Google Comes to Havana!

Google_CYMIMA20140628_0010_18Yoani Sánchez, Havana, 28 June 2014 – Have you ever tried to explain Google to someone who doesn’t know what it is? This happened to me a few days ago with a neighbor girl, barely 10, who asked me, “What’s a search engine?” I didn’t want to get deep into technology so I didn’t tell her anything about the algorithm these services use to organize information, nor did I talk about the “spiders” that travel the entire web to search sites, and much less of the race for positions on their lists, which obsesses so many. Instead, I explained it to her with a reference she could understand: “Google is like the magic mirror in fairy tales. You can ask it what you want and it will give you thousands of possible answers.”

Last night, Google knocked on our door. This isn’t a metaphor, the searcher came to find us. There were several representatives of the most popular of the search engines, peering into our lives and work. Faced with them, we couldn’t resort to so-called text tags, “keywords” and strict page ranks. These were human being, giving big hugs, laughing and curiously exploring the home of our technological inventions and our hairless dog. Jared Cohen, Brett Perlmutter and Dan Keyserling cheerfully climbed to the fourteenth floor of our building and shared with us our journalistic endeavor lacking in Internet, but with a strong commitment to today’s Cuban reality.

I asked if they had connected to the web from any public place.  “Slow, very slow”… they explained. Then we started talking about the future, their commitment to Cuban internauts, and the relief of knowing they were aware of the information difficulties we are facing on the island. Before that we had talked with Eric Schmidt and understood that something of the sharpness of his eyes and the certainty of his words could already be guessed in the simple wisdom of Google’s homepage.

It was a technological night without technology. No one took out their cellphones to check the web – it’s not possible in Cuba – and it didn’t occur to anyone to show us the latest doodle, nor to tell us in figures the scale of the company in which they work. We had the immense good fortune of standing in front of the magic mirror, but we didn’t ask questions nor did we want answers, we just described who we are and where we are going.


38 thoughts on “Google Comes to Havana!

  1. Mario,

    I can see lots of Cuban restaurants using Google for free. Is the “blockade” in your head?

    I type in Havana restaurants and I get a page full of Havana restaurants on Google maps, all with Google pages and Google reviews.

    I see Cuban Hotel chains, like Melia, and Cuban tour groups using Google Ads.

    I’m sure your little Havana restaurant could find a foreign advertiser to place them on Google Ads, if they want to.

    I’m sure they think it’s a waste of money.

    As I posted earlier with proof, even the Cuban military advertises its businesses on American owned internet companies. For free.

    We can all go on the internet and read Granma and a million other Castro propaganda sites.

    We can find any Cuban business using Google.

    In the meantime, Cuban friends of mine have waited over 10 hours in Havana to send out a measly email.

    Castro blocks them all from going on the Web.

    The trouble with your posts is that they are too short. People can read them and check if they are true.

    Most people who read Yoani Sanchez are not gullible conspiracy crackpots who believe every bit of Castro propaganda without doing a minute of fact-checking.

    Omar has a better strategy. He just plasters this site with propaganda from Pravda and Granma that never ends and nobody can read.


    BLOOMBERG: Goldman Doubts Oil Rally Is Enough for Venezuela: Andes Credit – by Sebastian Boyd – Jul 1, 2014

    Venezuelan bonds are posting the world’s best returns after a surge in the price of oil, the country’s biggest export. Goldman Sachs Group Inc. and Morgan Stanley say buyers are unwise to bet $115-a-barrel crude can fix a broken economy. Any extra cash generated by the OPEC member’s oil exports is likely to be siphoned off to pay for imports of consumer goods amid shortages of drinking water, toilet paper and medicine that have sparked anti-government protests, according to Daniel Volberg, an economist at Morgan Stanley in New York. After currency devaluations and energy output declines, President Nicolas Maduro is struggling to prop up an economy posting the world’s fastest inflation and facing the worst growth prospects outside Equatorial Guinea, according to the International Monetary Fund.

    “The level of macroeconomic dysfunction is so deep that the story really isn’t about oil prices anymore,” said Alberto Ramos, the chief Latin American economist at Goldman Sachs in New York. “Unless policies change dramatically, I’d be concerned even with the oil price at $150.”

    Since Maduro succeeded his mentor, the late Hugo Chavez, in March 2013, the economy’s stagnation has deepened as currency controls impeded imports and factories shut down. The number of cars built in Venezuela fell 77 percent in the first five months of this year as automakers including Ford Motor Co. and Toyota Motor Corp. froze production while American Airlines Inc. (AAL) and Air Canada have cut back flights to the country because of difficulty getting money out.

    Venezuela’s Finance Ministry didn’t respond to e-mail messages sent yesterday seeking comment on the government’s debt-payment policies.

    Drew Benson, a spokesman for Credit Suisse in New York declined to comment, as did Kerrie McHugh, a spokeswoman for Deutsche Bank in New York. Press officers at Bank of America, Citigroup and Goldman Sachs didn’t respond to requests for comment.

    Annual inflation reached 61 percent in May after the government carried out its biggest devaluation since the introduction of currency controls in 2003. The economy will probably contract this year and next by as much as 1 percent, according to the IMF.


