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Thursday, December 15, 2016

Free Cuba Foundation Issues Statement: Cubans To Get Censored By Castro - Google Partnership

Google has signed an Internet deal with the Castro regime placing its technology in the hands of the dictatorship's telecommunications monopoly ETECSA. This is the latest bit of bad news coming out of Cuba.
Google chair Eric Schmidt, Dictator Fidel Castro in background. 

As reported by Google's blog: Alphabet/Google have signed an Internet deal with the Castro regime placing its technology in the hands of the dictatorship's telecommunications monopoly ETECSA. This is the latest bit of bad news coming out of Cuba.

Regrettably, the agreement does not expand public Internet access to the general public making it useless to the Cuban people that have been demanding uncensored Internet access at reasonable prices.

As political dissent grows on the Island and more opposition members are arrested, as Cuba still remains one of the least connected countries in the world, this deal with Castro’s Cuba is nothing potential tool for further oppression on the Island.

For over a year FCF and ENC have tried to advise this tech company about its actions but it still has managed to negotiate its way into a dark chapter of Cuban history.

Alphabet’s Eric Schmidt along with Brett Perlmutter, head of strategy and vice president of operations at Google Cuba, have been negotiating this deal for over a year which the regime had previously rebuffed. Things changed after Trump’s victory as fear that Obama's Cuba policy would be eliminated.

FCF is concerned that like in the case of China which hacked and stole Google user data the same could happen to Cubans that speak out against the regime. Having servers in Cuban territory gives intelligence agencies unfettered access to servers, methods and technology they can now steal, making this bad for shareholders and U.S. interests.

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Obama, Google and failure in Cuba

Google, the Obama Administration and avoiding in Cuba a repeat of the mess in China

Image taken from Gazette Review
Update December 12, 2016: Google signed an internet deal with the Castro regime placing the company's technology in the hands of the dictatorship's telecommunications monopoly ETECSA. This is the latest bit of bad news coming out of Cuba and was detailed in a statement issued by Google:
 “This deal allows Etecsa to use our technology to reduce latency by caching some of our most popular high bandwidth content like YouTube videos at a local level." 
However an anonymous tech reported off the record that "This may improve reception of cached materials, but not for example email which depends on local bandwidth." This will also not assist more Cubans getting on line. However it does present some opportunities for the dictatorship in Cuba ranging from public relations to technology theft.

The fruits of the Obama Administration's Cuba policy as we approach the two year mark of the December 17, 2014 announcement are proving rotten with a worsening human rights situation on the island and the European Union de-linking human rights considerations from normalizing relations with the Castro dictatorship. As of November 30, 2016 there have been 9,484 political arrests over the course of this year in Cuba, a ten year record and violence escalating against nonviolent dissenters.

Within this context the role of Google is troubling. First Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt went to Cuba in June of 2014 and returned singing the usual cliches in praise of the dictatorship:
The two most successful parts of the Revolution, as they call it, is the universal health care free for all citizens with very good doctors, and the clear majority of women in the executive and managerial ranks in the country.  Almost all the leaders we met with were female, and one joked with us that the Revolution promised equality, the macho men didn’t like it but “they got used to it”, with a broad smile.
The healthcare system in Cuba is a disaster and that has been well documented and debunked repeatedly. The claim that women can exert leadership in a male dominated dictatorship is absurd. The fact that women in Cuba are regularly beaten up by regime agents for exercising their basic rights and those with popular support brutally assaulted and killed should give the Chairman Schmidt pause over his effusive praise for the totalitarian regime.

Unfortunately, taking into consideration his past association with Sun Microsystems, the company that played an important role in erecting the Great Firewall in China that the Google executive now condemns and also Google's own past assistance of Chinese censorship both condemned by Amnesty International this kowtowing to the Castro regime should come as no surprise

Google has played an active role in giving a positive image to President Obama's failed Cuba policy with a temporary demonstration project in Havana that reveals more than it intended. Capitol Hill Cubans on April 7, 2016 reported the following on the presence of Google in Cuba:
Reports from Cuba have noted that the center has been given priority use by Ministry of the Interior ('MININT') officials and trainees. The MININT is home to Castro's intelligence services. Thus, the Google + Kcho Mor center has become a playground for Cuba's spies and future cyber-warriors. Furthermore, after passing various security checks, when regular Cubans finally get to enter the center, they are treated to censored online access. Web pages like CubaencuentroRevolico and 14ymedio remain blocked. Thus, Google has now officially become an extension of Cuba's censors.
This was predictable because it has happened elsewhere. American companies such as Microsoft, Nortel, Cisco and Sun-Microsystems collaborated extensively with the Chinese communists to set up an intranet that blocks free access to internet to hundreds of millions of Chinese. American technology companies identified and located Chinese dissidents for the communist regime who imprisoned and tortured them. For example, according to Amnesty International, Chinese journalist Shi Tao was sentenced to 10 years in jail after Internet company Yahoo! gave the authorities his personal email account-holder informationAmerican tech firms, such as Narus, aided the Mubarak regime in Egypt during its brutal crackdown tracking Egyptian activists during the Arab Spring and has also been suspected of helping Libya track dissidents.

Image taken from Al Jazeera
Now in the waning days of the Obama Administration the push is on fast track deals with the Castro regime with the aim of locking in his legacy on Cuba and Google is going along.

"Google is choosing to stand with the oppressor rather than with the oppressed, in clear violation of their "Don't Be Evil" code of conduct, partnering with an octogenarian Socialist Dictatorship instead of in favor of millions of Cuban youth; is not only wrong but a terrible business decision," denounced Augusto Monge of the Free Cuba Foundation. 

Going beyond how this effects the interests of free Cubans, but American corporations doing business with totalitarian regimes have negatively impacted U.S. national interests as well that are often ignored in favor of narrow, short term economic considerations. Unfortunately, corporate money has had a disproportionate impact on think tanks in Washington DC and these concerns go unaddressed.

Google shut down operations in China, for a while, when it discovered a cyberattack that targeted it and other technology companies. Chinese nationals had stolen source code for the Peoples Republic of China from American companies in what amounts to economic espionage. In January of 2016 the CBS program 60 Minutes aired a program on these practices called The Great Brain Robbery.

In Cuba businessmen of other countries doing business there have been subjected to arbitrary imprisonment, and confiscation of their assets. For example, Canadian automobile executive Cy Tokmakjian spent three years unjustly imprisoned in Cuba after being subjected to a show trial on September 28, 2014  when he was sentenced to 15 years in prison. The Castro regime seized about $100 million worth of company assets including bank accounts, inventory and office supplies, a ruling the company was challenging in international arbitration. (He is not the only Western executive to undergo the experience).  British investor, Stephen Purvis, who was jailed for 15 months and who the Castro regime confiscated 17.3 million dollars of his company's assets in an August 2013 letter to The Economist explained what may be behind the arrests of Western foreign investors:
I spent time with a number of foreign businessmen arrested during 2011 and 2012 from a variety of countries, although representatives from Brazil, Venezuela and China were conspicuous in the absence. Very few of my fellow sufferers have been reported in the press and there are many more in the system than is widely known. As they are all still either waiting for charges, trial or sentencing they will certainly not be talking to the press. Whilst a few of them are being charged with corruption many are not and the accusations range from sabotage, damage to the economy, tax avoidance and illegal economic activity. It is absolutely clear that the war against corruption may be a convenient political banner to hide behind and one that foreign governments and press will support.
An incoming Administration that wants to make America First, look out for U.S. national interests and save taxpayers some money should not only be looking at not going down the same rabbit hole in Cuba as others have done, but to get out of the mess that negatively impacts America in China.