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
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
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:
- Create an unfavorable public opinion that would help to reduce tourism to
- Prepare world public opinion for a “humanitarian” military intervention a
la Libya if public protests ever break out in the island.
- Make it appear that public opposition to the Cuban government is
increasing in the island to help increase congressional appropriations for
This policy does not contribute to the reduction of public support for the
totalitarian Cuban government since the general Cuban population:
- Never has access to the information that these libraries contain.
- Nor becomes aware of the violation of human rights that occur when the
freedom of information is violated and independent librarians are harassed and
Thus the long run ideological effect that is necessary for the population
to demand democratic transition and market reforms is
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:
- The price in foreign exchange that would eventually be charged for
such Internet access would not permit it to become widespread.
- When it is finally allowed it will be accompanied by effective and
restrictive system of regulations that would probably include:
- Formal prohibition to visit a series of sites.
- Censoring software that would make it impossible to access such sites
directly and difficult to do so through proxy sites
- Surveillance of web messages and surfing history to detect abti
government messages and the violation of Internet access regulations.
- 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
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:
- It is too costly to be widely accessible even if it were to be subsidized
by the US government.
- Those that resort to it to avoid Cuban government supervision of their
Internet messages would find themselves liable to a legal accusation of
- With adequate software for such purposes existing for sale at the
Cuban government’s disposal, it would be possible to:
- Detect and locate the transmission from Cuban territory of
satellite Internet messages to the rest of the world.
- Intercept and interpret satellite messages traveling to and from
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
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
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!