  3. Omar,

    You say that “the only thing Google will bring to Cuba is the Plantation economy” and I would disagree here.. While US-Corporations, if given over 50% ownership of ther cuban subsidiaries, would certainly make the island a “”plantation” Google is not the case.

    That’s because Google does not have plans to open offices and to employ Cubans, probably because of the language barrrier.

    On the other hand, the information blockade, placed by the Google (obeying US laws) on Cuba (and Syria, Iran, North Korea) does direct damage to the Cuban business, large and small.

    There is a restaurant (nice, but prices for tourists and wealthy Cubans) almost around the corner where Yoani Sanchez lives. They would love to open an acccount on Google AdWords and cannot.

  4. My previous post is not an argument against the embargo.

    There is a moral component to the embargo as well.

    When the USA and the UN turned on Taiwan and recognized Communist China, they betrayed liberty and democracy for money and short-sighted political interests.

    However bad Taiwan was in the past, it was always a human rights paradise compared to Mao’s slave state.

    So the embargo doesn’t hurt Castro and bothers a few US corporations. So what?

    What is good for some US corporations is not good for the US economically and politically in the long run.

    As both China and Saudi Arabia prove. Who also remain brutal dictatorships.

    The US gave into Castro during the Mariel boatlift. The US gave into Castro during the 1994 boatlift.

    Giving into Castro just made it more difficult for Castro’s serfs to escape from Cuba. It did nothing to improve the lives of his serfs.

    Will the Castro gang change its behavior just because the US shows its friendly intentions and lifts a non-effective embargo?

    Will they remove their troops from Venezuela and stop supporting FARC and other drug cartels?

    Will they stop imprisoning dissenting Cubans?

    Will they continue to blacklist dissenting Cubans from work and education?

    Will they stop trying to starve Cubans into submission?

    Will they allow Cubans the right to travel out of Cuba?

    Or will ending the embargo just tell the Cuban people that no government even pretends to care about them any more?

  5. THE CASTRO OLIGARCHY MAFIA GIVES AN EVEN WORSE REPUTATION TO A USED OR NEW CAR SALESMEN! AND DO YOU REALLY BELIEVE THAT “authorities intend for 75 percent of income from automobile sales to be invested in public transportation”??
    YAHOO NEWS: In Cuba Just 50 cars sold in 6 months under new law – by Andrea Rodriguez
    HAVANA (AP) — Just 50 automobiles and four motorcycles have been sold in Cuba in the nearly six months since a new law took effect that let islanders buy vehicles from state-run dealerships without a special permit for the first time in decades, authorities said Monday. Sales totaled about $1.3 million, government news website Cubadebate reported, for an average of some $23,800 per vehicle. Cubadebate quoted Iset Vazquez Brizuela, first vice president of state-owned vehicle distributor Cimex, as saying there are 11 licensed auto dealerships nationwide.

    Many Cubans were delighted when the new rules were announced in December — and then left aghast by the sticker prices once they took effect the following month.

    A new Peugeot family car that listed for $262,000 in Havana would cost $53,000 in the United Kingdom, for example, while a compact Kia Rio hatchback that starts at $13,600 in the United States was on offer for $42,000 in Cuba.

    The licensed dealerships also sell used cars for significantly less, often former rentals with high odometer readings. These would appear to account for most or nearly all the sales reported by Cubadebate.

    But even cheaply made Chinese sedans decommissioned from government fleets list as used cars for well above what they command elsewhere brand-new.

    The prices were the subject of bitter and open complaint by many Cubans, most of whom earn about $20 a month working for the government.


  6. THE CASTRO OLIGARCHY MAFIA GIVES AN EVEN WORSE REPUTATION TO A USED OR NEW CAR SALESMEN! AND DO YOU REALLY BELIEVE THAT “authorities intend for 75 percent of income from automobile sales to be invested in public transportation”??

    YAHOO NEWS: In Cuba Just 50 cars sold in 6 months under new law – by Andrea Rodriguez

    HAVANA (AP) — Just 50 automobiles and four motorcycles have been sold in Cuba in the nearly six months since a new law took effect that let islanders buy vehicles from state-run dealerships without a special permit for the first time in decades, authorities said Monday.

    Sales totaled about $1.3 million, government news website Cubadebate reported, for an average of some $23,800 per vehicle.

    Cubadebate quoted Iset Vazquez Brizuela, first vice president of state-owned vehicle distributor Cimex, as saying there are 11 licensed auto dealerships nationwide.

    Many Cubans were delighted when the new rules were announced in December — and then left aghast by the sticker prices once they took effect the following month.

    A new Peugeot family car that listed for $262,000 in Havana would cost $53,000 in the United Kingdom, for example, while a compact Kia Rio hatchback that starts at $13,600 in the United States was on offer for $42,000 in Cuba.

    The licensed dealerships also sell used cars for significantly less, often former rentals with high odometer readings. These would appear to account for most or nearly all the sales reported by Cubadebate.

    But even cheaply made Chinese sedans decommissioned from government fleets list as used cars for well above what they command elsewhere brand-new.

    The prices were the subject of bitter and open complaint by many Cubans, most of whom earn about $20 a month working for the government.


