In April 2012 my colleagues here wrote an extensive report on fraud in Cuba, revealed by a foreign blogger based in Cuba. However, it occurred to me that the ramifications of this article were not entirely analyzed and some important issues have been overlooked. You see, blogging from within Cuba is still a perilous affair – IF youre Cuban – and almost impossible, as Yoani Sanchez is continually reminding us.
Yet Raul Castro seems to turn a blind eye, so long as youre not Cuban? I mean, foreign bloggers who use their legal status as either company directors or travel agencies to obtain immediate internet access at their places of work in Cuba, then offer themselves as wannabe freelance reporters, blogging about life in Cuba, presumably from the unique perspective of living on the island and, being exempt from the often loathed single party rules on private journalism?
I find it mindboggling that NON-Cubans in Cuba are allowed carte blanche to report on: robberies and assault, fraud & corruption, the fledgling Cuban self employment sector, local news and recent changes in Cuba, yet, Cubans are victimized and seemingly limited from obtaining internet connections, either through a prohibitive 120$ monthly cost (one years salary) or by having to hide their activities by using cybercafés at $5 the hour (one quarter of a monthly salary). Wouldnt these Cubans be better off starting to work for a foreign business based in Cuba or a local foreign travel outfit, then using their place of work from which to blog just like their foreign bosses do?
Even more intriguing is that during my latest trip to Cuba, I was able to update my blog and send two articles back to editors from the Old Havana offices of one of these travel company´s. Apparently, a free service if you bought travel services from them
The committee to protect journalists, or CPJ, lists Cuba as number 9 from the 10 Most Censored Countries on the planet, yet CPJ appear to have overlooked the fact that foreign freelancers, who happen to work in Cuba, get to report anything they wish from the comfort of their offices, using an internet connection provided by the same government who restricts its citizens. This is an odd state of affairs in anyones viewright?
I then started looking at other foreign businesses in Cuba who are reporting from within the forbidden island, while seemingly carrying out travel related businesses as travel agents. I was stunned to learn that, the company my friend and I used for our recent hotel booking in Cuba, brazenly operates a mobile national journalist network in Cuba, sending journalists around the island to report on towns and provinces, take photos, videos and, even report their daily movements on the U.S blogger site tumblr alongside USA Today or the Washington Post and on Facebook
If this type of thing is permitted, it appears to me that Alan Gross should have opened a Jewish travel agency. Then have his Jewish friends from Cuba come over for a Cuban coffee and to communicate from his office, instead of providing them with cell phones and internet connections by other means? It seems to make no sense that he is serving time in Cuba for providing Cubans with a means to communicate while other non-Cubans report from Cuba daily.
Of course, foreigners in Cuba and, especially those who run government approved businesses, get uncensored internet at their places of work, almost overnight. In fact, it seems so simple for them to get uncensored internet at their offices, some even offer this as a free service to customers, as I found when I was allowed to connect my laptop at another one of these agencies.