Cuba, the Internet and Reporters without Borders
Cuba, the Internet and Reporters without Borders
Clearly, Reporters without Borders (RSF) has a limitless obsession with Cuba. For several years now, this organization has carried out a sadistic disinformation campaign against the Caribbean island and its government. Recently it deliberately manipulated the words that Ramiro ValdÃ©s, Cuban Minister of Communication and Information Technology, delivered at the XII International Conference on Computer Science in Havana February 11, 2007, where more than 600 delegates came from 58 countries .
Manipulation of Ramiro ValdÃ©sâ€™ words
â€œCommunications Minister Ramiro ValdÃ©s, said on February 12, 2007 [sic], that he considered the Internet as a â€˜tool for global exterminationâ€™ and, that it was imperative to control this â€œcruel weapon.â€â€™, RSF writes .
In fact, the Cuban minister never said anything of the sort, as can be easily proven by looking up his speech. He denounced the bellicose and repressive use that Washington makes of the Internet in order to spread war propaganda in favor of the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq and to â€œincrease the control over governments, businesses, and people, including its own population.â€ ValdÃ©s emphasized: â€œthe Pentagon, without any shame, has declared its intention to add a fourth army to the specialized forces of conventional war. To the classic ones: earth, sea, and air, it has now added cyberspace,â€ aware of the growing importance of this space for alternative expression .
To the contrary, he pointed out that â€œinformation and communication technologies will also be at the center of this integrationist movement of the area.â€ ValdÃ©s stigmatized the unhealthy way the United States uses the Internet -- not the information tool that is the Net. He insisted on the fact that it was â€œessential to find strategic alliances to confront the hegemonic attempts in this new battlefieldâ€ which threaten the â€œsovereignty of our peoplesâ€. â€œThese technologies can be used to create a mechanism of global extermination, but paradoxically, despite the known risks that they entail, they are essential in order to continue advancing along the paths of developmentâ€ .
ValdÃ©s never described the Internet as a â€œwild weaponâ€. He evoked the metaphoric way that â€œthe wild colt of the new technologies [could] and [should] be tamed and infocommunications put at the service of peace and developmentâ€ and not war, as is the case of the United States . In fact, the U.S. Department of Defense announced November 2, 2006, the creation of a Cyberspace Operations Command of the Air Force in order to strengthen electronic war since, according to Lieutenant General Robert Elder who commands this force, â€œthere is, undoubtedly, a lot of interest in utilizing cyberspace as a battle fieldâ€.
The actual statements of the Cuban Minister
Thus, RSFâ€™s manipulations are clear. The organization directed by Robert MÃ©nard attributed words to ValdÃ©s which he never said. In addition, it carefully conceals the Cuban ministerâ€™s real, clear and unambiguous statements about the Internet. I have some here: â€œThe Internet is not only allowing sectors silenced by the big media to express themselves, but also spreads important messages in favor of crucial issues for humanity such as peace, protection of the planet and justice, to name only three. True communities are created for exchange, solidarity and cooperation in the most varied fields of human knowledge .
ValdÃ©s pointed out that â€œthe Internet could become a vehicle for carrying out a cultural and educational revolution that promotes knowledge, that promotes education, culture, cooperation, and solidarity, together with ethical and moral values that this new century requires, advocating the most noble human sentiments, discarding inhuman, selfish, and individualist conduct imposed by the capitalist system, with the United States at the headâ€ .
The RSF â€œreportâ€ about the Internet in Cuba
In regards to the Internet in Cuba, â€œReporters without Borders pointed out that Cubaâ€™s delay on the matter of the Internet is a consequence, above all, of the wish of the government to control the circulation of information in its territory. With less then two Internet users per every 100 inhabitants, Cuba is among some of the most backwards countries on the matter of the Internet. It is by far the worst in Latin America â€“ Costa Rica is 13 times betterâ€”and is at the level of Uganda or Sri Lankaâ€ .
These claims of RSF arenâ€™t derived from a meticulous and comparative study of Internet development throughout the world. No, it only deals with an arbitrary allegation which is not based on any research and which is completely disconnected from reality. No international organization has ever given such figures. Once again, RSF is content with rehashing the U.S. propaganda against the Caribbean archipelago.
A different reality
In Cuba close to 2 million children and adolescents have daily access to the Internet in their schools, all equipped with a computer classroom provided with the latest generation of materials. In Cuba, 146 schools exist in distant regions of the country at which only one student attends and all have a computer laboratory. There are also free community computer clubs in every municipality, used by thousands of people. One mere, ordinary question: if the Cuban government wishes â€œto control the circulation of information in its territoryâ€, why would it spend several millions of dollars to universalize the access to computers and the Internet? .
