Havana Con Cojones


Speaking of Cuba, this New York Times piece on dissident bloggers and cell-phone users in Havana—made known to me by a Bill Moyers producer, I might add—is a very heartening surprise. Not because it's in the New York Times, but because nine years ago it cost upwards of $600 a month to have a cell-phone in Cuba, never mind an Internet connection.

A growing underground network of young people armed with computer memory sticks, digital cameras and clandestine Internet hookups has been mounting some challenges to the Cuban government in recent months, spreading news that the official state media try to suppress.

Last month, students at a prestigious computer science university videotaped an ugly confrontation they had with Ricardo Alarcón, the president of the National Assembly.

Mr. Alarcón seemed flummoxed when students grilled him on why they could not travel abroad, stay at hotels, earn better wages or use search engines like Google. The video spread like wildfire through Havana, passed from person to person, and seriously damaged Mr. Alarcón's reputation in some circles.

Here's Alarcón's be-flummoxing:

How do the kids get connected in a totalitarian economy? Through its partnerships with foreign (non-American) investors:

People who have smuggled in satellite dishes provide illegal connections to the Internet for a fee or download movies to sell on discs. Others exploit the connections to the Web of foreign businesses and state-run enterprises. Employees with the ability to connect to the Internet often sell their passwords and identification numbers for use in the middle of the night.

Hotels catering to tourists provide Internet services, and Cubans also exploit those conduits to the Web.

Imagine what would happen if you let U.S. companies invest, and U.S. citizens to both travel and send remittances freely?

Bonus NYT-Cuba story—a Cuban-American New Yorker performs a one-woman middle finger aimed at her Fidel-apologist neighbors:

"[T]he longer I live here, the more I realized, they don't care." […]

"They would rather keep their little pop revolution instead of saying it is a dictatorship," Ms. Peláez said. "I had somebody come to me after a show and say, 'Don't ruin Cuba for me!' Well, why not? They're holding on to a fantasy."

Come to reason's Cuba event, starring Rep. Jeff Flake, this Wednesday!