Tuesday, February 10, 2015

We'll just work around that restriction - why the "Berlin Firewall" of Cuba may - or may not - soon fall

There are certain people in the Miami, Florida area who live in a delusionary world.

They believe that the best way to free Cuba from decades of dictatorship is to continue every embargo imaginable against the country. Then, when these embargos finally force Cuban Communism into the dustin of history, the exiles of Miami will triumphantly head south and guide their oppressed brothers and sisters toward freedom.

And yes, some of them really believe that.

Jorge Mas Canosa [was] a co-founder and the chairman of the Cuban American National Foundation and a man who under certain circumstances might have returned to the island as president of a post-Castro Cuba.

The elder Mas died in 1997. It was around 1995 or 1996 that he realized that there would not be a sudden collapse of the Castro government...

Meanwhile, as Cuban-Americans dream of going back home, the actual Cubans are thinking, "Hey, McDonald's breath. You haven't lived in Cuba in a half century. Stick to your Estados Unidos ways and we'll run our country ourselves, thank you very much." Or, as a Netherlands website puts it:

The anti-Castro groups, such as the Cuban American National Foundation (CANF), today concentrate on influencing politics to bring change to Cuba. Most ... probably would not be willing to pay for the continued existence of the social progress made by the Revolution, should they take power. Most people living in Cuba don't like the prospect of the exiles' return. Most Cubans believe that these wealthy citizens will continue to provide them with free education, health care, housing and other essential needs. These groups, which say they want to bring democracy to Cuba, would not stand much of a chance of winning an election.

Meanwhile, there are other delusionary people who are very happy right now, because the United States has unjustly punished the brave people of Cuba by imposing a fascist embargo upon them. Now that there are moves to lift that embargo, Cuba will be able to govern itself as a model socialist state.

Well, that ain't gonna happen either.

As I previously observed, the lifting of the embargo will not immediately solve Cuba's problems. Frankly, some of Cuba's problems are CAUSED by its own government. As I noted, Chinese executive George Wan has been struggling for ALMOST A YEAR to get the approvals necessary to build a manufacturing plant in Cuba that could provide employment to Cubans, and hard currency to the Cuban government. Wan noted that in China, the whole approval process would have been completed in 24 hours. (If you forget, China is also a one-party Communist state, but they've figured out how to encourage business while simultaneously oppressing their people.)

Now that things are opening up between the United States and Cuba, more and more of these business proposals will be opening up. I previously talked about Americans who would come to Cuba and demand unfettered phone service.

But now, Cubans themselves will be asking similar questions.

(Source: Wikipedia)

You see, an American company will soon be offering services to Cuba - sort of:

[Netflix] on Monday announced it is finally available in Cuba. Those in the island nation with an Internet connection and access to international payment methods can now subscribe to Netflix and watch a "curated selection of popular movies and TV shows."

Notice all of the caveats that Netflix (and writer Angela Moscaritolo) included in that paragraph above.

First, you have to have an Internet connection. Cuba, unlike other countries such as Finland, does not believe that Internet access is a basic human right.

Second, you have to have, as Moscaritolo put it, "access to international payment methods." Again, this isn't something that everyone in Cuba is going to have.

The third item, from Netflix's statement itself, is the use of the interesting word "curated." Among the starry-eyed in Silicon Valley, "curated" was a powerful word a year or so ago, suggesting that wise people would work to bring the best content to you. But what exactly does "curated" mean when, say, applied to the Cuban government? Will Netflix be offering "The Interview" to its Cuban customers? Somehow I think that particular movie will be "curated" right out of Netflix's Cuban offering.

So what do all of these caveats mean? Netflix wasn't going to spell it out in its own press release, but Angela Moscaritolo was not reluctant to do so:

On the downside, however, most Cubans probably won't be able to enjoy epic House of Cards marathons — for at least the time being. Just 5 percent of Cubans currently have unfiltered Internet access, according to a CNN report citing data from watchdog group Freedom House.

So as Penny Progressive walks down the streets of Havana on our now-legal non-educational vacation, she might get a surprise.

PENNY PROGRESSIVE: I am so happy for the people of Cuba now! You can get Netflix!

CAROLINA MARTI: What is this net flicks?

ROSARIO CASTRO: That is the American movie computer service. I hear that the Ortega family has it.

CAROLINA MARTI: Of course the Ortega family has it! They've received all sorts of privileges ever since they were Elian Gonzalez's babysitters when he was a kid.

ROSARIO CASTRO: Hey, Elian might have it also.

CAROLINA MARTI: So what? Why can't WE have it?

Many years ago, the slight loosening of similar restrictions in East Germany led to the destruction of the Berlin Wall, a physical wall that separated the people of East Berlin from the people of West Berlin. Is it possible that the slight loosening of restrictions in Cuba will eventually lead to the destruction of Cuba's electronic firewall?

Or will Cuba follow the lead of China, and manage to keep its firewall intact? As it turns out, China's firewall is growing harder to breach, according to Sara Rose:

The Chinese government has reinforced its digital censorship platform, hence making it more difficult to use services called virtual private networks to circumvent the country’s blocks to the U.S. services like Google and Facebook.

China has seen some of the most burdensome internet restrictions, but until now the presence of VPN’s had made life tolerable for the people (yet irksome for the government). The move to disable some of the most widely-used VPNs has provoked a torrent of outrage among video artists, entrepreneurs and professors.

And yes, she DID use the word "torrent" in that last sentence.

As for me, I'm going to adapt something that I said last December. If visiting Americans - or resident Cubans - demand the same types of services in Cuba that they can receive outside of Cuba...

...the Cubans would beg the American government to restart the embargo pronto.
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