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Politically Correct Rhetoric at a Technical Conference in Cuba

In a recent post, I argued that the US embargo, the poor state of the Cuban economy and fear of free information had stifled the Cuban Internet at its inception in 1996, but that twenty years later, those constraints were significantly reduced. I suggested that the Cuban Internet was being held back by mundane bureaucracy and political correctness.

We got an example of that at the Latin American and Caribbean Network Information Center (LACNIC) conference in Havana this week. LACNIC is one of five regional Internet registries and technology and policy leaders attend their conferences.

It is noteworthy that LACNIC25 was held in Cuba this year and, since it is a prestigious event, ETECSA was one of the sponsors and ETECSA president Mayra Arevich Marín gave a talk.

She said that the “economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the United States was the main obstacle to the development of ICT and the Internet in Cuba.” She also called for regional cooperation to stop “the illegal use of computer systems of nations by individuals, organizations and states to attack third countries.”

Ms. Arevich Marín knows that President Obama has essentially ended restrictions on the export of Internet infrastructure and services to Cuba and they have succeeded in financing and doing business with companies from China and other nations.

I assume the illegal use of computer systems she alluded to are the foolish efforts of USAID—projects like ZunZuneo and the Alan Gross affair. Again, I think she knows that, had they gone undetected, these projects would have not made a huge difference, but they have been used as propaganda tools.

Bureaucrats in any nation are under pressure to remain politically correct and Cuba’s bureaucracy is close to 60 years old. I hope this sort of rhetoric is only for show.

By Larry Press, Professor of Information Systems at California State University

He has been on the faculties of the University of Lund, Sweden and the University of Southern California, and worked for IBM and the System Development Corporation. Larry maintains a blog on Internet applications and implications at cis471.blogspot.com and follows Cuban Internet development at laredcubana.blogspot.com.

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