Digital Dilemmas: The State, the Individual, and Digital Media in Cuba

Digital Dilemmas: The State, the Individual, and Digital Media in Cuba

Digital Dilemmas: The State, the Individual, and Digital Media in Cuba

Digital Dilemmas: The State, the Individual, and Digital Media in Cuba

Synopsis

The contentious debate in Cuba over Internet use and digital media primarily focuses on three issues- maximizing the potential for economic and cultural development, establishing stronger ties to the outside world, and changing the hierarchy of control. A growing number of users decry censorship and insist on personal freedom in accessing the web, while the centrally managed system benefits the government in circumventing U.S. sanctions against the country and in controlling what limited capacity exists.

Digital Dilemmas views Cuba from the Soviet Union's demise to the present, to assess how conflicts over media access play out in their both liberating and repressive potential. Drawing on extensive scholarship and interviews, Cristina Venegas questions myths of how Internet use necessarily fosters global democracy and reveals the impact of new technologies on the country's governance and culture. She includes film in the context of broader media history, as well as artistic practices such as digital art and networks of diasporic communities connected by the Web. This book is a model for understanding the geopolitic location of power relations in the age of digital information sharing.

Excerpt

Until 2001, the Russian government operated the largest radar base in the Western Hemisphere, located in the Cuban village of Lourdes, a few kilometers south of Havana. Set amid palm trees and tropical fields, the site at first glance appeared to be one of the island’s rural residential neighborhoods of anonymous, post-1959 high-rise apartment buildings. However, a military zone designation and an enormous dish antenna signaled that this was no typical communal housing sector. Rather, the base had been “RadioElectronic Station/Cuba,” where Russians conducted telephone espionage monitoring U.S. military and commercial movements, and also communicated with Soviet nuclear submarines. Established in 1964, two years after the Cuban Missile Crisis, this base became a strategic location for both the Soviets and the Cubans, with Cuba’s intelligence agents sharing valuable information with the Russians. Despite a drastic change in Soviet economic agreements with Cuba in 1991, the Lourdes base remained open, a remnant of the Cold War, housing some fifteen hundred Russian personnel, for another decade. Data gathered about American operations continued to bring Cuba a measure of national security during these years.

In October 2001, thirty-nine years after the founding of the Lourdes radar base, and under the specter of September 11, Russian president Vladimir Putin announced the base’s closure, with rent owing to Cuba of 200 million dollars. The money was never paid. What had happened was that President Putin, looking to the United States for economic alliance, instead had found pressure from the Bush administration, and, to the dismay of Russian generals, agreed to schedule the immediate dismantling of the base without consulting the Cuban government. In a diplomatic coup, the United States had . . .

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