In 1993 Fidel Castro found himself on the ropes with the economic crisis and accepted the circulation of the dollar in Cuban territory. Until then, possessing foreign currency could cost you several years in prison. “The enemy’s money” came to stay, although years later it would be replaced by substitute called the “convertible peso” or CUC. Among the most notable details of the decree that authorized the dual currency — the CUC and the Cuban peso — were the motives for doing so. The Official Gazette recognized that this measure “contributes positively to reducing the number of incidents characterized as punishable which will relieve and support the work of the police and the courts. That is, it would save work for prosecutors and judges if people were allowed to carry dollars. However, the key lay in the date chosen for the new law to take effect: August 13, the birthday of the Maximum Leader.
Two decades have passed since that time and Cuban society is still gripped by monetary schizophrenia. Fidel Castro no longer holds the post of president but it seems that his brother is also given to mixing legal relaxations with the family calendar. On June 3 he commemorated not only the 82 years of his life, but he also put an end to a strategy of excessive control of Internet access. Just a few hours from the end of this day, the 118 cybercafés with public connections to the web opened. A somewhat bitter birthday gift for the General, who had been delaying however possible the conversion of Cubans into internauts. Most likely this small step toward information flexibility will also happen with the legalization of the dollar: it will not be reversed.
Since this morning, Tuesday, the new public Internet sites began to operate with Internet and Intranet service. At a cost of 4.50 convertible pesos, a little more than $4.50 US, the user can access cyberspace for one hour. You can also choose to surf the national intranet for 0.60 CUC, or access “.cu” email only for 1.50 CUC an hour. In various tests performed — undetected, so far — none of the pages considered political were censored. With a minimum connection speed of 512 KBPS, the interface that welcomes the user as soon as the computer is turned on is called Nauta. Although all the workings and installed programs run on Microsoft Windows.
On opening day Internet portals accessible from the new locations included those such as El Nuevo Herald, news sites in the style of Diario de Cuba, and several blogs critical of the government written from the Island. The high cost of the service, in a country where the average monthly wage is around 17 dollars, seems to be the key constraint. This contradicts the deputy minister of communications who recently declared that “it will not be the market that regulates access to knowledge in our country.” To date, those who have hard currency — authorized to circulate by the former president — will be able to afford entry to social networks, to classified ad sites, and the tempting employment or scholarship sites where you can register to try to emigrate.
Curiously both measures — the legalization of the dollar and this timid opening to the Internet — have been the fruit more of pressure than the government’s desire for openness. To allow Cubans to possess convertible currency was a decision taken in the face of evidence that in the informal market the so-called “greens” circulated every day more strongly at the end of the eighties and the beginning of the nineties. A similar situation happens now with the information that flows from the vast World Wide Web. Pirate connections to the web on one side and the advance of the clandestine webs of audiovisual distribution on the other, confirm the futility of stemming the tide of kilobytes.
The first users who tried the cybercafés this morning were surprised at the speed of the connection, but lamented the excessive costs. Several official reporters hovered around the tables of a local center in the Vedado neighborhood trying to capture snapshots of Havanans throwing themselves en masse on the keyboards. Instead, they found a few cautious clients sizing up the limits of the new service. Each one had to show their ID card and sign a contract before seating themselves in front of a computer screen. A contract that clarified that the service should not be used for “actions that can be considered (…) harmful or detrimental to public security.” A sword of Damocles that could be interpreted also from political and ideological considerations.
From birthday to birthday, so go changes in Cuba. Twenty years ago it was the dollar… today the Internet.
20 Years Later: From the Dollar to the Internet
L’organisation internationale contre la torture lance une “intervention d’urgence” pour José Daniel Ferrer
MIAMI, États-Unis.- L’Observatoire pour la protection des défenseurs des droits humains (OPDDH), a lancé ce vendredi une campagne d'”Interventions urgentes” en faveur du prisonnier politique et de conscience cubain José Daniel Ferrer García, leader de l’Union patriotique de Cuba (UNPACU), selon une note de Radio Televisión Martí.
Who Is Filling Cuba’s University Classrooms?
New students at the University of Havana (14ymedio) Born during the Special Period, they have grown up trapped in the dual currency system, and when they get their degrees Raul Castro will no longer be in power. They are the more than 100,000 young people just starting college throughout the country. Their brief biographies include educational experiments, battles of ideas, and the emergence of new technologies They know more about X-Men than about Elpidio Valdés, and only remember Fidel Castro from old photos and archived documentaries. They are the Wi-Fi kids with their pirate networks, raised with the “packets” of copied shows and illegal satellite dishes
Born during the Special Period, they have grown up trapped in the dual currency system, and when they get their degrees Raul Castro will no longer be in power. They are the more than 100,000 young people just starting college throughout the country. Their brief biographies include educational experiments, battles of ideas, and the emergence of new technologies They know more about X-Men than about Elpidio Valdés, and only remember Fidel Castro from old photos and archived documentaries.