  7. There was a push by the US government and telecoms to provide phone and internet service to Cuba several years ago, but Castro didn’t want it.

    Google may be building good will in Cuba in the hope that Castro one day changes his mind or that the next generation will open up. The original Castro gang is almost dead.

    And Google is building good will with the anti-embargo crowd because ending the embargo is so popular.

    Google realizes, like all other US corporations and politicians, that the US embargo has had almost no effect on the Cuban economy.

    If anything, the embargo has been a huge money maker for Castro, who has pocketed hundreds of billions from the Soviets, Venezuelans and others.

    One thing that has changed since communism collapsed is that most of Castro’s backers have got tired of the deadbeat not paying his debts.

    They continue with their socialist and anti-US propaganda because it’s in their national business interests. They don’t buy the Castro “embargo” act. They don’t care about Castro’s socialist ideology, they just want to make money.

    Although the Russians just forgave tens of billions of Castro debt, they had no choice and do not want to make any further loans that can’t be repaid.

    China wants to be repaid for all the investment they make in Cuba.

    The only big-shot suckers left are the Venezuelans. But if the Venezuelan dictatorship collapses, there goes 10 to 12 billion a year for Castro.

    The Google visit follows several other high profile US business visits to Cuba, so expect the US to be even friendlier to Castro in the future.

    The question is whether Castro reciprocates or tries to provoke the US government as he has done in the past.

  8. Pingback: Reports from Cuba: Google comes to Havana! | Babalú Blog

  9. GOOGLE PLUS ENTRY: PRESIDENT OF GOOGLE Eric Schmidt Shared publicly – Yesterday 8:45 AM

    Trapped in its history, beautiful Havana recalls the faded grandeur of Argentina and a Dick Tracy movie of automobiles. With the goal of promoting a free and open Internet, Jared Cohen and I and two others traveled to Havana on a business visa (more on that later.) Landing at Havana airport, the first airplane you see is a jet from Angola Airlines. The Cuban people, modern and very well educated define the experience with a warmth that only Latin cultures express: tremendous music, food and entertainment (most of which we were not able to sample, more about that visa in a minute.) Under Fidel Castro’s younger brother, Raoul, difficult economic conditions have brought many small liberalizing steps in the last few years. There are now 187 professions where private employment is allowed (otherwise private jobs are not permitted), and cars and apartments are beginning to be tradeable with restrictions.

    If Cuba is trapped in the 1950’s, the Internet of Cuba is trapped in the 1990s. About 20-25% of Cubans have phone lines but mostly subsidized land lines, and the cell phone infrastructure is very thin. Approximately 3-4% of Cubans have access to the Internet in internet cafes and in certain universities. The Internet is heavily censored and the infrastructure, which we toured, is made out of Chinese components. The “blockade” makes absolutely no sense to US interests: if you wish the country to modernize the best way to do this is to empower the citizens with smart phones (there are almost none today) and encourage freedom of expression and put information tools into the hands of Cubans directly. The result of the “blockade” is that Asian infrastructure will become much harder to displace. The technical community uses unlicensed versions of Windows (the US does not allow licenses to be purchased) and GNU Debian Linux on Asian hardware and using Firefox. A small technical community exists around free Android and expect it to eventually spread. As US firms cannot operate in Cuba, their Internet is more shaped by Cuban narrow interests than by global and open platforms.

    We heard that Cuban youth are assembling informal mesh networks of wifi-routers, and thousands connect to these networks for file sharing and private messaging. USB sticks form a type of “sneakernet”, where people hand hard to get information to each other and keep everyone up to date without any real access to the Internet.

    The information restrictions make even less sense when you find out that Cuba imports a great deal of food from the US as compassionate trade. The food imports to Cuba are important but so is importation of tools to Cuba for the development of a knowledge economy.


  10. WORLD MIC: How Cuba’s Gay Rights Activists Are Starting a Revolution With Kissing – by Carolina Drake

    Fidel Castro’s niece, Mariela, leads the country’s state-sanctioned LGBT rights organization, the Cuban National Center for Sex Education (CENESEX). However, it ultimately represents the interests of the state, rather than the community, according to Aro-Cuban journalist Sandra Abd’Allah-Alvarez Ramírez, who studies psychology and gender at the University of Havana, and has been writing on her own blog, Negra Cubana (Black Cuban) since 2006.

    Against the backdrop of gay pride in the United States — where cities are bursting with revelers and colorful parades celebrating gay rights — it’s not unusual to spot groups of same-sex couples kissing.

    But this past weekend, in Havana, Cuba’s capital, 60 people marked gay pride weekend with a second annual “kiss-in” to protest the country’s persisting homophobia and challenge the country’s tight grip on dissent.

    In a socialist country where organizations must align with the state’s official agenda, the kiss-in is a political provocation: “to appropriate the streets, to normalize the rights of every person to be themselves, [in] broad daylight, is a political challenge in our country,” Afro-Cuban journalist, activist and independent blogger Yasmin Silvia Portales Machado said in an interview with OnCuba magazine.

    The kiss-in, which last took place in 2012, happened during the country’s first-ever event celebrating gay pride, highlighting the struggles of Cuba’s LGBTQ community for visibility.