RSF carefully minimizes the main constraint to development of the Internet in Cuba, which are the ruthless economic sanctions that the United States has imposed on the countryâ€™s population since 1960. Cuba couldnâ€™t connect to the Internet until 1996 since before a clause from the economic blockade impeded having access to the international network controlled by the United States. But the Cuban access is conditional because of the Torricelli law, which stipulates that each megabit bought from a U.S. business, needs to have previous approval from the Department of the Treasury. All violators are subject to extremely harsh sanctions. Furthermore, it must be remembered that more than 80 percent of Internet traffic passes through U.S. servers .
On the other hand, the United States denies Cuba the use of its fiber optic submarine cable which surrounds the archipelago. Thus, the island is obliged to connect via satellite, which reduces the speed of communication and quadruples the price. For a small country from the Third World, isolated for close to half a century, the effects are not negligible. In the same way, Cuba is obliged to procure new technologies through third countries because of the economic sanctions, which substantially increases their price. Nor can it be forgotten that the United States produces close to 60% of the software of the world and that Microsoft controls the operating systems of 90% of the computers on the planet .
RSF deliberately censors this reality. How could it be otherwise with an organization financed by Washington through a CIA front groupâ€”the National Endowment for Democracy? Can one expect anything different from an entity that receives tens of thousands of dollars from the Cuban extreme right such as, for example, â€œ Center for a Free Cubaâ€, directed by Frank CalzÃ³n, the same former director of the Cuban American National Foundation, a terrorist organization responsible for numerous attacks against Cuba? 
RSF never has denounced the fact that Washington uses the Internet to inflict sanctions which can carry ten years of jail for its own citizens who commit the unpardonable crime of traveling to Cuba and who buy their ticket on the Internet. Several travel agencies who offer tourist packages to Cuba saw their Internet sites blocked in the United States. RSF never has been moved by such an attack on freedom of expression and never has condemned the economic sanctions against Cuba .
RSFâ€™s other â€œobjective reportâ€ about the Internet
On October 19, 2006, RSF published a â€œreportâ€ about the Internet in Cuba which â€œshows that the authorities deliberately impede access to the Internet.â€ Here the organization, which tries to be objective and apolitical, also doesnâ€™t explain why the only country about which it issues a â€œreportâ€ â€“ which stands out for its flimsinessâ€”is Cuba. But the most interesting thing is that this same tendentious report, peppered with contradictions and manifest falsehoods, recognizes at the end that it is possible in Cuba to have â€œaccess to practically all the information sites, lemonde.fr, bbc.com, el Nuevo Herald (a daily newspaper from Miami [controlled by the extreme Batista right]) and includes the sites of the dissidents of the anti-Castro regime .
The report adds: â€œTests carried out by Reporters without Borders show that the majority of the sites of the Cuban opposition, as well as those international human rights organizations are accessible by means of â€˜internationalâ€™ service. In China, by means of key words filters were installed on the Net, which makes it impossible, for example, to download pages which contain â€˜subversiveâ€™ key words. The organization could ascertain, testing a series of prohibited terms in cybercafes, that this type of system is not installed in Cubaâ€. Nonetheless, RSF, doesnâ€™t explain why it carries out such an obsessive campaign about the supposed censorship of the Internet in Cuba. 
The report is also full of crude accusations. â€œIn Cuba, they can be sentenced for twenty years in prison for some â€˜counterrevolutionaryâ€™ articles published on foreign sites and to five years for connecting to the Internet illegallyâ€. RSF multiplies the lies: â€œThe political dissidents and independent journalists in general arenâ€™t authorized to go to the cybercafÃ©sâ€. Any person who has visited a cybercafÃ© in Cuba absolutely knows that this is false. They donâ€™t ask either name of address, only payment for the time that one spends on the Internet. 
RSF continues with the same tone and admits at the U.S. Interests Section (SINA) in Havana offers valuable help to the famous dissidents: â€œMany of them utilize, consequently, the twenty computers that are put at their disposal at the SINA [â€¦]. But a single visit to the premises of the American diplomacy is enough to be considered as an â€˜enemy of the revolution.â€™â€ For RSF, the â€œAmerican diplomacyâ€ doesnâ€™t welcome the opposition in order to subvert the established order and to overthrow the government. Only a disinterested and altruistic hand is offered to them. Washington is only defending democracy.
Additionally, its activities throughout the word and the actions of Washington in Afghanistan and Iraq are irrefutable proof of that. 
In any country of the world, assiduously visiting the diplomats of a foreign powerâ€”that, in this specific case publicly stated on July 10, 2006, that it gave itself 18 months to overthrow the governmentâ€”with the confessed objective of breaking the constitutional order is a synonym for treason and invites the most severe sanctions. In Cuba, the legendary â€œindependent journalistsâ€ go each week to the offices of the SINA not to practice the job of press professionals but to conspire. Those individuals are not encouraged by great feelings in favor of freedom and democracy. The generous payments which Washington offers are their principal sources of motivation. Even now, the Cuban authorities have shown themselves to be a little indulgent. It would not be astonishing if in the future they decide to severely apply the law as was the case in March 2003 .