They are the Wi-Fi kids with their pirate networks, raised with the “packets” of copied shows and illegal satellite dishes. Some nights they would connect through routers and play strategy video games that made them feel powerful and free. Whoever wants to know them should know that they’ve had “emerging teachers” since elementary school and were taught grammar, math and ideology via television screens. However, they ended up being the least ideological of the Cubans who today inhabit this Island, the most cosmopolitan and with the greatest vision of the future.
On arriving at junior high school they played at throwing around around the obligatory snack of bread while their parents furtively passed their lunches through the school gate. They have a special physical ability, an adaptation that has allowed them to survive the environment; they don’t hear what doesn’t interest them, they close their ears to the harangues of morning assemblies and politicians. They seem lazier than other generations and in reality they are, but in their case this apathy acts like an evolutionary advantage. They’re better than us and will live in a country that has nothing to do with what we were promised.
A few months ago, these same young people, starred in the best known case of school fraud uncovered publicly. Some of those hoping to earn a place in higher education bought the answers to an admissions test. They were used to paying for approval, because they had to turn to private tutors to teach them what they should have learned in the classroom. Many of those who recently enrolled in the university had private teachers starting in elementary school. They are the children of a new emerging class that has used its resources so that their children can reach a desk at the right hand — or the left — of the alma mater.
These young people dressed in uniforms in their earlier grades, but they struggled to differentiate themselves through the length of a shirt, a fringe of bleached hair, or through pants sagging below their hips. They are the children of those who barely had a change of underwear in the nineties, so their parents tried to make sure they didn’t “go through the same thing,” and turned to the black market for their clothes and shoes. They mock the false austerity and, not wanting to look like militants, they love bright shiny colors and name brand outfits.
Yesterday, with the start of the school year, they received a lecture about the attempts of “imperialism to undermine the revolution through its youth.” It was like a faint drizzle running over an impervious surface. The government is right to be worried; these young people who have entered the university will never become good soldiers or fanatics. The clay from which they are made cannot be molded.
Who Is Filling Cuba’s University Classrooms?
A Caricature of a Cuban Woman
Woman drinking (14ymedio) 14yMEDIO, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 22 August 2014 — A woman on national television said that her husband “helps” her with some household chores. To many, the phrase may sound like the highest aspiration of every woman. Another lady asserts that her husband behaves like a “Federated man,” an allusion to the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), which today is celebrating its 54th anniversary. As for me, on this side of the screen, I feel sorry for them in the face of such meekness
14yMEDIO, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 22 August 2014 — A woman on national television said that her husband “helps” her with some household chores. To many, the phrase may sound like the highest aspiration of every woman. Another lady asserts that her husband behaves like a “Federated man,” an allusion to the Federation of Cuban Women (FMC), which today is celebrating its 54th anniversary. As for me, on this side of the screen, I feel sorry for them in the face of such meekness. Instead of the urgent demands they should mention, all I hear is this appreciation directed to a power as manly as it is deaf.
It’s not about “helping” to wash a plate or watch the kids, nor tiny illusory gender quotas that hide so much discrimination like a slap. The problem is that economic and political power remains mainly in masculine hands. What percentage of car owners are women? How many acres of land are owned or leased by women. How many Cuban ambassadors on missions abroad wear skirts? Can anyone recite the number of men who request paternity leave to take care of their newborns? How many young men are stopped by the police each day to warn them they can’t walk with a tourist? Who mostly attends the parent meetings at the schools?
Please, don’t try to “put us to sleep” with figures in the style of, “65 percent of our cadres and 50 percent of our grassroots leaders are women.” The only thing this statistic means is that more responsibility falls on our shoulders, which means neither a high decision-making level nor greater rights. At least such a triumphalist phrase clarifies that there are “grassroots leaders,” because we know that decisions at the highest level are made by men who grew up under the precepts that we women are beautiful ornaments to have at hand… always and as long as we keep our mouths shut.
I feel sorry for the docile and timid feminist movement that exists in my country. Ashamed for those ladies with their ridiculous necklaces and abundant makeup who appear in the official media to tell us that “the Cuban woman has been the greatest ally of the Revolution.” Words spoken at the same moment when a company director is sexually harassing his secretary, when a beaten woman can’t get a restraining order against her abusive husband, when a policeman tells the victim of a sexual assault, “Well, with that skirt you’re wearing…” and the government recruits shock troops for an act of repudiation against the Ladies in White.
Women are the sector of the population that has the most reason to shout their displeasure. Because half a century after the founding of the caricature of an organization that is the Federation of Cuban Women, we are neither more free, nor more powerful, nor even more independent.
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A Caricature of a Cuban Woman
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