    A history of homophobia

    Back in 1963, Cuba’s now retired leader, Fidel Castro, used homophobia to lambast his opponents during a speech: “Sons of the bourgeois, they go around with their little pants that are too tight. … They want to do their girlie scenes out in the open.”

    In the 1960s and 1970s, openly gay people were sent to forced labor camps; the government used physical labor as a way to “cure” them of homosexuality.

    But Castro, and indeed Cuba, have come a long way from those days. Today, Castro has called for the acceptance of the country’s LGBT community.

    “Long gone are the days when political dissidents, rockers and gay people got sent to labor camps,” Portales Machado told Mic via e-mail. “Even Fidel Castro apologized for this shameful episode in 2010 to a foreign newspaper, obviously, as from inside Cuba, he was never wrong.”

    Yet even in today’s Cuba, repression still takes place in its public spaces, and gay people still face harassment from police for showing affection in public.

    It’s indicative of the island’s social environment, which remains highly heterosexual, patriarchal and predominantly white. According to Portales Machado, “There is a sustained effort to minimize the visibility of the LGBT community in public spaces; and whenever it is possible, to minimize their needs.” “This is a common practice regarding all the minorities in Cuba who are trying to claim rights, such as people of African descent, and religious, non-Christian groups.”

    But being independent of the state also means that the people behind the project also challenge the country’s tight hold on freedom of expression — a risk that activists like Portales Machado are willing to take to end homophobia in the country — a fight that will take more than lip service from Castro to tackle.



    THE VERGE: Google’s Eric Schmidt visits Cuba Continuing his tour of countries with authoritarian governments – by Carl Franzen

    Google Chairman Eric Schmidt doesn’t stay put for long. After visiting North Korea and Myanmar last year to advocate for increased internet and mobile connectivity in those countries, Schmidt visited Cuba this week. As Cuban blog 14ymedio reported, Schmidt and a delegation of other former Googlers and open internet advocates (including Jared Cohen, co-author of a book with Schmidt), contacted them on Friday night and toured Cuba’s University of Information Sciences in Havana yesterday. A Google spokesperson confirmed the visit with The Verge, saying Schmidt traveled with others to Cuba to promote a free and open internet, but declined to provide further details of the visit.

    It’s unclear just how Schmidt and his delegation traveled to the island and through what legal channels. American citizens have been technically banned from spending money on the Communist island nation since the Cold War tensions of the 1960s, making travel there for Americans often prohibitively difficult. But there are a variety of ways around the restrictions, and the Obama Administration has sought to make it even easier for Americans to visit in recent years.

    It’s also unclear precisely what Schmidt and his colleagues did on their visit. According to Yoani Sanchez, a blogger who resides on the island and helped found 14ymedio, Schmidt and his fellow travelers visited her organization’s offices and they mostly asked questions about life in Cuba. “No one took out their cellphones to check the web — it’s not possible in Cuba — and it didn’t occur to anyone to show us the latest doodle, nor to tell us in figures the scale of the company in which they work,” Sanchez wrote in The Huffington Post, describing the visit.



    LONDON FREE PRESS: Canadian facing 15 years in Cuban jail for bribery – by Daniel Trotta

    HAVANA – Cuban prosecutors are seeking a 15-year prison term for a Canadian businessman who has been tried on bribery charges, and 20 years for Cuba’s former deputy sugar minister who is accused in the same case, official media reported on Monday.

    Prosecutors are also seeking a total of $91 million in fines or forfeitures from three Canadians and 14 Cubans in a case that has been closely watched by potential investors wary of how Cuba treats foreign executives.

    Lead Canadian defendant Cy Tokmakjian, 74, was held for nearly 2-1/2 years before being charged.

    The main feature of the law is to lower taxes. But many foreign companies have said they are more interested in the general business climate, transparency and the rule of law, especially in light of this case.

    Cuban authorities publicly revealed details of the trial for the first time with an account in Monday’s edition of the Communist Party daily Granma, which said the evidence phase of the trial lasted from June 9 to 21 at a criminal court in Havana.

    The court has yet to reach a verdict, which is normally rendered within a few weeks of trial.

    Diplomats with knowledge of the case have previously said that prosecutors were seeking 15 years for Tokmakjian and 12-year sentences for his top managers, fellow Canadians Claudio Vetere and Marco Puche.

    All three Canadians from the Tokmakjian Group, a transportation and trading company, say they are innocent, but its vice president of finance, Lee Hacker, has previously said in a statement he feared the outcome of the case, which has strained Canada’s relations with Cuba, may be predetermined.

    Cuba shuttered the Canadian company in September 2011, arrested Tokmakjian and took the passports of the other managers. The charges include bribery, fraud, tax evasion, falsifying bank documents and other economic offenses.


  13. Omar Fundora said: “the only thing Google will bring to Cuba is the Plantation economy and a place for Cubans as serfs in American owned businesse”


  14. Mario,

    The lies you published are such whoppers, what do you suggest I call them?

    Are you saying you deliberately lied?

    Intelligent and honest people admit when they are wrong and apologize for unintentionally publishing defamatory lies.

