Is Cuban Cyberspace Growing?

Rogelio Manuel Diaz Moreno

logo refejosHAVANA TIMES — Cuba tends to constitute a negative reference in statistical reports about the spread of new information and telecommunication technologies. In terms of the degree of access to telephone lines and digital networks that people enjoy, we continue to fare very poorly.

After so many years of restrictions, very few Cubans believe that a truly positive measure can come from authorities in this area. Because of its proven incompetence and exorbitant prices, ETECSA, the State monopoly in charge, is one of the country’s least popular companies.

Breaking with the stagnation we have become accustomed to, some refreshing – and a number of disquieting – news items are circulating through cyberspace these days. One refers to the expansion of the Reflejos (“Reflections”) platform, the official option offered to Cubans wishing to set up their own blogs. Perhaps very few people took Cubava (the service platform) seriously at first, but time has passed and interesting developments have taken place.

One of the significant virtues of this platform is the fact it is visible to all of the country’s internal networks. As we know, general Internet services continue to be extremely limited and Cuba’s intranet is a sorry substitute. Reflejos moves in a space that is more accessible to Cuban professionals and intellectuals. Another virtue of the platform is the variety of materials it offers. Today, thousands of blogs of the most varied nature are hosted by Recently, it took another step forward, of the kind one, disenchanted for many reasons, did not expect.

When the service began to be offered it was only under a number of technical restrictions which permitted access only from State locales known as Joven Club (“Youth Computer Clubs”). Now, however, the system can be accessed fully from any place of work or study with access to an internal network – without the need to ask for permission or authorization or having to wait for instructions from a higher institution! Well, provided our immediate superiors don’t take issue with it, as is the case everywhere.

The expansion of Reflejos defies certain tenets of traditional censorship. For instance, Yoani Sanchez’s dissident online newspaper 14ymedio opened its blog there, and, as far as I know, it has worked without issues since (despite the fact that this immediately incurred the wrath of pro-government bloggers, who tore their garments in protest of such a bold move in their own blogs and portals, such as Cubasi).

Our group, Observatorio Critico, is also setting up its blog in Reflejos. This way, we hope to achieve the kind of nationwide following that our Internet site (as you can imagine) lacks. I set up the equivalent to my own site, Bubusopia. The LGBT project Arcoiris (“Rainbow”) had opened its own platform back in the days when Reflejos could only be accessed through the Joven Club.

Ilustration by Yasser Castellanos
Ilustration by Yasser Castellanos

Better than nothing

Seen from the outside, this step is certainly nothing out of this world and demonstrates how far behind we are more than anything. From a different perspective, however, a few drops of water added to the dry, empty glass are certainly cause for joy for those who are very thirsty. The process strikes us as oddly liberal, particularly if we consider that it stems from an institution that belongs to the Young Communists League, a youth offshoot of the Communist Party.

There is other news out there, but they are more ambiguous and they lend themselves to the manipulation and irregularities that we have become accustomed to. As it turns out, Cuba’s official press has just got wind of the existence of an agency aimed at the development of telecommunications worldwide, Agenda Conectar 2020 (The Connect 2020 agenda). The program is impelled by the International Telecommunications Union (UIT) of which Cuba is part. Vaguely, it is said we have entered the agenda and that this will bring extensive developments in the field.

The agenda would indeed mean a tremendous expansion of our Internet and mobile phone services. These technologies ought to be within the reach of the majority of Cubans within the short span of five years. To date, the Cuban government has shown itself reluctant or incapable of assuming these kinds of commitments. With our prices and ETECSA’s abusive, monopolistic policies, is there any way that could come about?

3 thoughts on “Is Cuban Cyberspace Growing?

  • I have left comments on several Reflejos posts, but they have not been published.

  • Did they ever pretend to be on the side of free speech? I must have missed it.

  • 14ymedio was recently given the boot from Reflejos:

    “Havana, 27 March 2015 – The new Cuban blog platform, Reflejos, has decided to close the 14ymedio blog for “repeatedly publishing content that does not conform to the objectives with which the platform was created,” according to an email sent this Friday by the administrators.

    “The 14ymedio blog has been the object of many criticisms by bloggers associated with the Cuban government. At the beginning of this week, the official site for CubaSí news lamented the presence of “mercenaries in service of the US” on Reflejos. The writer of the article, M. H. Lagarde, accused 14ymedio in wrathful terms of having “contaminated” the platform with “counter-revolutionary propaganda.”

    It seems the regime decided they had enough of this “free speech” crap, and given the fact they have the Obama administration on their side now, they don’t need to pretend anymore.

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