International Spotlight: Cuba

Mathew Sayer From our Perspective

Following Azerbaijan and Brazil, a C country is next in line for the spotlight. The obvious choice would be China. However, the number of words written about China’s internet by more intelligent, able and technical people than myself is sufficient. Let’s not saturate it, let’s stay socialist but take a leaf out of Barack’s book and visit Cuba instead.

Barack Obama samples a legal cigar whilst visiting Cuba

Approved by the Department of Revolutionary Orientation

Country Profile

The Socialist Paradise of Cuba, officially titled the Republic of Cuba, is the largest island in the Caribbean at 42,426 square miles it is about the size of Ohio. With a population of 11 million, it is also about the size of Ohio. Cuba has been governed by the Communist Party of Cuba since 1965. The economy is dominated by state-run enterprises, after the fall of the Soviet Union co-operatives and self-employment was encouraged. All things considered having been subject to a trade embargo (and coup attempts) from the world’s military, economic and political superpower for the last 50 years Cuba is in pretty good shape. The health care system is world-class (and free). The country gets a ‘high’ ranking on the Human Development Index and Gini coefficient.

Department of Revolutionary Orientation

It is not all free medical care and beaches, however. Internet penetration is lower than almost all other countries in the Western hemisphere. Access to the internet as you and I know it is limited to internet cafes and the wifi hotspots in town squares. ETECSA, a government-owned telecommunications provider, has set up over 100 cyber cafes which offer access to the Cuban intranet for 70 cents an hour or the good stuff for $5 an hour. Not only is the wider internet more expensive but to use it you have to sign in with your national ID. So you are definitely getting watched while using it.

Cuba’s Wikipedia for Socialists

All online content is subject to review by a government body called the Department of Revolutionary Orientation. Cuba’s intranet has a wiki style website called ecured.cu that has 156,095 articles (Wikipedia has 5,111,227 but who’s counting?). The site in and of itself is a good read, especially when you compare it to Wikipedia.

“Capitalism is an economic system based on private ownership of the means of production and their operation for profit.[1][2][3] Characteristics central to capitalism include private property, capital accumulation, wage labor, voluntary exchange, a price system, and competitive markets.[4][5] In a capitalist market economy, decision-making and investment is determined by the owners of the factors of production in financial and capital markets, and prices and the distribution of goods are mainly determined by competition in the market.[6][7]”
(Wikipedia)

“Capitalism. Socio-economic formation which happens to feudalism. On the basis of capitalism is private ownership of the means of production and the exploitation of wage labour.[1]
(Ecured)

Freedom House’s Freedom On The Net gave Cuba a “not free” score in 2014. Finding that political and social content was blocked along with social media apps. There are documented arrests of Bloggers and ICT users. Despite these low scores, Cuba’s internet policies are different to nations of comparable online maleficence. There is not widespread filtering or blocking of websites; instead, the boundaries are related to infrastructure- access just isn’t that widespread yet. The future of Cuba’s internet is as yet unwritten, but the new era of trade with the US is going to cover several chapters.