    You prefer to change the subject, like every other anti-US conspiracy crank who posts here.

    Instead of lapping up lies manufactured by Cuba Solidarity Campaign and other crackpot sites, an intelligent person would spend 1 minute checking his facts.

    By the way, these Cuba solidarity campaigns ship hundreds of millions of dollars of medical supplies to Cuba, and ordinary Cubans never see one penny of it.

    Every last band-aid is stolen by Castro and friends before they make it into the hands of a poor Cuban.

    They depend on people like us for their band-aids.

  15. Humberto: the only thing Google will bring to Cuba is the Plantation economy and a place for Cubans as serfs in American owned businesses….the Cuban government is being prudent by going about all this internet expansion business slowly….there is more than meet the eye about the internet that impact national security of countries…not just for Cuba…

  16. Mario,

    Some people that want a better life for Cubans are willing to give up Cuba’s sovereignty to get it…I am not one of those people….

  17. When the true revolution comes along to dethrone Fidel´s ancient regime, and those new generations have access to the internet, it will be a sight to behold.

  18. Omar,

    thanks for publishing the details of Google ties to the military-industrial complex. Too bad the cuban governmet has not fully recognized the dangers of electronic invigilation. Or they recognize it, but are too cowardish to take part in the anti-NSA alliance.

    When Edward Snowden was in need for asylum the cuban president said some nice, non-binding words abut the case but stopped short of clear, straightforward offer of a asylum in Cuba (Ecuador did that).

    This puts a question mark on the revolutionary claim of the power circles in Havana.

  19. Observer,

    educated people don’t use the word “lie” in online discussions.
    Unless you are Cuban. That would explain everything and end the discussion with you.

  20. Mario,

    What you posted is an easily verifiable lie. Since you are apparently not naive, I thought you might have taken 10 seconds to verify your propaganda.

    Just type in Cuban hotels or Cuban tours and dozens of Cuban owned or international corporations with large Cuban interests pop up using Google Ads.

    Here’s one: Melia, which manages a lot of hotels in Cuba.

    I also get dozens of Canadian and International travel companies using Google Ads, from which I can book my flight and hotel in Cuba.

    Not only that, but Cuban specific and Cuban owned companies advertise that they are on Google and Facebook, right on their web pages!!!

    Go to the bottom of and click on their Facebook and Google profiles.

    Go to the bottom of and click on their Facebook or Twitter page.

    Gaviota is owned by the Cuban military. The Cuban military advertises its businesses on Facebook and Twitter!

    Like I said, only US residents and US-based travel companies have any sort of restrictions on travel and advertising.

    You could take a minute to verify all this, or you could believe everything you read on anti-US and pro-Castro propaganda sites.

    Did it every strike you that a propagandist might make up quotes or take them out of context?


    THE DAILY BEAST: Who Will Maduro Blame for Venezuela’s Blackout This Time? – by Daniel Lansberg-Rodríguez
    Where his predecessor managed to consolidate presidential control to heights unknown in Venezuela since its early 20th-century dictatorships, Maduro has struggled to solidify his authority throughout the first year of his tenure. Unable to evict Chávez’s daughters from the presidential palace, he was relegated to less lofty vice presidential quarters from the outset. Meanwhile, policymaking has been largely defined by a group of political party plutocrats spearheaded by Rafael Ramirez, the Venezuelan energy minister and head of the nationalized oil company PDVSA, and the National Assembly chief Diosdado Cabello.

    Allegedly bowing to intra-party pressures from these circles, last week Maduro dismissed Jorge Giordani, the Marxist mastermind of Venezuela’s “revolutionary” economy, from the supervisory boards of both the Central Bank and PDVSA. Giordani was a high-profile ally of Chávez, and the intellectual architect of many of his signature policies—including Venezuela’s multi-tier exchange rates, price controls, hyper-regulation, and even oil diplomacy. Giordani’s removal represents a clear departure from the philosophical underpinnings of Chavismo. The move has garnered Maduro some uncharacteristically vicious backlash from the left-wing purists of the government’s support base, first among them Giordani himself.

    Even before then, rampant scarcities of food and basic goods, sky-high inflation, and staggering crime rates have chipped away at Maduro’s popularity, reducing them to record lows. In early February, a rash of street protests and barricades paralyzed the nation, and were violently suppressed by state authorities in a series of crackdowns that saw several notable opposition leaders incarcerated. The resulting negative publicity led even previously supportive international media outlets, such as the The Guardian to become more critical, and when Hollywood stars began chiming in against his government, the 2014 Academy Awards were pulled from the Venezuelan television lineup for the first time in 39 years.

    And now this: in the middle of a triumphalist speech for “national journalists day,” broadcast by law on every Venezuelan television and radio station, the lightssuddenly went out on Maduro—and on much of the country. Much of Caracas, and areas in nearly all of Venezuela’s other 22 states was affected the country’s aging and poorly maintained power grid struggled to get back online.

    After three major blackouts in the space of a year, Julio Cesar is fed up. “This almost never happened with Electricidad de Caracas,” he said, referring to the private company presiding over most of Venezuela’s power needs prior to the grid’s 2007 nationalization under Chávez. “These new dark ages stem from a corrupt and decaying power system—a reflection of the state of affairs in the country itself.”

