Cuba Says Internet Ban Deters "Satanic Cults"

Robert Kent writes: "The Cuban government has responded angrily to worldwide protests of its
tightened ban on home-based access to the Internet, scheduled to go into effect in
late January. Only a small percentage of Cuban citizens are allowed to surf
the World Wide Web, and even before the new ban was enacted home-based access to
the Internet through the public telephone service was generally illegal, but
until now many Cubans have been able to surf the Net clandestinely by
purchasing passwords on the black market. The new law will make it easier for the
government to track down and prosecute unauthorized Internet use over the public
telephone lines.From its London-based headquarters, Amnesty International issued a report
saying that the new law to "impede unofficial Internet use constitute[s] yet
another attempt to cut off Cubans' access to alternative views and a space for
discussing them." In a letter to a New Zealand newspaper (Scoop, January 24), the
Cuban ambassador, Miguel Ramirez, described Amnesty International's protest
as "totally biased and full of prejudices according to the values of western
and developed countries...," and he defended Cuba's new law as a reasonable
measure to "regulate access to [the] Internet and avoid hackers, stealing
passwords, [and] access to pornographic, satanic cults, terrorist or other negative
sites..."

In response to a Jan. 16 protest of the new Internet ban by the intellectual
freedom committee of the International Federation of Library Associations,
known by the acronym FAIFE, Cuba's official library association accused FAIFE of
using a double standard in criticizing violations of intellectual freedom.
Declaring that the IFLA committee "spins acrobatic pirouettes in order not to
scrape, not even with a flower petal, the 'democratic' societies...," the Cuban
organization complained of FAIFE's alleged neglect of western nations such as
Spain, where the government "closes newspapers and tortures journalists," and
the United States, where the government "hunts down readers' records,
blackmails librarians, and violates the privacy of all of its citizens'
communications." In contrast, the island's government-controlled library association accused
FAIFE of "showing unusual vigor and astonishing agility when trying to issue
anathemas against revolutionary Cuba."
(http://www.bnjm.cu/librinsula/2004/enero/03/dossier/dossier.htm)

On the domestic front, Cuba's official press responded to international
criticism of the Internet crackdown with a flurry of defensive articles ("Cuba
Promotes a Truly Democratic Internet, Specialists and Social Leaders Affirm," La
Jiribilla, Jan. 24-30). The Cuban Minister of Information and Communications,
Ignacio Gonzalez Planas, asserted in a press interview (Juventud Rebelde, Jan.
18) that "everywhere, every day, measures are taken [in other countries] to
prevent disorder, which is essential if the Web is to function well. When we
ourselves take certain basic measures to control illegality, criticism
immediately flares up from people claiming to be worried about the 'freedom' of the
Cubans, even though [the critics] could confirm for themselves, although it pains
them to do so, that the Cuban people are the freest people on Earth."

The new law cracking down on home-based Internet use is only one segment of
an intensified government campaign to reduce contacts between Cuba and the
outside world. In recent weeks the police, in coordination with Cuba's nationwide
system of block committees, have renewed their efforts to locate and tear down
unauthorized satellite antennas used by some Cuban homeowners to view foreign
television stations; the owners of the antennas are heavily fined. Videotapes
stocked by clandestine rental stores, denounced as "transmitters of violence,
vice and pornography," are being seized in raids intended to suppress
"ideological diversionism" and limit television viewing to Cuba's official
broadcasters. Registered computers can be legally purchased only at government-owned
stores, and the baggage of arriving foreign visitors is often x-rayed to prevent
the importation of high-tech equipment. The regime is also conducting a
campaign called "Operation Windows" to register all computers on the island, whether
publicly or privately owned. Many Cubans, fearing that Operation Windows will
be followed by a general confiscation of home-owned computers, are hiding
their high-tech equipment from the police and the nationwide system of
neighborhood surveillance groups, known as Committees for the Defense of the Revolution.

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