HAVANA TIMES — With a great song and dance, the Cuban government haughtily announced the broadening of Internet access on the island by opening 118 cybercafés across the country and lowering web navigation rates to 4.50 CUC (or US $ 5.20) an hour. It has also, clearly declared that there are no plans of taking Internet services to Cuban homes for the time being.
Since the matter has already been addressed by a number of analysts and journalists, I will limit myself to commenting on some elements that seem to me of considerable importance.
The measure does, undeniably, expand the Internet services hitherto available in Cuba and lowers navigation rates. It is also true, as a friend of mine says that you have to start somewhere. It is another small, very small step taken by Cuba’s current administration, which has gradually, and unhurriedly, been eliminating the absurd regulations and restrictions that had been imposed on the Cuban people in the name of “socialism and the struggle against imperialism.”
We have to acknowledge that Raul Castro has worked to dismantle, partially or totally, some of the absurd regulations set up when his brother was at the helm, at a time when he was second-in-command.
But the most significant prohibitions and restrictions of the rights of Cuban citizens, on freedom of expression and association, on free and democratic elections and on the possibility of entering into free associations in the production sector are still to be eliminated, as are the absurd monopolies over the economy, politics, the press and other sectors which the Cuban State maintains.
The fact is that such barbarities have been carried out in the name of “socialism” and that any tiny thing done by Raul Castro’s government might strike us as a great gesture of liberalization.
It would be quite deluded, however, to think that this measure will spell any concrete benefits for the vast majority of the population, as the average Cuban will never be able to afford 4.50 CUC (US $ 5.20) for an hour of Internet use, not when their average salary is a measly 20 dollars a month.
No, the measures implemented by the state capitalist government, which is more interested in securing revenues than in eliminating restrictions imposed on the population, will chiefly benefit those who can afford the high prices established by the government’s monopolistic apparatus, such as the nouveaux riche spawned by State corruption and the exploitation of salaried workers in the city and countryside, and those who receive remittances from relatives or friends abroad.
As most of the other timid government measures implemented, this one will benefit only a small percentage and, in political terms, the people who will ultimately be better off will be precisely those who have always been able to access the Internet from hotels.
What we see here is a very concrete illustration of what many already acknowledge: that the extremes become confused and help one another. For, who stand to benefit the most from this expansion of Internet services on the island?
In addition to the nouveaux riche, no one other than the dissidents who receive aid from abroad to advance their political programs, in Cuba and elsewhere.
We may thus categorically affirm that the state capitalist government of Cuba has broadened access to the Internet for the nouveaux riche and, yes, for the dissidents. It seems that the dissidents did manage to get something out of their recent tours after all.
A contradiction? No. Since filling the State’s coffers with money is what matters, building mansions, yacht wharfs or golf fields for North American millionaires, or facilitating access to the Internet by the dissidents it combats so furiously, is all the same to the government.
Of course, what is most disquieting is not the fact dissidents will have less restricted access to the Internet – one would want everyone to have this privilege – but, rather, the corrupt and corrupting nature of the state centered model, of its duplicity, that this measure evinces.
It transformed the U.S. blockade and imperialist aggression into a justification for the economic disaster it brought about and for its total control over the country’s political life. It turned emigration into a source of revenues (remittances, trips, tourism, high processing fees for immigration applications). Now, it seems that the Cuban State also wants the millions that the NED destines to financing internal dissidents to end up in the government’s coffers.
This is, for the time being, what State pragmatism has led to.
Renowned Cuban journalist Reynaldo Taladrid suggests that, in order to find the paths tread by Miami’s reactionary ultra-Right, one need only follow “the money trail.” If we were to follow this trail today, we might soon run into a rather unpleasant surprise…
Neither the workers, nor the common Cuban, nor the socialist and democratic Left, will see any benefits from this “liberalization.” We demand and will continue to demand unrestricted Internet access in Cuba, at rates everyone can afford.
Pedro Campos: [email protected]