Google Execs Meet in Cuba with Blogger Yoani Sanchez

Google President Eric Schmidt. Foto: Cafefuerte.

HAVANA TIMES — The president of Google, Eric Schmidt, and three other executives of the US multinational company visited Cuba this past week where some met with blogger Yoani Sanchez, states a news item published by the online newspaper 14ymedio, edited by the dissident.

Schmidt and Google executives Jared Cohen, Brett Perlmutter and Dan Keyserling also met with government representatives in Havana, the Sanchez’s publication reported. Cuba’s official media have made no mention of the visit.

According to 14ymedio, the company executives were given a guided tour of Havana’s University of Computer Sciences (UCI).

On Friday, three of them visited Sanchez at her home, where the editorial office of 14ymedio is located, the renowned Cuban dissident reported.

“Last night, Google knocked at our door,” Sanchez wrote. Cohen, Perlmutter and Keyserling “made the trip all the way up to the 14th floor to have a chat with us, in an editorial office without an Internet connection but with a strong commitment to reporting on Cuban reality today,” she added.

Founded by Sanchez and a group of collaborators, 14ymedio publishes materials that are critical of the Castro government. Cuba does not formally allow for the existence of independent newspapers and has all official media under State control. Sanchez’s site is blocked on the island.

Schmidt had expressed his intention of visiting Cuba during an interview for The Wall Street Journal published in November of 2013.

According to the US newspaper, in January of this year, as part of an international tour aimed at promoting freedom of expression over the Internet, the president of the company that operates the most popular search engine in the world visited North Korea, a country that has also been criticized like Cuba for restricting access to the web.

Despite improvements to its telecommunications network over the past few months, Cuba continues to report some of the lowest Internet connectivity rates in the world.

12 thoughts on “Google Execs Meet in Cuba with Blogger Yoani Sanchez

  • July 4, 2014 at 6:14 am

    I would challenge ‘glen roberts’ to live in Cuba for one month on the equivalent of one month’s salary for the average Cuban of $26. I dare say that his “good place to live” comment would change. But’s lets say he survives the poverty of the average Cuban. During that month, I would encourage him to speak his mind as freely as he seems able to do in his comment. He won’t survive the month without a least a visit from the ‘thought’ police. This poison pen understands very well how good Cuba looks with a Visa credit card in your wallet and a return airplane ticket back to a comfortable home in a democratic country.

  • July 3, 2014 at 1:18 pm

    As Mr. Roberts is probably aware – and the Castros certainly are, part of the deal between the Government of the United States and that of the Soviet Union which ended the nuclear activities in Cuba, was that the US would not in the future invade Cuba. It seems to me that George W. Bush was far more likely to break that agreement than Barack Obama. I too have seen Cuba from tip to tip and my home is there. I have also travelled reasonably widely – 32 countries to date. If Mr. Roberts’ regards Cuba as a highly civilized, good place to live, then he has not stopped to study in depth the misery of four generations of one family living in a two bedroom casa – which is common. Nor has he studied the homes built of wood planking with rags stuffed in the holes to try to minimize the wind blowing in or how pensioners live on 200 pesos per month ($8 US). Ms. Sanchez lives in Cuba and has an accurate pen. If Mr. Roberts has a similar level of courage to that displayed by Yoani Sanchez, he should go to Cuba, stand in the Plaza de Catedral in Havana and utter abuse directed at the Castros. Afterwards whilst mouldering – probably without trial – in jail as a guest of the regime, he will have time to reflect upon his folly.
    Viva Fidel, Viva Raul, Viva los Castros que controla toda y todos

  • July 2, 2014 at 10:52 am

    If Barack Obama achieves his dream of invading Cuba, it will have to be with the tacit approval of Americans who believe the propaganda of dissidents like Sanchez and other Havana Times’ poison pens, and if that invasion turns Cuba into Middle-Eastern rubble and violence, she and they will have that atrocity on their heads. I HAVE seen Cuba from tip to tip + 29 other countries, including most of Latin America, and, regardless of what other bloggers say here, the Cuba I have seen is a highly civilized, good place to live. Affording a few Cubans the opportunity to get richer than they need to be is an ugly reason to return it to the dog-fight level of pre-revolutionary times and of other Latin American countries today. Viva Fidel! -Glen Roberts,

  • July 1, 2014 at 8:50 am

    The Google press statement is called “spin”. It is technically true and well-written to split the difference between offending the hosts and telling the truth. To the former State employee who used to earn 11 cuc per month and now “pushing that wheelbarrow” and now able to earn that much in one day, his new job is a blessing and “profession” or not, he is glad to be doing it. It is sad that the Castros have made such jobs preferable to being a doctor or an engineer or an architect but it is what it is. Remember, only in Cuba does a prostitute walk down the middle of the street knowing she makes more money than surgeons or scientists.

