CUBA BRIEF: Cuba, the next destination for software development?, HSLDA Petitions Cuba: Let Cubans Homeschool, Cubans see few benefits of improved U.S. ties

The Cuba Emprende Foundation promotes in the article below exporting well paying programming jobs to Cuba while paying sub-minimum wages but fails to mention how expensive that ‘bargain’ could be by ignoring security concerns such as how the Cuban intelligence services could pirate the programs and applications being developed or adding code to monitor and surveil. In the Cuban case there isn’t a private service that would provide the programmers but the Cuban regime itself. This problem has already presented itself in Mainland China where The New York Times reported on November 15, 2016 that: “For about $50, you can get a smartphone with a high-definition display, fast data service and, according to security contractors, a secret feature: a backdoor that sends all your text messages to China every 72 hours.”

The Miami Herald, February 27, 2017

Could Cuba become the next destination for software development?

By Nora Gámez Torres

In Havana’s iconic Bacardí building, teams of computer programmers are working for U.S. companies with the tacit permission of the Cuban government.

Could the island become the next international hotspot for software development?

That’s not far-fetched, says John McIntire, chairman of the Cuba Emprende Foundation, which has been working with the island’s Catholic Church to train entrepreneurs and private business owners on the island.

“It’s already happening. I know of half a dozen companies, all based in Miami, that already have software development teams in Cuba and there are probably more that I don’t know about,” McIntire told el Nuevo Herald.

“I also know some big outsourcing companies, based in the United States, that are looking to establish operations” in Cuba, he added. “Until now, they have only been visiting Cuba, establishing relations and starting … relations with programers.”

Most of the U.S. companies hiring computer engineers and programmers in Cuba put them to work programming or designing applications for cell phones and internet sites, as well as more complex coding with open source software, added McIntire, pointing out that Cuba has many highly educated programmers who are currently “underemployed.”

With salaries of approximately $5 per hour — a more “competitive” rate than at other programming centers in the region — and in the same time zone as the United States, contracting Cuban programmers “looks very promising,” McIntire told a recent conference organized by the Americas Society/Council of the Americas and the Andean Development Corporation.


Market Watch, February 28, 2017

HSLDA Petitions Cuban Embassy: Let Cubans Homeschool

Marketwired via COMTEX

PURCELLVILLE, VA–(Marketwired – February 28, 2017) – Homeschooling families in Cuba are facing human rights violations by their government, and the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) has launched a petition addressed to the Cuban Embassy to uphold the right of Cubans “to establish private schools and to homeschool” as a minimum expectation as Cuba-U.S. relations are normalized.

In an article on their website, HSLDA shared the story of Ramón and Adya Rigal, a Cuban family who decided to homeschool their children last year, and the many trials they have faced since they made that decision. The Rigal family has faced multiple arrests, threats of fines, and removal of their children if they do not send their children to government school, and they are running out of hope.

“We wanted the freedom to give our children the education that we, the parents, have chosen,” Ramón explained in a video shared by HSLDA. “As Article 26.3 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights says, every parent has the right to give his children the education that he chooses.” 
In response to Ramón’s pleas for recognition by the authorities, the Municipal Office of Education in Guantànamo wrote to him explaining: “In our system, homeschooling is not considered an educational institution, as this term is basically used in countries with capitalist foundations.”

HSLDA’s Director of Global Outreach Michael Donnelly wrote to the Senior Minister of Education in Cuba in support of the Rigal family but has not received a response from the Ministry of Education.

Donnelly says this treatment of Cuban citizens is especially troubling in light of the Obama administration’s decision to re-open relations with Cuba. “A society that forces its children to learn only in public school is totalitarian,” he said. “Cuba has a long history of totalitarian behavior in many areas; education is only one of them. And this needs to change.”

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USA Today, February 27, 2017

Voices: From Havana to Santiago, Cubans see few benefits of improved U.S. ties

Rick Jervis , USA TODAY 12:36 p.m. ET Feb. 27, 2017

SANTIAGO DE CUBA – If improved relations between Cuba and the U.S. is intended to empower everyday Cubans, Enrique Martinez isn’t seeing it.

“All the benefit of the changes have gone to the government, not the people,” Martinez, 41, a public worker, told me on his way to work in Havana recently. “The Cuban people remain the same.”

I heard this sentiment often during a recent six-day reporting trip to Cuba crammed with interviews with many folks on a variety of subjects. Very often their opinion on the improved relations between Washington and Havana would emerge into our conversation, whether I asked for it or not.

The announcements December 2014 by former President Obama and Cuban President Raúl Castro that the longtime Cold War rivals would reestablish diplomatic ties stunned the world and led to warring predictions from many Cuba watchers.

Some observers argued that allowing more Americans and capital on the island would open the eyes of Cubans to democracy and capitalism, fill their wallets with more dollars and erode the Cuban government’s argument that sour U.S. relations is at the core of all of the island’s ills. Others doubted the changes would have any effect at all on the communist country and that the U.S. should hold fast to its policy of isolation.

This journey was my fifth visit to Cuba, and my fourth visit in the past two years. Some changes are visible, particularly in Havana. Internet connectivity is improving, though still lags way behind most industrialized nations. More Cubans own businesses and rent out apartments to tourists. And more Americans explore Old Havana’s narrow streets and order cocktails at hotel bars.

A taxi driver I hired in Havana, Roberto Tornes, said he was hopeful when the changes were announced in 2014. Improved relations with the U.S. seemed like a natural thing to do and could only benefit the Cuban people, he said. He sees more Americans on the island but, two years later, salaries remain stagnant at around $20 a month, the price of food and clothes continues to climb and lives are not noticeably better, he told me.

“We haven’t seen things improved,” Tornes said. “In no way has there been any noticeable change.”

Despite the release of 53 political prisoners as part of the agreement to normalize relations with the U.S., dozens more remain in Cuban prisons, according to Human Rights Watch. The government prevents independent human rights groups from accessing its prisons, and local human rights activists believe there are additional political prisoners whose cases they cannot document, according to the international group.

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