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Posted May 23, 2008 by publisher in Cuban Healthcare

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Fernanda Mello Veiga | OVUM

Last week, the Cuban government announced that ordinary Cubans will not be allowed to have Internet access in the short term, even though the government authorised ordinary citizens to buy computers and own mobile phones on 1 April 2008.

After last month’s announcement, we were hopeful that Fidel Castro’s brother, Raul Castro, would be keen to break the communications and digital divide in Cuba. Currently, Cuba has an estimated fixed line penetration of 10% and some 200,000 computers connected to the Internet for a population of almost 11.5 million inhabitants.

However, the situation is more complicated than it seems, due to economical and technical constraints, as well as the United States embargo against Cuba. As Cuba has not yet privatised or liberalised its telecoms market, political decisions directly affect the telecommunications sector. As well as the difficulty in obtaining Internet access, there are also content restrictions on what Cubans can access.

Raul Castro is not willing to invite Carlos Slim (owner of Telmex/America Movil) or Cesar Alierta (Telefonica S.A. CEO) to participate in the privatisation of state-controlled company Etecsa, or to award them licences to operate as alternative telecoms operators. We believe that these two groups would be very interested in investing in the country and therefore increasing their Latin American regional coverage. However, Raul Castro will stick to Fidel’s plan to improve Cubans’ connectivity through state-owned assets, sharing similar ideas with Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez, who re-nationalised Venezuelan incumbent CANTV in March 2007.

In January 2008, Venezuelan state-owned telecoms operator CVG Telecom and Cuban company Transbit announced that they had formed a joint venture - Telecomunicaciones Gran Caribe - to build a 1,552-kilometre submarine fibre-optic cable connecting Venezuela to Cuba and some other Caribbean countries (Jamaica, Haiti, Curacao and Trinidad), completing rings of submarine fibre-optic cabling. The cable is expected to run from La Guaira in northern Venezuela to Siboney in the eastern province of Santiago de Cuba.

Ordinary Cubans will have to wait until 2010 - when the submarine cable is expected to be ready for service - even though Cuba has been officially connected to the Internet since 1996. Considering Cuba’s low purchasing power and the government’s manipulation of information, we are slightly sceptical as to whether prices will be kept sufficiently low to enable ordinary Cubans to afford Internet connections.

The good news came yesterday when US president George Bush decided to soften the 50-year US embargo against Cuba, allowing Americans to send mobile phones to Cuba as gifts, and even mentioning that US non-governmental organizations could offer computers to Cuba. Sending mobiles and computers is a good start, as the price of these devices is one of the biggest obstacles to improving penetration rates. It is also worth bearing in mind that the population will still have to pay an activation fee (e.g. $120 for mobile) and monthly fees, which are still very expensive for the average monthly salary of $20.

It seems that even the US president is willing to help Cuba to break the digital divide. However, it is now up to Raul Castro to allow handsets and computers to reach the population.

  1. Follow up post #1 added on December 30, 2008 by Fernando

    This is a silly article.  Because of the Helms-Burton law, Carlos Slim and other international internet providers can not participate in telecommunications in Cuba without severe economic reprisals.

  2. Follow up post #2 added on December 30, 2008 by publisher with 3905 total posts

    Because of Fidel Castro, Cuban citizens cannot participate in telecommunications in Cuba without severe economic reprisals.

    Cuba consulting services

  3. Follow up post #3 added on May 27, 2010 by ChicaDeOriente with 1 total posts

    The article is not silly. do your damn homework.he Helms–Burton Act was condemned by the Council of Europe, the European Union, Britain, Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Argentina and other U.S. allies that enjoy normal trade relations with Cuba. The governments argued that the law ran counter to the spirit of international law and sovereignty.

    After a complaint by the European Union with the World Trade Organization, a dispute settlement panel was established. Later, the work of the panel was suspended to find a solution through negotiations. After a year, the panel lost its jurisdiction over the matter, and the EU did not pursue the matter any further before the WTO.

    The law has also been condemned by humanitarian groups because these groups argue that sanctions against an entire country will affect only the innocent population.

    The law provides for compensation of only the largest of claims for confiscated property, primarily only the claims of large multinational companies (valued at roughly $6 billion). It fails to provide for the claims of individuals of the exiled Cuban-American community whose personal residences were confiscated.

    The European Union introduced a Council Regulation (No 2271/96)[4] (law binding all member states) declaring the extraterritorial provisions of the Helms–Burton Act to be unenforceable within the EU, and permitting recovery of any damages imposed under it. The EU law also applied sanctions against US companies and their executives for making Title III complaints.

    The United Kingdom had previously introduced provisions by statutory instrument[5] extending its Protection of Trading Interests Act 1980 (originally passed in the wake of extraterritorial claims by the U.S. in the 1970s) to United States rules on trade with Cuba. United Kingdom law was later extended to counter-act the Helms–Burton Act as well. This included criminal sanctions for complying with certain provisions of the Helms–Burton Act whilst in the UK.[6]

    Mexico passed a law in October 1996 aimed at neutralizing the Helms–Burton Act. The law provides for a fine of 2.2 million pesos, or $280,254, against anyone who while in Mexican territory obeys another country’s laws aimed at reducing Mexican trade or foreign investment in a third country.

    Similarly, Canada passed a law to counteract the effect of Helms-Burton. In addition, its legislature proposed (but did not pass) the Godfrey-Milliken Bill that satirized Burton-Helms. Sponsored by a Loyalist descendant, it demanded recompense for United Empire Loyalists and proposing similar travel restrictions on those “trafficking” in property confiscated during the American Revolution.

    Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush both signed a provision allowing for a waiver of the law. Effective May 10, 1999, with CFR Title 31 Part 515, the act was amended. It is being enforced.
    and..currently farmers are trading and have been trading with Cuba.

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