The Honeymoon, Virtual War and Real Life

Fernando Ravsberg

Most people are so immersed in their own daily battles that they’ve little time left for virtual wars. Foto: Elio Delgado

HAVANA TIMES, March  17 — No doubt there must have been a wedding here in Cuba that I wasn’t invited to; that’s the only explanation for how anyone can repeat — over and over again — that the case of Alan Gross spells an end to the “honeymoon” between Washington and Havana.

This was a peculiar “romance” in which companies that sell medical equipment to Cuba are prosecuted, and where $20 million is allocated annually by the US to support internal opposition movements with the expressed aims of destabilizing the island’s government.

One can think of these activities either as “interference in the internal affairs of another country” or “solidarity with those struggling for democracy,” but to describe them as a part of a “honeymoon” sounds pretty farfetched.

According to my calculations, the two most important “gestures” by the United States toward Cuba (greater flexibility with trips to the island by Americans and permission for Western Union to give dollars to the Cuban government) were made after Gross’s arrest.

It was truly curious that Washington decided to give in on issues so delicate, and even more so that they acquiesced while “indignant” over the imprisonment of Gross.  At first sight it all seems very contradictory.

The enemies of Barack Obama are implacable, but you have to recognize that they have a point when they assert that it’s illogical to expand travel and facilitate financial transfers to a country accused of promoting terrorism.

The contradiction between words and deeds is evident, but in the end neither is a novelty among the world’s politicians.  However, the US president is in a more difficult position because on the issue of Cuba he lives the notion of “safeguarding freedom.”

Boring videos

Fortunately for the first African-American president, Cuban television produces videos that — in addition to being boring — do not contain material that is excessively compromising for the opposition or for Washington.

The problem is that presenting Cuban counterintelligence agents speaking poorly of the Ladies in White and about the USA has about the same credibility as showing CIA officials accusing Cuba of being a dictatorship.

Adding to the mistakes, Cuban TV has now shown three programs on the “cybernetic war” against the island, but not once has a single photo appeared concerning the activities of Alan Gross, the American sentenced to 15 years in prison for participating in that electronic assault.

Havana bus photo by Caridad

It’s not that they lacked space, because they had sufficient time to tell us about all of Washington’s intelligence operations against the island since 1959.  Putting it Cuban style, they “told the history of tobacco” in this bilateral confrontation.

There was very little new about anything, only some Internet satellite antennas were disguised as surfboards and sent by Freedom House’s computer science head, Robert Guerra, who also gave free classes to cyber-opponents on how to write secret messages.

Dissident bloggers defend themselves saying that privacy is not respected in Cuba, which is why they criticize “encryption” techniques.  Still, and I might be mistaken, but I bet that these days coded messages stir distrust even in the most democratic nation in the world.

Maybe it’s that I don’t know very many people, but I don’t have a single friend who uses codes to communicate over the Internet.  I don’t doubt that lots internet users use them, but the only references I have come from spy novels.

In any case it’s logical that the cyber-opposition defends itself, all the “canons” are aimed at them now that US diplomats have praised them as agents of change, while at the same time questioning the effectiveness of traditional dissidents.

But what’s certain is that the accusations aren’t affecting them.  “An internet user knows full well about the hits that an attack orchestrated on national television can produce against whatever site, even in a country with such narrow bandwidth as this,” explained a dissident blogger.

Hardly noticed in Cuba

Curiously, while all this matter creates such noise overseas, it has very few repercussions in Cuba.  For the ordinary citizen “the perverse aims of the empire” is not news, nor is the situation of government agents having infiltrated the opposition.

Common people’s problems continue to be ones of finding out if they’re going to be laid off, or understanding the self-employed work regulations, or speculating about laws that have been announced but haven’t been approved, and calculating how much the devaluation of the peso will affect them.

Except for a government official who criticized the quality of the videos, the rest of the Cubans I know don’t even talk about the issue.  They’re so immersed in their own daily battles that they’ve little time left for virtual wars.

An authorized HT translation of the original published by BBC Mundo


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  • YOUTUBE: Cuban dissidents repressed -AmnestyInternational
    This film was produced to commemorate the 8th anniversary of The ‘Black Spring’ Crackdown in Cuba. It features interviews with two former Prisoners of Conscience now living in Spain and also includes Amnesty International’s Caribbean researcher Gerardo Ducos.

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