Monday, June 05, 2006

Cuban Libraries Update: Censoring the Internet

Here is the latest update from Robert Kent and Friends of Cuban Libraries. It was originally posted to the Conservativelib e-mail list:

The Friends of Cuban Libraries
June 1, 2006

Crisis Among "Internet Police" Revealed in Video

A video filmed at Cuba's University of Information
Sciences has revealed a crisis within the elite being
trained to administer the island's high-tech industry,
including the branch of the security police which
tries to suppress access to the World Wide Web. The
secret video, filmed on Feb. 18 and designated for
restricted viewing among the island's ruling elite,
was smuggled out of Cuba and placed on the Internet by
La Nueva Cuba, an electronic journal critical of the
Castro government. The 58-minute long Spanish language
video, entitled "Necessary Point of Reflection," can
be seen at:
(click here-DD).

The video shows a panel consisting of the University's
rector, Melchor Felix Gill, and three student leaders,
including the head of the local Communist Youth
organization, lecturing an assembly of students and
faculty. The panel members sternly denounce "serious
violations" of university regulations: large numbers
of students and faculty members have been detected
surfing the Internet, distributing passwords allowing
other persons to access the World Wide Web, e-mailing
people outside of Cuba without authorization, and
setting up clandestine chat rooms. These "serious
security violations" are a breach of Cuban laws which
outlaw access to the Internet and the possession of
unlicensed computers, except for a small number of
persons considered trustworthy by the regime.

The secret video contradicts public claims by the
Cuban government that the Internet is readily
accessible to all Cuban citizens. Many nations devote
resources to censoring or blocking individual
websites, but the Castro regime is one of the few
governments which tries to completely ban all access
to the World Wide Web, except for a privileged few.
Foreign tourists are allowed to surf the World Wide
Web at a few Internet cafes, to which the average
Cuban is denied entrance, but the tourists are charged
six dollars per hour or more for this privilege. Cuba
has been named among the world's "Ten Worst Enemies of
the Internet" by Reporters Without Borders.

In addition to criminalizing access to the Internet,
Cuba also persecutes a group of volunteers who have
opened uncensored libraries throughout the island in
an effort to challenge government control of
information. A number of Cuba's independent
librarians, now serving 20-year sentences following
one-day trials, have been adopted as "prisoners of
conscience" by Amnesty International, which is
demanding their immediate release.

In the video smuggled out of Cuba, the offending
students and faculty at Havana's prestigious
University of Information Sciences are accused of
using their expertise and government-supplied
equipment to circumvent the information security laws
they are being trained to enforce. The regime is
especially alarmed by the fact that these alleged
crimes are being committed by the students of an elite
university, who are subjected to intense scrutiny by
the State Security police before admission; 80% of the
students at the University of Information Sciences are
members of the Communist Youth organization.

In the course of the video, as the camera scans
members of the audience whose facial expressions range
from impassivity to defiance, the students and faculty
are reminded that they are banned from surfing the
Internet outside of supervised classroom exercises.
Details on the cases of four students expelled for
breaking the rules, complete with mug shots, are
highlighted by the panel members. The assembled
students and faculty are warned that new legislation
will make such security breaches punishable by prison
terms of up to five years, and they are urged to serve
as informers against any colleagues who commit
"crimes" such as surfing the World Wide Web outside of


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