Raids on Independent Libraries

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pantaleon paticruzado

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May 23, 2011, 10:13:32 PM5/23/11
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Dear Steve,
 
We’ve gone through this before in a totalitarian state like Cuba setting up physical “independent libraries” is a very inefficient way to run a railroad.
 
As soon as state security locates them they begin to harass the librarians and whoever approaches them and continue to raise the ante until finally imprisoning the librarians and confiscating all books and support equipment such as computers, faxes, typewriters etc.
 
An even more diabolical and very common repressive tactic is to infiltrate the independent libraries with state security agents and then to imprison the non agents so that the  agents will be co-opted to positions of leadership. This allows state security to have access to the libraries’ list of readers and thus be able to identify not only active opposition figures, but the closet ones and present day sympathizers who will one day become opposition recruits,
 
This allows the security to sharpen their surveillance over dissidents and even to act proactively and to begin to track dormant opposition figures who it might otherwise have eluded , It also makes it possible for the Cuban security services to receive indirect financial support from the US government through the transfer to them of funds received by their agents in the independent libraries  thus violating US embargo regulations.
 
IMHO, if its purpose is to get information from abroad and from the Cuban opposition to the population of the island, the present set up is totally counterproductive.
 
It would only makes sense if what is desired is to dangle a group of defenseless people in front of the Cuban security services to provoke them into harassing and repressing them so that the Cuban government could then be accused abroad of violating human rights so as to:
  1. Create an unfavorable public opinion that would help to reduce tourism to the island.
  2. Prepare world public opinion for a “humanitarian” military intervention a la Libya if public protests ever break out in the island.
  3. Make it appear that public opposition to the Cuban government is increasing in the island to help increase congressional appropriations for these purposes.
 
This policy does not contribute to the reduction of public support for the totalitarian Cuban government since the general Cuban population:
  1. Never has access to  the information that these libraries contain.
  2. Nor becomes aware of the violation of human rights that occur when the freedom of information is violated and independent librarians are harassed and imprisoned.
Thus the long run ideological effect that is necessary for the population to demand  democratic transition and market reforms  is  absolutely mul.
 
A possible way to make the process of getting adequate information to the Cuban population more effective and less costly from the stand point of human suffering would be to do away with the present day organization of physical independent libraries and easily identified and targeted librarians.
 
What should substitute them?
 
I do not believe that the internet by itself can do the trick because, although increased population access to the internet could reap additional foreign exchange for the totalitarian government,  it would be very difficult for this policy to be adopted because:
  1. The price in foreign exchange that would eventually be charged  for such Internet access would not permit it to become widespread.
  2. When it is finally allowed it will be accompanied by  effective and restrictive system of regulations that would probably include:
    1. Formal prohibition to visit a series of sites.
    2. Censoring software that would make it impossible to access such sites directly and difficult to do so through proxy sites
    3. Surveillance of web messages and surfing history to detect abti government messages  and the violation of Internet access regulations.
    4. A system of sanctions for accessing prohibited sites and attempting to elude censorship that will probably include temporary and permanent exclusion from the Internet, monetary fines and even penal servitude.
Nor do I believe that satellite internet access will by itself solve the problem of providing non government supervised and controlled access to information for the Cuban population because:
  1. It is too costly to be widely accessible even if it were to be subsidized by the US government.
  2. Those that resort to it to avoid Cuban government supervision of their Internet messages would find themselves liable to a legal accusation of spying.
  3. With adequate software for such purposes existing for sale  at the Cuban government’s disposal, it would be possible to:
    1. Detect and locate the transmission from  Cuban territory of satellite Internet  messages  to the rest of the world.
    2. Intercept and interpret satellite  messages traveling to and from Cuba.
So an expenditure in satellite information systems would not be a way for the Cuban population to achieve freedom of information.
 
However, the creation of mixed networks that would combine the use of normal Internet or satellite transmissions  to and from Cuba with an internal courier or sales networks for thumb drives, CD’S and DVD’S would be a much better alternative than the present inefficient and high human cost practices.
 
