Cuba and the Tyranny of Groupthink**
A Freedom House assessment of “Freedom
on the Net” reports that Cuba remains one of
Cuba’s only two internet service
providers are owned by the state, and surveillance is extensive. It
is estimated that less than two percent of the population (mostly government
officials and foreign companies) has access to the internet. Whatever
connectivity is available costs around $12.00 per hour in a country
where the average monthly salary is less than $20.00 per month.
Additionally, Cuba is also one of the few countries to have issued laws and regulations explicitly outlawing certain online activities. Decree-Law 209, states, among other restrictions, that “e-mail messages must not jeopardize national security.” Resolution 127 – on network security – bans the spreading of information that is against the social interest, the integrity of the people, or national security. Resolution 56/1999 provides that all material intended for publication on the internet must first be approved by the National Registry of Serial Publications. And Resolution 92/2003 prohibits ICT service providers from granting access to individuals who are not approved by the government and requires the providers to enable only domestic chat services, not international ones.
Underscoring the country’s self-imposed
intellectual isolation, Boris Moreno, Cuba’s
The extent of Cuba’s political
cyber police efforts and its concern with controls over
The lecturer, counter-intelligence cybernetic specialist officer Eduardo Fontes Suárez, defines the internet as a field of battle that the government must use to its advantage. He boasts of a new special section created within the Interior Ministry to work against bloggers. He warns of the dangers of social networks such as Facebook and Twitter, labeling them “classic combat networks” and citing as examples how Iran’s Green Revolution and Ukraine’s Orange Revolution were “created” when social networks were used to call people to street protests.
He highlights, in military jargon, the
risks to the Cuban government posed by bloggers
The Cuban government has been remarkably
successful in sealing the consciousness of
But this pursuit of intellectual autarky
has also produced a classic case of what social
A case in point is General Castro’s
new economic program formulated, in his words, “to
A centerpiece of General Castro’s
program is the firing of up to 1,300,000 government
Groupthink is also evident in how those selected for dismissal will be chosen. According to the plan, a commission of experts will decide the optimal number of personnel required for each state entity, while specially-trained workers’ commissions will decide the positions to be eliminated. It is unclear what role seniority, patronage, friendship, ideology, or socialist merit will play in the decision-making.
Perhaps most illustrative of the Cuban government’s groupthink (and as Dave Barry might say, I am not making this up) is the specificity with which the Cuban economic “reformers” have decided to allow those being fired to solicit permits, in order to become self-employed in precisely 178 activities. These include:
Trade number 23-the purchases and sale of used books; 29-attendants of public bathrooms (presumably for tips); 34-pruning of palm trees (apparently other trees will still be pruned by the state); 49-wrapping buttons with fabric; 61-shoe shinning; 62-cleaning of spark plugs; 69-typists; 110-box spring repairs (not to be confused with number 116); 116-mattress repairs; 124-umbrella repairs; 125-refilling of disposable cigarette lighters; 150-tarot cards fortune telling; 156-dandy (technical definition unknown, male escort?); 158-natural fruits peeling (separate from 142-selling fruits in kiosks).
In his economic dreamland of surrealist
juxtapositions and non sequitur, General Castro
Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s
Italy, Ceausescu’s Romania, Cambodia under the Khmer
In Cuba, long-held Marxists-Leninist
assumptions will not be swapped for another set
**Previously published in Foreign Policy Digest on March 1, 2011.
*José Azel is a Senior Research Associate at the Institute for Cuban and Cuban-American Studies, University of Miami. He is the author of the recently published book, Mañana in Cuba.
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