  • July 1, 2014 at 8:35 am

    The ironic tone of your comment does not escape me. The Castros are making tiny (very tiny) steps toward the 21st century. I am reluctant to give too much credit for these steps as they were brought about by the weight of force including the US embargo. Left to their own initiative, the Castros would have Cubans living in the Stone Age as the best hedge against losing control of the island. Reforms like home and car ownership, travel, and private employment are simply money grabs aimed at increasing the Castros access to hard currency. Allowing greater foreign investment is a desperate attempt to use someone else’s money to reinvigorate the moribund Cuban economy. The reason your comments are relevant is because in the past, the Castros would have done exactly as you said. How sad is that?

  • July 1, 2014 at 12:14 am

    Pushing a wheelbarrow can scarecely be descrbed as a “profession”. The diffiiculty being experienced by those trying to sell their casas (usually hopiong to obtain money to go to the US), is that nobody has the money to purchase. Used Geelys (pieces of Chinese junk) at $30,000 are similarly impossible for Cubans to purchase. How can one describe these realities as “liberalizing”? Alice in Wonderland!

  • June 30, 2014 at 5:38 pm

    Absolutely correct Moses. What needs to be noted is that Google met with both sides of the spectrum and as I’ve stated many times before,
    Fidel Castro is an avid fan of the internet and I might say perhaps reads this venue but surely knows Google. Google has billions to work with in bringing Cuba up to world standards, internet wise and the regime knows that and must realize time is running out. Where you and I differ is the capability for all US citizens to travel without fear to Cuba and interacting,
    as Google exec’s just did, with Cubans from both sides of the political
    wall. The present restrictions are draconian and unproductive and in
    fact would have prevented the need for Alan Gross to land in jail, who in fact was trying to do the exact same quest as Google just did.
    Again, time is running out for the Castro brothers…

  • June 30, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    Google carries the authority of unsolicited world opinion. Freedom of expression by Cubans will continue to be opposed tooth and nail be the Castro regime. Imagine tens of thousands of Yoani Sanchez type critical bloggers. Truth is the enemy of communism which according to Fidel Castro Ruz is the same as ‘Socialismo’.

  • June 30, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    How could those iron-fisted totalitarians allowed this encounter to happen Moses ? You often lump Cuba together w/ North Korea and you love to speak of Cuban “handlers”. Couldn’t they have arrested her beforehand, or even taken the Colombian approach ? And how did Schmidt get a visa from the Cubans ? Why wasn’t he immediately arrested and deported after meeting with this fierce, well-financed critic ? After all, the US arrests people for providing water purification systems to Cuba don’t they ?

  • June 30, 2014 at 1:07 pm

    Moses, whilst I have some sympathies with your comment, would it not be nice to see Google to start paying some taxes in places where they are due such as in Europe or the company to stop claiming ownership of the content of what people write in Googlemail? I definitely think so.

  • June 30, 2014 at 12:11 pm

    GOOGLE PLUS ENTRY: PRESIDENT OF GOOGLE Eric Schmidt Shared publicly – Yesterday 8:45 AM
    Trapped in its history, beautiful Havana recalls the faded grandeur of Argentina and a Dick Tracy movie of automobiles. With the goal of promoting a free and open Internet, Jared Cohen and I and two others traveled to Havana on a business visa (more on that later.) Landing at Havana airport, the first airplane you see is a jet from Angola Airlines. The Cuban people, modern and very well educated define the experience with a warmth that only Latin cultures express: tremendous music, food and entertainment (most of which we were not able to sample, more about that visa in a minute.) Under Fidel Castro’s younger brother, Raoul, difficult economic conditions have brought many small liberalizing steps in the last few years. There are now 187 professions where private employment is allowed (otherwise private jobs are not permitted), and cars and apartments are beginning to be tradeable with restrictions.

  • June 30, 2014 at 7:11 am

    Kudos to Google! Most US corporate execs who visit Cuba seem to ignore the dissident community and perhaps out of fear of offending the Castros, never stop to meet with the opposition in Cuba. Given the economic prowess of Google, they could fund the build-out of the needed internet infrastructure in Cuba as a rounding error in their financials. The Castros would do well to listen to what they had to say.

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