    Fernando Toledo, an associate at a data analysis outfit in downtown Caracas affected by the blackout likewise holds the regime responsible. “This government’s incompetence really doesn’t have any limits.”



    Why Google Might Spend $3 Billion on a Fleet of Satellites – by Keith Wagstaff

    “Internet connectivity significantly improves people’s lives,” Google said through a spokesperson. “Yet two thirds of the world have no access at all. It’s why we’re so focused on new technologies — from Project Loon to Titan Aerospace—that have the potential to bring hundreds of millions more people online in the coming years.”

    Size Matters

    The more satellites that can be fit on a single rocket, the cheaper it is to send those satellites into space.

    For Google’s plan to fit its budget, the company will have to figure out how to pack more capacity into a smaller package. O3b Networks, the satellite start-up backed by Google, is currently working with 1,500-pound satellites that can provide broadband Internet connectivity. O3b’s first four satellites were launched last June from French Guiana atop a Russian-built Soyuz rocket.

    Google reportedly wants satellites that weigh just 250 pounds — and is said to be hiring engineers from Space Systems/Loral, a satellite-building company, to work on the project. If Google could use satellites that small for telecommunications, it would be a “radical advance” in the field, Farrar said.

    While a network of 180 satellites would technically cover the entire Earth, the focus would be on providing Internet access to developing countries.

    Facebook has similar goals. It bought its own drone company, Ascenta, in March to help with its project, whose stated mission is to make “Internet access available to the next 5 billion people.”

    YOUTUBE: Google Ideas: Conflict in a Connected World

  25. Again a serious flaw with Capitalism- Google, a very wealthy private monopoly in bed with our government facilitating the projection of American Power around the globe and making sure the centers of power in the U.S. do not change by spying on American citizens. It never has been about We the People in the United States it is always being about we the Rich and privilege. The People are to make sure the Plantation economy that Capitalism is continues to operate.

    The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) filed multiple FOIA requests to determine the exact nature of the agreement. But the NSA wouldn’t budge. EPIC was eventually forced sue the NSA for failure to comply with its document requests. But, ultimately, a court ruled that the NSA had no legal duty to confirm nor deny anything about its relationship or lack of relationship with Google. Google wasn’t talking either. The company fell back on its tried-and-true crisis PR strategy: hunker down, ignore, and wait for the storm to pass. And pass it did…

    Meanwhile, Google had started ramping up its “public sector” division, hard-selling its services to federal agencies and local and state governments as well.

    Google has sold to government agencies directly — like it did with the NSA and CIA. It also has taken the role of subcontractor, partnering with established military contractors and privatized surveillance firms like SAIC, Lockheed, and smaller boutique outfits like the Blackwater-connected merc outfit called Blackbird.

    By 2013, Google had racked up contracts with a long list of federal agencies: the U.S. Naval Academy signed up for Google Apps, the U.S. Army tapped Google Apps for a pilot program involving 50,000 DoD personnel, Idaho’s nuclear lab went Google, the U.S. Department of the Interior switched to Gmail, and the U.S. Coast Guard Academy went with Google, too.

    Breaking into the nepotistic world of America’s military-intelligence-industrial complex is no easy feat. To do the job effectively, Google’s been staffing its D.C. office with all sorts of former spooks, high-level intelligence officials, and revolving door military contractors, many of them alums of the very agencies Google was now targeting for business: US Army, Air Force Intelligence, Central Intelligence Agency, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, Office of the Director of National Intelligence, USAID, SAIC, Lockheed…


    Eric Sommer
    June 17, 2013

    The Western media is currently full of articles reporting Google’s denial that it cooperated in a government program to massively spy on American and foreign citizens by accessing data from Google’s servers and those of other U.S. software companies.

    The mainstream media has, however, almost completely failed to report that Google’s denial, and its surface concern over ‘human rights’, is historically belied by their deep involvement with some of the worst human rights abuses on the planet:

    Google is, in fact, a key participant in U.S. military and CIA intelligence operations involving torture; subversion of foreign governments; illegal wars of aggression; and military occupations of countries which have never attacked the U.S. and which have cost hundreds of thousands of lives in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, and elsewhere.

    To begin with, as reported previously in the Washington Post and elsewhere, Google is the supplier of the customized core search technology for ‘Intellipedia, a highly-secured online system where 37,000 U.S. spies and related personnel share information and collaborate on their devious errands.

    Agencies such as the so-called ‘National Security Agency’, or NSA, which is implicated in the current ‘spying on Americans’ scandal, have also purchased servers using Google-supplied search technology which processes information gathered by U.S. spies operating all over the planet.

    In addition, Google is linked to the U.S. spy and military systems through its Google Earth software venture. The technology behind this software was originally developed by Keyhole Inc., a company funded by Q-Tel, a venture capital firm which is in turn openly funded and operated on behalf of the CIA.

    Google acquired Keyhole Inc. in 2004. The same base technology is currently employed by U.S. military and intelligence systems in their quest, in their own words, for “full-spectrum dominance” of the planet.