About this matter, RSF continues misleading public opinion and makes it believe that the persons arrested and sentenced to severe punishment in 2003 for conspiracy and for acting as agents of a foreign power are only â€œindependent journalists.â€ It cites 24 when in reality only one is really a journalist (Julio CÃ©sar GÃ¡lvez RodrÃguez). Additionally, these people were sentenced only for receiving financing from an enemy country and in no case for a speech that was contrary to the official line. To be persuaded of this, itâ€™s enough to read the virulent statements against the revolutionary government that the famous dissidents make each week in the international press, without being bothered by the law. 
â€œThe black holes of the Netâ€, according to RSF
On November 16, 2005, RSF published â€œits list of 15 enemies of the Internet,â€ on which were Saudi Arabia, Belarus, Myanmar, China, North Korean, Iran, Libya, Maldives, Nepal, Uzbekistan, Syria, Tunis, Turkmenistan and Vietnam. Of course, Robert Menardâ€™s organization didnâ€™t indicate in any way the criteria he used for his selection .
A year after, in 2006, a new list with 13 countries was published in which Libya no longer appeared. The 2005 report, nonetheless, was overwhelming: â€œUnfortunately, in one country that doesnâ€™t tolerate any independent press, it might have been overwhelming that the Net will develop without obstacles. Thus, the sites of the dissident Libyans in exile are systematically blocked by means of filters installed by the power. More seriously, the authorities now harshly attack dissident cybernauts.â€
The 2006 report is the opposite of that of 2005. â€œAfter one mission in the country, Reporters without Borders could affirm that the Libyan Internet no longer was censuredâ€, affirmed the organization, without any other explanation and without publishing another report. What happened in one year in order that RSF radically changes its opinion with regards to Libya? Perhaps Moamer Kadhafi has become a great democrat? Or simply normalized his relations with Washington and now forms part of the Bush administrationâ€™s allies? Will it now be the reason it can receive good marks on behalf of RSF? 
Thus, the classification of RSF isnâ€™t more then a farce. The work of the Parisian organization donâ€™t have anything to do with freedom of the press but that it is above all an ideological war at the services of its landlords who are the United States, among others.
The report of OpenNet Initiative
The â€œOpenNet Initative,â€ sponsored by the very conservative universities Harvard, Cambridge, Oxford and Toronto, function as an observatory of freedom of expression on the Internet. According to this group, 13% of the cybernauts of the world are not free to navigate on the Net. In other words, 146 million people. The â€œOpenNet Initiativeâ€ established a list of 9 repressive countries that limit Internet access and repress cybernauts. It includes China, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Belarus, Iran Uzbekistan, Tunis, Vietnam and Yemen. Cuba isnâ€™t on the list .
The foundation later established a list of 22 other countries where different degrees of control exist, among which are found the United Kingdom at the rank of 16, France at 17, Canada at 18, United States at 19 and Cuba only at 20.
Even more interesting, the â€œOpenNet Initiativeâ€ details the obstacles imposed on Internet access. For example, the United Kingdom filters some contents, according to the British government, to remove the spread of child pornography. With regards to France, the administration filters â€œwithout any legal rulingâ€ the contents of the extreme right. For Canada, control and filters exist at colleges and public libraries. Finally, for Cuba, it is only the cost of the connection for individuals that is â€œprohibitiveâ€ .
The foundation doesnâ€™t point out any instance of control or filters imposed by the Cuban state. It emphasizes â€œon the other hand Cubans have complete access to the national Intranet. Preliminary tests indicate that very few web sites are blocked.â€ The only blocked Internet site is, according to â€œOpenNet Initiativeâ€, that of the terrorist organization in Florida, â€œBrothers to the Rescueâ€. Therefore, the main reason for Internet access restrictions is none other than the U.S. government itself which imposes sanctions on the country and impedes the technological development of the nation 
RSF continues with its propaganda war against Cuba and tries to deceive public opinion about the reality of this isolated island. It remains faithful to the bellicose agenda of the Bush administration against the Cuban people since Washington knows how to reward its servants.
French Salim Lamrani is a researcher at the Denis-Diderot University in Paris specializing in Cuban and United States relations. He contributes regularly to RebeliÃ³n. The translation to Spanish is his and has been checked by Caty R., of the RebeliÃ³n, Tlaxcala and Cubadebate collectives. This translation can be freely reproduced upon the condition that the author, editor, and source are cited and all their rights are reserved.
