A recent decision by the United States Treasury Department to open up closed societies to American technology companies was met, at least for the first few hours, with radio silence in Cuba.
Treasury's intention is to “make sure the information flows,” under the assumption that “it will have political implications in a range of ways.” But the minimal reaction online is indicative of one of the biggest obstacles to this effort: social media works best with internet access.
According to the International Telecommunications Union, only 13 percent of Cubans have access to the web, while the other two countries subject to the ruling, Iran and Sudan, have 31 and 10 percent of their populations on the web, respectively.
Sentiments trickling out of the Cuban blogosphere — including blogs both from the island and from its diaspora–underscore this point. “This will be for the personal use of the dictators, because you aren't allowed to have internet in Cuba,” comments El Colmo at Diario de Cuba.
Juan Rodriguez, also at Diario de Cuba, adds:
La dictadura militar cubana nunca dejara que el pueblo cubano tenga servicios de internet en sus casas:Desde que se implanto la dictadura ‘revolucionaria’ de Fidel Castro, al pueblo cubano le han bloqueado los accesos a las fuentes internacionales de informacion…ellos saben que mantener desinformado al pueblo cubano garantiza la sobrevivencia de la propia dictadura.
Lack of access isn't the only factor that may be muting Cuban reaction to the easing of restrictions. As Havana Times writes:
If these countries actually desire to use U.S. internet companies is another subject.
And, taking the prospect of anti-American sentiment a step further, Cuba Journal writes in a post titled “The Arrogance of it All”:
I say that the new rules will make it possible for the imperialists to communicate better with the mercenaries that they hire inside those three countries.
Stateside, US-Cuba policy blogger Phil Peters praises the decision, saying:
This is progress; the regulations are catching up to the Secretary of State’s speech on Internet freedom.
And Bloggings by Boz tweets:
The US lifted all restrictions on internet providers doing business with Cuba. They don't have that excuse anymore.
While it may be difficult to argue against a set of clear and transparent rules for what companies like Google and Yahoo can and cannot do within other nations, this step forward seems to have merely highlighted the lack of larger scale changes that many Cubans and Cuban-Americans may be hoping for.
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