    Moreover, Google’s connection with the CIA and its venture capital firm extends to sharing at least one key member of personnel. In 2004, the Director of Technology Assessment at In-Q-Tel, Rob Painter, moved from his old job directly serving the CIA to become ‘Senior Federal Manager’ at Google.

    As Robert Steele, a former CIA case officer has put it: Google is “in bed with” the CIA.

    Google’s Friends spy on millions of Internet Users

    Given Google’s supposed concern with ‘human rights’ and with user-privacy, it’s worth noting that Wired magazine reported some time ago that Google’s friends at In-Q-Tel, the investment arm of the CIA, invested in Visible Technologies, a software firm specialized in ‘monitoring social media’.

    The ‘Visible’ technology can automatically examine more than a million discussions and posts on blogs, online forums, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, Amazon, and so forth each day. The technology also ‘scores’ each online item, assigning it a positive, negative or mixed or neutral status, based on parameters and terms set by the technology operators. The information, thus boiled down, can then be more effectively scanned and read by human operators.

    The CIA venture capitalists at In-Q-Tel previously said they will use the technology to monitor social media operating in other countries and give U.S. spies early-warning detection on how issues are playing internationally, according to spokesperson Donald Tighe. There is every possibility that the technology can also be used by the U.S. intelligence operatives to spy on domestic social movements and individuals inside the U.S.

    Finally, Obama during his recent meeting with Chinese president Xi, again more-or-less accused China of cyber intrusions into U.S. government computers. There has, however, been a curious absence from the statements emanating from Google, from U.S. government sources, and from U.S. media reports of truly substantive evidence linking the Chinese government with the alleged break-in attempts. Words like ‘sophisticated’ and ‘suspicion’ have appeared in the media to suggest that the Chinese government is responsible for the break-ins. That may be so. But it is striking that the media has seemingly asked no tough questions as to what the evidence behind the ‘suspicions’ might be.

    It should be noted that the U.S. government and its intelligence agencies have a long history of rogue operations intended to discredit governments or social movements with whom they happen to disagree. To see how far this can go, one need only recall the sordid history of disinformation, lies, and deceit used to frighten people into supporting the Iraq war.

    Whether the past attacks on U.S. government systems, Google email, et al originated from the Chinese government, from the U.S. intelligence operatives, or from elsewhere, one thing is clear: A company that supplies the CIA with key intelligence technology; supplies mapping software which can be used for barbarous wars of aggression and drone attacks which kill huge numbers of innocent civilians; and which in general is deeply intertwined with the CIA and the U.S. military machines, which spy on millions, the company cannot be motivated by real concern for the human rights and lives of the people in the U.S. and on the planet.

  27. Criticism of Google includes alleged misuse and manipulation of search results, its use of others’ intellectual property, concerns that its compilation of data may violate people’s privacy, censorship of search results and content, and the energy consumption of its servers as well as concerns over traditional business issues such as antitrust, monopoly, and restraint of trade.

    Google Inc. is an American multinational public corporation invested in Internet search, cloud computing, and advertising technologies. Google hosts and develops a number of Internet-based services and products,[1] and generates profit primarily from advertising through its AdWords program.[2][3]

    Google’s stated mission is “to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful”;[4] this mission, and the means used to accomplish it, have raised concerns among the company’s critics. Much of the criticism pertains to issues that have not yet been addressed by cyber law.



    Google has been involved in censorship of certain sites in specific countries and regions. Until March 2010, Google adhered to the Internet censorship policies of China, enforced by filters colloquially known as “The Great Firewall of China”. search results were filtered to remove some results concerning the Tiananmen Square protests of 1989, sites supporting the independence movements of Tibet and Taiwan, the Falun Gong movement, and other information perceived to be harmful to the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Google claimed that some censorship is necessary in order to keep the Chinese government from blocking Google entirely, as occurred in 2002. The company claims it did not plan to give the government information about users who search for blocked content, and will inform users that content has been restricted if they attempt to search for it.[188] As of 2009, Google was the only major China-based search engine to explicitly inform the user when search results are blocked or hidden. As of December 2012, Google no longer informs the user of possible censorship for certain queries during search.[189]

    Some Chinese Internet users were critical of Google for assisting the Chinese government in repressing its own citizens, particularly those dissenting against the government and advocating for human rights. Furthermore, Google had been denounced and called hypocritical by Free Media Movement for agreeing to China’s demands while simultaneously fighting the United States government’s requests for similar information. Google China had also been condemned by Reporters Without Borders, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.

    In 2009, China Central Television, Xinhua News Agency, and People’s Daily all reported on Google’s “dissemination of obscene information”, and People’s Daily claimed that “Google’s ‘don’t be evil’ motto becomes a fig leaf”. The Chinese government imposed administrative penalties to Google China, and demanded a reinforcement of censorship.

    In 2010, according to a leaked diplomatic cable from the U.S. Embassy in Beijing, there were reports that the Chinese Politburo directed the intrusion of Google’s computer systems in a worldwide coordinated campaign of computer sabotage and the attempt to access information about Chinese dissidents, carried out by “government operatives, public security experts and Internet outlaws recruited by the Chinese government.” The report suggested that it was part of an ongoing campaign in which attackers have “broken into American government computers and those of Western allies, the Dalai Lama and American businesses since 2002.”

