My Take on Cuba’s “Weekly Package” (Part I)

Isbel Díaz Torres

Ad for the Paquete Semanal (Weekly Package). Photo: progresosemanal.us

HAVANA TIMES – I buy Cuba’s weekly TV series, music and software package on a regular basis. In my opinion, some of its contents are valuable in more than one sense. That said, there are a series of factors behind this phenomenon that have truly piqued my curiosity:

1. The package contains an enormous amount of information that must be downloaded every week, something that requires more than a handful of broad-band Internet connections.

2. The package is available throughout the country.

3. The materials included in the package are divided into categories and sub-categories, revealing a sophisticated organization mechanism, not the simple practice of placing files in folders.

4. The continuity of series, reality shows, soap operas and other materials is strictly maintained.

5. Extreme care is put into preparing the subtitles. Every week, subtitles for materials included in the previous package that had some problem or were simply missing are included in the new package. This suggests a very effective feedback mechanism that is all the more difficult to create in a society with virtually no Internet connectivity.

6. Films included in one package are included in subsequent packages at a lower resolution (first in HD, then in high quality and then in VCD quality). This involves considerable time devoted to file conversions.

7. The original film poster is used for every film included in the package.

8. With the exception of soap operas, films and TV series, all other materials (and there are many) include ads for Cuban businesses, shown during or at the end of the video. Including these contents and having new episodes ready every week with them suggests additional editing and conversion time.

9. Not only the most recent episodes but entire seasons of different TV series and soaps are included in the package. Considerable storage capacity is required for this.

10. The vast Cuban and international music compilations and the constant updating of these contents also presuppose work that requires more than a handful of people and reveal that those who prepare the package have direct links to official and alternative record labels in Cuba.

11. The software installation files, applications and games also suggest considerable Internet search capacities. It is becoming more and more difficult to update one’s anti-virus software without being placed on a black list, but those included in the package see to skirt such dangers effectively.

12. The package includes materials produced in Cuban State institutions that one is hard pressed to find anywhere else (the adventures series Los papaloteros is a case in point).

These are some of the things that make one raise an eyebrow and ask ourselves: in this, our island:

How is such a rigorous and efficient degree of organization possible?

Who has the technological (nearly unlimited storage capacity, broadband Internet, etc.) and human resources needed to undertake this?

How can such a juicy illegal activity that involves the traffic of information (information is power, as we know) survive for so long, at a time when the Cuban State has shut down all 3D home theaters?

If the resources for this enterprise are coming from abroad, how is it that such “aid” hasn’t been discontinued, as were the activities through which people like Alan Gross brought satellite dishes and other devices into the country?

My thesis is simple: the package, the same package that appears to compete with Cuban television, is in actuality a Cuban government project, possibly developed in one of those mysterious agencies in the Ministry of the Interior, hidden from the public.

Of course, I won’t leave things there. I will explain this thesis in Part II of this post.

Isbel Diaz

Isbel Diaz Torres: Pinar del Rio and Havana are my cities. I was born in one on March 1, 1976, and I’ve always lived in the other. I am a biologist and poet, though at times I’ve also been a musician, translator, teacher, computer geek, designer, photographer and editor. I’m very non-conformist and a defender of differences – perhaps due to always having been an ever-repressed “model child.” Nothing enthralls me more than the unknown, nature and art; these serve as my sources of mystery and development. A surprising activism has been born in me over the recent period. Though I’m not very sure how to channel it, I feel that it’s a worthy and legitimate energy. Let’s hope I have the discernment to manage it.



3 thoughts on “My Take on Cuba’s “Weekly Package” (Part I)

  • There is precedent for this. In the 1990s, one could stop at a government storefront in Havana and get copies of the latest versions of all major PC software packages. (http://laredcubana.blogspot.com/2012/08/cubas-answer-to-bit-torrent.html).

    I’ve wondered how one might go about contributing educational and research material to the weekly packages (http://laredcubana.blogspot.com/2014/02/how-does-one-post-material-on-cuban.html).

    I’ve asked many people and found no one who knows where they come from. This sounds like a plausible explanation. If you are correct, I wonder how much revenue is raised and who gets it?

    Reply
  • Of course the Castros are in on this. It is way too popular and widely distributed to be a private enterprise. Here’s the deal: because much of the contents flies in the face of all the propaganda BS the regime has put out over the years, it simply would not do to have the dictatorship openly produce and distribute this material. Instead, the government provides the resources for its production and then turns a blind eye to it’s distribution. The Castros get their cut off the top, leaving the sales risks to the underlings. No doubt about Castro involvement.

    Reply
  • With the wide spread proliferation of file sharing networks world wide, this kind of thing could EASILY be done by someone outside of the island. The interesting part is that Cubans are being charged for it, whereas anywhere else in the world, this stuff is as free as the wind.

    Reply

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