CUBA BRIEF: Havana stuck in the Cold War, Americans losing interest in Cuba, Google now in Cuba

This week Havana’s rhetoric returned to the old Cold War pronouncements. In a statement released by the  Ministry of Foreign Affairs  the regime denounced “imperialism” [that means the United States], the Organization of American States and numerous democracies across the region appalled about the ongoing economic and political crisis in Caracas. From Havana’s perspective, the Cold War never ended. General Raul Castro still harbors American terrorists. Mr. Obama ignored Cuban attempts to smuggle weapons to North Korea and its alliances with Syria and Russia were ignored.

Granma, April 27, 2017

Declaration by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba

April 27, 2017 21:04:27

We have once again witnessed another infamous and immoral decision by the discredited OAS, against the Bolivarian Revolution; a repetition of the shameful pages written against the Cuban Revolution in the 1960s.

The calling of a Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs, to continue harassing the Venezuelan government, constitutes another action consistent with the OAS’ traditional role as an instrument of imperialist domination in the hemisphere; in order to undermine the sovereignty, independence and dignity of Our America.

The OAS has always remained with its back to the peoples of America, over an almost 70 year history of subordination to oligarchic and imperialist interests. It has been absent when our region has been the victim of political, economic and military intervention and aggression, or serious democracy and human rights violations.

It is now time to recognize that the OAS is incompatible with the most pressing needs of the peoples of Latin America and the Caribbean. It is incapable of representing their values nd interests. It imposed a doctrine of false democracy, responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Latin Americans  and Caribbeans and the impoverishment and exclusion of millions. The OAS chooses to attack and impose, rather than reconcile or dialogue; and disregards the right of states to equality and self-determination. It conspires and subverts genuine and legitimately constituted governments with proven popular support, and deserves the most profound repudiation.

Venezuela has taken the dignified decision to withdraw from the OAS, which we firmly support, having courageously faced the harassment, interference and ignominy which have been the aim of this institution and its frenzied Secretary General. In order to defend the collective interests of the region, both Chávez in his time, and now President Maduro, stood up to its treachery with dignity and courage. But the OAS never set out to accept a popular government, much less help Venezuela, as some assert. On the contrary, it has increasingly attempted to overthrow the Bolivarian Revolution.

The aggressions and contemptible conduct of the OAS toward Venezuela confirm that wherever there is a government that is not fitting with the interests of imperialist power circles and their allies, it will be attacked. The new more subtle and concealed methods of attrition, to disturb the peace and internal order, without renouncing violence, do not hide the old strategy of trying to prove the unfeasibility of progressivism, the left and their struggles for the economic and social development of our region.

Cuba reaffirms its unwavering commitment to accompany Venezuela and the dignified, courageous and constructive position of President Nicolas Maduro in leading the Bolivarian Revolution. We express our support and solidarity to the people and government of Venezuela, in this new chapter of resistance and dignity, certain of just how much more struggle remains in order to achieve unity and maintain the fundaments of the Proclamation of Latin America and the Caribbean as a Zone of Peace, signed in 2014.

Havana, April 27, 2017.

International Travel & Health Insurance Journal, April 28, 2017

Americans already losing interest in Cuba

28 April 2017

Only 2% of travelers to the island do so to see family and friends.

A year after the US government relaxed its travel restrictions to Cuba, Allianz Global Assistance is reporting that fewer Americans are interested in taking a trip to the country.
A survey issued annually by Allianz found that 40 per cent of Americans would consider a trip to Cuba, which is a two-per-cent drop on last year’s figures, while the easing of travel restrictions made just 26 per cent of Americans more interested in visiting the country – nine percent fewer than 2016.

For 12 per cent of Americans, the fact that Cuba still has a Communist government is a major cause for concern, whilst general safety concerns are a reason that a third of US travellers would not be keen on travelling to the country. Over a fifth of responders feel that they do not know enough about travel experiences in Cuba, 13 per cent do not have enough information on the country’s infrastructure and nine per cent worry about the lack of internet access.

Despite these concerns, those that do want to travel to country would do so because of the resorts and beaches (32 per cent), the country’s cultural attractions (23 per cent), Cuban food and rum (13 per cent), classic 1950’s American cars (nine per cent), Cuban cigars (seven per cent) and family and friends (two per cent).

