To be a true blogger in Cuba, you need to be creative

Original author: Esteban Israel
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When 32-year-old Yoani Sanchez wants to update her daily blog about life in Cuba, she dresses up as a tourist and heads to the Havana hotel, welcoming employees in German. One has to go to such tricks due to the fact that Cubans cannot use the Network in hotels - these are privileges of foreigners.

In a recent post, Generacion Y Sanchez wrote about how police patrolled the streets of Havana, checking documents and bag contents in search of banned goods.

She and the community of other independent bloggers allow the rest of the world to look at real life in a one-party communist state, which is carefully hidden. Cyberspace is perhaps the only place that the state is not able to control.

Although on the Web they face many difficulties.

Once in the hotel, Sanchez must write quickly - an hour of access to the Network costs about $ 6, and this is the average two-week salary in Cuba!

In addition, independent bloggers must maintain their sites on servers that are located outside Cuba. They are also read mainly abroad. Although this is not surprising - less than 2% of the country's population has access to the Network - Cuba is at the bottom of the number of Network users in Latin America. Only public servants, scientists and researchers can use the Network - access is provided by the state.

Residents of Cuba can only have access to e-mail and Cuban sites, however, only from Internet terminals in post offices.

Rare as toilet paper

For Cuban free bloggers, difficulties accessing the Internet can mean publication intervals of days, weeks, or even months!

The author of the blog My island at midday says that his "access to the network is very irregular" ... "All things in Cuba (where there is a shortage of them), whether access to the Network or toilet paper, are obtained by deception, cheating."

The Cuban government accuses the United States of restricting Internet access through which Cuba cannot connect to a submarine fiber optic cable that provides broadband. Therefore, Cuba should resort to the use of expensive satellite channels to connect to the Internet through countries such as Canada, Chile and Brazil.

Critics say that this is just an excuse to control the Internet - a powerful tool for disseminating "incorrect" information, which some believe can destroy a country like the USSR.

Cuba already felt a taste of openness when the unhealthy Fidel Castro transferred his powers to his brother Raul last year, who supported the debate at all levels of Cuban society about the country's unproductive economy.

But the reaction to television programs in December, which had been censored since the early seventies, showed the Internet’s potential for change.

There was such a stream of e-mail from the Cuban intelligentsia, scientists and other people with Internet access that the government was forced to meet with them and apologize for the program.

Government Blogs

Dozens of government supporters, consisting mainly of government-hired journalists with access to the Web, have blogs. But most of them avoid expressing their own opinions about the hardships of everyday life in Cuba and adhere to the official course.

Basically, these blogs contain criticism of the ideological enemy of Cuba - the United States, and indeed completely duplicate the contents of the state-run press.

The one exception is the Lewis Sexto blog . Lewis, a columnist for the youth communist newspaper Juventud Rebelde, recently posted a critique of state bureaucracy. Sexto wrote last month that “without public criticism, mistakes will continue to harm the country.”

Others prefer to bypass politics and discuss cinema and literature, or yearn for Soviet cartoons, as is done on this blog .

But independent Cuban bloggers take a different course and prefer to remain anonymous and use pseudonyms for the benefit of their own protection.

A blogger introducing himself as Tension Lia publishes photographs of Havana's ruined architectural treasures on the Havanascity blog .

The author of the blog My island at midday said that only the anonymity of his blog allows him to talk about things that others would not dare to write about. “A divergence of opinion has always generated disapproval. "Intolerance continues to prevail in Cuba, although Cuban society is beginning to get used to diversity of opinion."

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