It is interesting that the day before the AP stories about the U.S. government creating bogus communication accounts to allow Cubans to rebel, Cuban blogger Yoani Sánchez announced plans for a new digital newspaper. Apparently, she and her workers plan to distribute the reports with text messages, emails and digital memory devices.
When I am in Cuba, I sometimes ask Cubans if they know of Yoani Sanchez and read her reports. Cubans generally answer that they do not know who she is, or they know who she is, but have never read anything she has written, or they do not answer at all, just looking at me blankly.
It’s not really surprising, considering how hard is it to communicate digitally in Cuba. Few have phones, and those who do, have basic phones, not smart phones. Those who do have smart phones, generally have no data access.
Accessing the Internet via computer is another huge hurdle. Those who work in certain types of government occupations, such as professors, might have Internet connections solely for basic e-mail. But almost nobody has true Internet surfing capability. When Yoani began her blog, she sent all of her reports to people in the U.S. via e-mail, to be posted on her sites. A few years ago, she began going to hotels in Havana to post her stories, but that is very expensive and unreliable. I often looked for her in Havana hotels, but never saw her. I think she might have gotten true Internet capability in her home now, but I’m not sure.
I know that she Tweets, and other dissidents Tweet, and because of the frequency of her Tweets, I presume she has some access. But I do not know whether it is the Twitter accounts that were reported as being operated covertly by the U.S.
Also, Cubans worry about what they say in e-mails, and what people send them, because their e-mails are generally watched.
We have posted articles on this site previously as to how the use of Twitter and other immediate digital communication as a means of government take-over does not seem likely in Cuba because of the lack of live, instant, Internet-based communication. The government has done a great job in preventing such communication.
The article states that “Distribution [of the new digital newspaper] will rely on cell phones and emails because Cubans have more mobile phones than computers.” Yoani also apparently plans to transmit via memory devices, such as USB flash drives, DVDs and CDs, although it is unclear how she would physically pass around such memory devices.
The article states that, “She hopes the publication will be inserted into so-called Combos, which are DVDs and other large memory formats recorded with massive amounts of information like movies and telenovelas and regularly passed around hand-to-hand in Cuba these days.” It is true that Cubans can very inexpensively and easily purchase DVDs of U.S. and international movies that are still in theaters in stairwells, and little unofficial shops all over Cuba.
The article also states that, “Government officials will likely try to crack down on her digital newspaper…, perhaps by blocking its distribution, slandering its staffers or feeding them false information.”
The article also states that “Arresting the writers would be ‘clumsy.’”