Translated to English by Dana Lubow
 Reporters sans frontiÃ¨res, «Reporters sans frontiÃ¨res rÃ©agit aux dÃ©clarations du ministre de la Communication Ã propos dâ€™Internet», 13 de febrero de 2007. http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=20998 (sitio consultado el 13 de febrero de 2007).
 Ramiro ValdÃ©s, «Discurso pronunciado por el Comandante de la RevoluciÃ³n, Ramiro ValdÃ©s MenÃ©ndez, Ministro de la InformÃ¡tica y las Comunicaciones en el Acto Inaugural de la XII ConvenciÃ³n y Expo Internacional, InformÃ¡tica 2007», Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores de Cuba, 11 de febrero de 2007. http://www.cubaminrex.cu/Sociedad_Informacion/2007/DiscursoRamiro.htm sitio consultado el 14 de febrero de 2007).
 Sara Wood, «New Air Force Command to Fight in Cyberspace», American Forces Press Service,U.S. Department of Defense, 3 de noviembre de 2006. http://www.defenselink.mil/News/NewsArticle.aspx?id=2014 (sitio consultado el 27 de febrero de 2007).
 Ramiro ValdÃ©s, op. cit.
 Reporters sans frontiÃ¨res, op. cit.
 Rosa Miriam Elizalde, «Cinco estratÃ©gias en el 2006: El EjÃ©rcito de Estados Unidos estÃ¡ a la ofensiva en Internet», RebeliÃ³n, 12 de noviembre de 2006; Ramiro ValdÃ©s, op. cit.
 Reporters sans frontiÃ¨res, «Pourquoi sâ€™intÃ©resser autant Ã Cuba ? La rÃ©ponse de Reporters sans frontiÃ¨res aux accusations des dÃ©fenseurs du gouvernement cubain», 6 de julio de 2005. www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=14350 (sitio consultado el 15 de julio de 2005); Center for a Free Cuba, «About us», 2005. http://www.cubacenter.org/about_us/index.html (sitio consultado el 18 juillet 2005); National Endowment for Democracy, «Description of 2003 Grants: Latin America & the Caribbean», 2004. www.ned.org/grants/03programs/grants-lac.html (sitio consultado el 27 de Julio de 2005); United States Agency for International Development, «Appendix A: Descriptions of Cuba Program Grantee Activities», 2005. www.usaid.gov/locations/latin_america_caribbean/country/pubs/program_report/appendix_a.html (sitio consultado el 25 de Julio de 2005); John M. Broder, «Political Meddling by Outsiders: Not New for U.S.», The New York Times, 31 de marzo de 1997, p. 1; Allen Weinstein, Washington Post, 22 de septiembre de 1991; Reporters sans frontiÃ¨res, «Lettre ouverte Ã ses dÃ©tracteurs», RÃ©seau Voltaire, 12 de septiembre de 2006. http://www.voltairenet.org/article143413.html?var_recherche=Reporters+sans+fronti%C3%A8res?var_recherche=Reporters%20sans%20frontiÃ¨res (sitio consultado el 12 de septiembre de 2006).
 Felipe PÃ©rez Roque, «La memoria corta dellâ€™occidente», Latinoamerica, n°93, 8 de noviembre de 2005, p. 54.
 Reporters sans frontiÃ¨res, «Internet Ã Cuba: un RÃ©seau sous surveillance», 19 de octubre de 2006. http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=19334 (sitio consultado el 27 de febrero de 2007).
 Condolezza Rice & Carlos Gutierrez, Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, (Washington: United States Department of State, julio de 2006). www.cafc.gov/documents/organization/68166.pdf (sitio consultado el 12 de julio de 2006); Nestor Ikeda, «EEUU dice que rehabilitarÃ¡ a Cuba en 18 meses», El Nuevo Herald, 10 de julio de 2006.
 El Nuevo Herald, â€œMensaje de PayÃ¡ destaca que en la isla hay desaparecidosâ€, 18 de marzo de 2005, p. 23A.
 Reporters sans frontiÃ¨res, «Reporters sans frontiÃ¨res rend publique sa liste des 15 ennemis dâ€™Internet», 16 de noviembre de 2005. http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=15611 (sitio consultado el 25 de febrero de 2007).
 Reporters sans frontiÃ¨res, «La liste des 13 ennemis dâ€™Internet», 7 de noviembre de 2006. http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=19601 (sitio consultado el 28 de febrero de 2007).
 OpenNet Initiative, «Internet Filtering Map», noviembre de 2006. http://www.opennet.net/map/ (sitio consultado el 27 de febrero de 2007; JosÃ© Ãngel GonzÃ¡lez, «Censura.net para 146 millones», 20minutos.es, 2 de noviembre de 2006.