Sunday, July 31, 2005

Computers for Cuba?

A State Department Report to the President: Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba last year said:

A number of regulations govern the export from the United States of equipment, including computers, to Cuba, a state sponsor of terrorism. These export rules are intended to restrict the Cuban government's access to sensitive technology and to prevent the Cuban government from transferring this technology to other hostile states.

At the same time, it is essential that Cuban civil society gain greater access to computers and other basic modern equipment, such as faxes and copiers, in order to help expand distribution of information and facilitate pro-democracy activities. Greater access to these types of equipment will assist Cuba's civil society in its efforts to disseminate information to the Cuban people and counter regime efforts to harass, intimidate, and stifle opposition and dissent through exclusive control over all forms of communication.

I bring this up now because Condoleezza Rice has just appointed veteran Republican Party activist Caleb McCarry as Cuba Transition Coordinator, with the responsibility to oversee just this program. McCarry is also described as a "Republican congressional staffer with 20 years of involvement in hemispheric issues". "McCarry has served for eight years on the House International Relations Committee's Republican staff…In Miami, the Cuban American National Foundation, which speaks for many of the community's more fervent exiles, also lauded the appointment."

We need to get a political movement together to create computer and communication programs for Cuban civil society. I would of course recommend a village-based program in health, education, e-commerce and the rest of what I plug on this blog, along with the ability for Cubans to blog openly to the world and such.

It's going to be hard going to push against the resistance of both Cuba and the U.S. (in spite of this stated policy) but it's essential. It won't be the quick fix that the American Right is looking for. Internet access in China hasn't brought down the Communist regime there. But it will have its effect. Like the Hong Kong Web site on SARS a few years back, which broke through the wall of government obfuscation there. It unquestionably saved lives, and probably was a factor in the dismissal of the high-ranking Chinese health officials who orchestrated the coverup attempt.

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