My suggestion for a mixed network would be as follows,
 
Protected internet sites inside Cuban territory such as foreign consulates and embassies or the residences of foreign diplomats or of representatives of NGO’S, or the offices of foreign enterprises  could be used both to receive and send Internet messages abroad.
 
This would be complemented with an internal network of couriers that would transmit information using flash drives, CD’S and DVD’S. Such a network could distribute not only political information but also, literary and cultural works, specially music which is greatly appreciated by the Cuban population.
 
If possible the transmission of political information should be carried out pro bono so that those caught transmitting other types of information can avoid the accusation of being foreign or opposition agents.
 
All this cultural and scientific information should be sold commercially throughout the island and the proceeds should be used to finance the acquisition abroad of the flash drives, CD’S and DVD’s and to finance the dissident groups within the island.  The activity should b self financed within the island.  The sellers of the information should pay for the cost of buying and transporting the access media to the island and use the sales profit to support their families and themselves.
 
Government agents could not transfer US subsidies to the Cuban security services since they would have to repay the cost of the media that they received and this cost  could be made slightly  more expensive than the cost to the Cuban government of buying such media wholesale abroad.
 
Giving the dissidents a portion of the proceeds will provide the personal incentives for them to engage actively in distributing information and help to eliminate the need for financial support with all the legal danger such government monetary subsidies subjects them to.
 
US government financing for these activities should be limited to paying literary, scientific and musical authors for the copyrights that would allow the commercial distribution of their works inside of the island.
 
A non profit NGO should be set up for the purpose of acquiring such copyrights. Some formula should be found to link the world or  US sales of such works for payment to be made for their distribution in Cuba. 
 
Voluntary contributions to such an  NGO should be encouraged and be considered a charitable donation for tax purposes. Additional limits for charitable donations for these purposes should be allowed for Cuban Americans. Special tax incentives should be considered as  incentives for the partial or total volunry donation  of the copyright payments authors received to the  NGO itself.
 
US federal funding for such purposes should be secret in nature and the amount involved should not be made public.
 
It should also be linked to the voluntary contributions from the public and the interested authors that such NGO receives. A formula for such a subsidy should be created through Congress or the Executive branch which should specify how many dollars of subsidy the NGO would receive for every dollar of public or authors’ voluntary contribution that it takes in.
 
The support media that should be used for these purposes should be identical to those that are sold in the Cuban government foreign exchange stores. The general Cuban public would be able to access the information from these literary, scientific and cultural information through personal computers and cd or dvd players. It would also be able duplicate the information in such devises and redistribute it at will. But the cost of doing so with support media bought in government foreign exchange stores should be greater than that which is distributed through the dissident controlled sales networks.
 
Such practices should make this type of activity very widespread.  It should also make it extremely difficult for the government to prosecute those carrying or selling non political information, since those caught selling it could always argue that they bought or reproduced it for their own enjoyment and had no interest in selling it.
 
Since such trade would be so widespread and in demand, it would also make its prosecution  extremely unpopular. It would also force the security services to divide its attention among multiple carriers of such media support and thus facilitate the distribution of opposition information through couriers using similar media supports.
Solutions such as this that would substitute the fixed physical independent library sites and targeted librarians of today by a movable sale force that would be incentivized to sell its wares to earn a living and that would be hard to prosecute without the government losing public support.
 
Such an arrangement would help to increase the flow of non government information available to the Cuban public, to finance the opposition without the direct monetary involvement of the US government and  to create the public awareness that will one day help to make possible the democratic transition in the island.
 
Let us stop the present day masochistic policy that accomplishes nothing at such a huge cost of human suffering and that only aids the Cuban security services to repress the opposition and to receive indirect subsidies from the US taxpayer. We should not continue to make payments that only allow us shoot, ourselves and the Cuban democratic opposition that we favor, in the foot!
 
                                                                                                                 Pantaleón Paticruzado
 
 
  
 
 
 
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