The survey also measured sentiment and discovered that 34 per cent of Americans think Cuba has changed for the better as a result of the US having eased travel restrictions to the country.

Daniel Durrazo, director of communications at Allianz Global Assistance US, discussed how these results could change in the future: “Airlines continue to change their services to Cuba, while cruise lines are revving up sailings to the island. It will be interesting to see how this affects visitors’ interest. It may be having initial effects as Allianz’s cruise survey from earlier in the year showed that 17 per cent of Americans felt the recent announcements of cruise lines adding sailings to Cuba made them more interested in visiting the country.”

Google hopeful about its first servers in Cuba, but the repressive environment remains and a miniscule number of Cubans have access to the internet. 

The NPR article below says that “[r]ather than relying on the technically sophisticated filtering and blocking used by other repressive regimes, the Cuban government continues to limit users’ access to information primarily via lack of technology and prohibitive costs.” The Cuban government also makes use of heavy handed methods such as police raids into private homes where they confiscate without due process laptops, shortwave radios, printers. There are also reports of confiscation of the same at Cuban airports. Cubans who want to reach out to read online content on sites specializing on Cuba or human rights are often blocked.

NPR, April 27, 2017

Google Spins Up Its First Servers In Cuba

April 27, 20175:14 PM ET
Accessing the Internet in Cuba isn’t easy. Home Internet connections are rare, and public access Wi-Fi hotspots costs $1.50 an hour — very expensive for most Cubans.

But in the nation that has been called “one of the most restrictive media environments in the world,” watching YouTube got faster this week.

Google says that its servers just went live on the island — meaning that for the first time, its services like YouTube videos are cached locally, instead of in a neighboring country.

This milestone comes four months after the company signed an agreement with Cuba’s national telecom provider, ETECSA, to use its technology to make high-bandwidth activities faster.

This marks the first time a foreign Internet company has hosted anything inside Cuba, according to Doug Madory, Director of Internet Analysis at Dyn, an Internet performance company. Madory spent time in Havana last year for a conference and talked to Google about their plans for Cuba.

After Google made the deal with ETECSA, Madory set up a system that would notify him when the Google’s servers in Cuba were live, and yesterday morning, he got pinged.

Google’s servers in Cuba will cache its own content, allowing for quicker delivery to users.

Caching speeds up the Internet by storing frequently used content locally. So the first time someone in Cuba watches a specific video on YouTube, it may take a while to load. But if their neighbor then decides to watch that same video, it should load much faster, because it has been stored on a nearby server and doesn’t need to travel as far.

While caching makes the Internet speedier in any country, it’s particularly vital in Cuba, where connectivity is slow. Cuba connects to the Internet primarily through the ALBA-1 submarine cable, which runs from Venezuela.

Google said that Cubans “who already have access to the internet and want to use our services can expect to see an improvement in terms of quality of service” and speed for cached content.

That qualifier — “who already have access to the internet” — is significant, since access to the Internet in Cuba is so limited. (As few as 5 percent of Cubans may have access to the open Internet.) Google’s servers make it speedier to use its services in Cuba today, but they don’t provide Internet access where it wasn’t before.

For the most part Cubans don’t have access to Google’s products. “Many users are still relegated to a tightly controlled government network and related email service,” says Freedom House, a nonprofit group that conducts research on democracy and human rights.

In its 2016 report on Internet freedom, Freedom House wrote that “Cuba remains one of the world’s most repressive environments for information and communication technologies.” It added that Cuba’s lack of modern Internet infrastructure is one way the government limits access to outside media and information.

“Rather than relying on the technically sophisticated filtering and blocking used by other repressive regimes, the Cuban government continues to limit users’ access to information primarily via lack of technology and prohibitive costs,” it says.

But Google’s servers join other signs of progress for Internet in the country. The BBC reported last month that ETECSA had installed Internet connections in around 2,000 homes in Old Havana as part of a two-month pilot.

Those connections weren’t fast enough to stream video, though. With Google’s new servers, the dream of watching videos on the Internet — without endless buffering — gets a little closer.