fran ilich on 17 Nov 2000 21:43:07 -0000

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[nettime-lat] FW: CUBA: Cybercafe for Intellectuals, Artists

{hola, envio este texto que me parece relevante para la discusion sobre
cuba. habla sobre la situacion actual respecto a internet. en todo caso la
veracidad de la nota podra ser confirmada o desmentida por quienes conozcan
la situacion en cuba. mainly the cubans, the cuban expatriates y los asiduos
turistas. en cuanto a mi, me gustaria conocer la isla en un futuro cercano /
ps, esten pendientes en el trabajo que prepara rafael lozano-hemmer en la
habana. / ilich.]
      Copyright 2000 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
          Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.

                      *** 09-Nov-0* ***

Title: COMMUNICATIONS-CUBA: Cybercafe for Intellectuals, Artists

By Dalia Acosta

HAVANA, Nov 9 (IPS) - Some 200 writers and editors will benefit
from the opening of ''El Aleph'', the first cybercafe in Cuba,
where the state maintains strict control over access to the

The cafe, which opened Nov 1 and takes its name from a story by
one of Argentina's literary greats, the late Jorge Luis Borges, is
located in the Palacio del Segundo Cabo, the headquarters of the
governmental Cuban Book Institute, in Old Havana.

''We are offering a service that everyone needs,'' Joanna
RamĦrez, a 19-year-old hired on the basis of her solid computer
skills to attend the cybercafe's clients, told IPS.

RamĦrez did not rule out the possibility of a future expansion
of the services offered, perhaps even to non-associates.

But for now, the clientele will be comprised of members of the
Cuban Book Institute, the Union of Writers and Artists, which is
closely associated with the government, and the Hermanos SaĦz
Association, which answers to the Union of Communist Youth.

For a monthly quota of 10 pesos (50 cents of a dollar in the
government exchange bureaus), associates will have six hours of
access to the Internet per month, and will be charged two pesos
(10 cents of a dollar) for every extra hour.

The associates will each have their own e-mail address, and can
take computer courses free of charge. And for a small additional
fee, they will have access to services like scanning, printing and
binding of documents.

Culture Minister Abel Prieto said at the inauguration of the
cybercafe that it was only a ''first step'' in the support that
culture authorities would offer artists in terms of computers and
information technology.

According to newspaper reports, the minister would like Cuban
writers to enjoy, in the future, home access to all of the tools
necessary for their work, including the Internet.

However, Roberto del Puerto, director of the division of the
Ministry of Informatics and Communications in charge of Internet
connections, said last month that for now there were no plans to
authorise household access to the information superhighway, due to
technical limitations and to the government's decision to seek
solutions that benefit a majority of the population, and not just
privileged minorities.

Cuba, with slightly more than 11 million people, had 35,170 e-
mail accounts in June, only half of which were able to communicate
internationally, according to the Ministry of Informatics.

Of the total 110,000 computers registered in the country, 3,625
had full access to the Internet. These mainly belonged to official
institutions, joint ventures operating with foreign capital,
accredited foreign correspondents and diplomats.

No one has the right to register on a personal basis for the
Internet or e-mail, according to Decree-Law 209 on ''access from
the Republic of Cuba to Information Networks of Global Scope'',
passed in 1996.

A commission made up of representatives of several ministries
and state bodies processes the applications, and decides what
individuals and institutions will have access to the Internet.

The government saw Cuba's connection to the information
superhighway on Oct 11, 1996 as an inevitable risk. ''There are no
alternatives, and we must not lose any more time,'' Vice-President
Carlos Lage had stated a few months earlier.

Information coming from abroad has been heavily filtered in
Cuba since the 1960s, when propaganda became a key element of the
strategy followed by opponents of the 1959 revolution headed by
Fidel Castro.

The government put filters in place to prevent access to web
pages posted by internal opposition groups or the independent
press, both of which are illegal, and to pornographic websites.

Cuban web-surfers find it practically impossible to download
documents that include information or messages criticising or
contradicting the government or the local human rights situation.

''The reason for all of these controls is purely ideological,''
commented a writer who preferred to remain anonymous. He has the
basic technical set-up, including an e-mail address through which
he can communicate with people and institutions abroad, but he
does not have the right to pay for access to the Internet.

The situation is even more difficult in other provinces of
Cuba, where most people with the technical set-up, in their homes
or workplaces, can only communicate with other e-mail addresses
within Cuba.

Elizardo S nchez, the president of the illegal internal
opposition group, the Cuban Commission for Human Rights and
National Reconciliation, said the government ''only promotes
access by those sectors which are in its own interest and which
benefit it.''

However, more and more people have found the way to connect to
Internet, either legally or illegally.

The Ministry of Higher Education announced this year the
gradual incorporation of all of Cuba's universities to the ''group
of the privileged'' with Internet access. In addition, 200
journalists working for the state-monopolised press were given 40
hours of Internet access a month.

Meanwhile, on the black market, passwords allowing access to
the Internet can be bought for 25 dollars a month, and web pages
are designed and posted on the web for a fee of 600 to 800

That means that web pages abound announcing houses or rooms to
rent, tourist guides, art galleries or private restaurants, posted
by people who hired the services of specialists working on the
black market.

Economists consulted by IPS did not want to venture an estimate
of the number of people with illegal home connections to the
Internet, who are mainly artists, scientists and academics in
general. (END/IPS/tra-so/da/ag/sw/00)


       [c] 2000, InterPress Third World News Agency (IPS)
                     All rights reserved

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