’t able to access the page.
After 45 minutes, I was finally able to access Facebook and Gmail – but don’t get too excited. Facebook was super-slow and I wasn’t able to post a single message or see one photo. I was barely able to see two posts by friends, but only the text.
Something similar happened with Gmail. I managed to access the page, but I was unable to see my messages in the inbox, let alone send out any emails. Finally, error messages began to pop up and the application closed.
At 11:48 (an hour and a half of repeated attempts later), I managed to log into Twitter and see the latest Tweets, but I was unable to publish anything.
In addition to being slow, I was asked to type in the insufferable password every several minutes, at a page which showed an old picture of Fidel Castro as background decoration.
The worst part of this isn’t the bad or non-existent service but the logic behind it. As you can see, access to the Internet isn’t presented as a right but as a hand-out, a gift that this magnate of the arts gives us, through a paternalistic, populist and opportunistic gesture towards those who do not have his privileges.
The Estudio Romerillo Art Laboratory patronage and its offer of free WiFi is yet another example of how the island’s cultural elites are consolidating themselves, besmirched, in this case, by the name of a rich artist who uses his power in the Cuban parliament to support the approval of an exploitative and anti-popular tax legislation, today known as the “Kcho Law.”