    In response to the attack, Google announced that they were “no longer willing to continue censoring our results on, and so over the next few weeks we will be discussing with the Chinese government the basis on which we could operate an unfiltered search engine within the law, if at all.” On March 22, 2010, after talks with Chinese authorities failed to reach an agreement, the company redirected its censor-complying Google China service to its Google Hong Kong service, which is outside the jurisdiction of Chinese censorship laws. From the business perspective, many recognize that the move was likely to affect Google’s profits: “Google is going to pay a heavy price for its move, which is why it deserves praise for refusing to censor its service in China.” However, at least as of March 23, 2010, “The Great Firewall” continues to censor search results from the Hong Kong portal, (as it does with the US portal, for controversial terms such as “Falun gong” and “the June 4 incident” (Tiananmen Square incident).


    Ties to the CIA and NSA

    In February 2010, Google was reported to be working on an agreement with the National Security Agency (NSA) to investigate recent attacks against its network. And, while the deal did not give NSA access to Google’s data on users’ searches or e-mail communications and accounts and Google was not sharing proprietary data with the agency, privacy and civil rights advocates were concerned.

    In October 2004, Google acquired Keyhole, a 3D mapping company. In February 2004, before its acquisition by Google, Keyhole received an investment from In-Q-Tel, the CIA’s investment arm.[82] And in July 2010 it was reported that the investment arms of both the CIA (In-Q-Tel) and Google (Google Ventures) were investing in Recorded Future, a company specializing in predictive analytics—monitoring the web in real time and using that information to predict the future. And, while private corporations have been using similar systems since the 1990s, the involvement of Google and the CIA with their large data stores raised privacy concerns.[83][84]

    In 2011, a federal district court judge in the United States turned down a Freedom of Information Act request, submitted by the Electronic Privacy Information Center. In May 2012, a Court of Appeals upheld the ruling. The request attempted to disclose NSA records regarding the 2010 cyber-attack on Google users in China. The NSA stated that revealing such information would make the US Government information systems vulnerable to attack. The NSA refused to confirm or deny the existence of the records, or the existence of any relationship between the NSA and Google.[85]

    Leaked NSA documents obtained by The Guardian[86] and The Washington Post[87] in June 2013 included Google in the list of companies that cooperate with the NSA’s PRISM surveillance program, which authorizes the government to secretly access data of non-US citizens hosted by American companies without a warrant. Following the leak, government officials acknowledged the existence of the program.[88] According to the leaked documents, the NSA has direct access to servers of those companies, and the amount of data collected through the program had been growing fast in years prior to the leak. Google has denied the existence of any “government backdoor”.

    Government requests

    Google has been criticized both for disclosing too much information to governments too quickly and for not disclosing information that governments need to enforce their laws. In April 2010, Google, for the first time, released details about how often countries around the world ask it to hand over user data or to censor information.[90] Online tools make the updated data available to everyone.

    Between July and December 2009, Brazil topped the list for user data requests with 3,663, while the US made 3,580, the UK 1,166, and India 1,061. Brazil also made the largest number of requests to remove content with 291, followed by Germany with 188, India with 142, and the US with 123. Google, who stopped offering search services in China a month before the data was released, said it could not release information on requests from the Chinese government because such information is regarded as a state secret.

    Google’s chief legal officer said, “The vast majority of these requests are valid and the information needed is for legitimate criminal investigations or for the removal of child pornography”.

  30. Observer,

    What propaganda?
    I have quoted Christine Chen, an executive of Google, Inc.

    Please find your glasses and show us at least one Google Ad placed by a Cuban restaurant, hotel, health clinic, baseball stadium or a prostitute?

    And its not just Google. Please find even better glasses and show a cuban casa particular accepting Paypal.

    Want more?
    Ask Yoani Sanchez for the same glasses she is using (she can see strange things in the US) and show a cuban programmer sharing his code on github.

  31. REUTERS: Google execs visit Cuba for first time to promote open Internet – by David Adams

    A team of top Google executives is visiting Cuba to promote open Internet access, according to a dissident blogger who says she met the group in Havana.

    The team, led by Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, met with Cuban officials as well as independent people in the technology and digital field, according to a report on the independent news website, which was started last month by blogger Yoani Sanchez.

    Google is on an official two-day visit “to promote the virtues of a free and open Internet,” the report said.

    Schmidt appeared to confirm the report when he retweeted a message on Twitter posted by Sanchez about the visit.

    Neither Google nor the Cuban government made any official statement about the executives’ presence in Cuba.

    Cuba does not allow open Internet access. Only 2.6 million out of a population of 11.2 million have Internet access, almost entirely limited to government-run centers, foreign companies and tourist hotels. Most of those who do have access are only been able to explore a limited, state-controlled basket of approved websites.

    Schmidt was accompanied by Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas, as well as two other staff, Sanchez said.

    Google Ideas describes itself as a “a think/do tank that explores how technology can enable people to confront threats in the face of conflict, instability or repression,” according to its website.


  32. WASHINGTON POST: U.S. Telecoms Eager to Build a Business Presence in Cuba – By Cecilia Kang -April 15, 2009

    U.S. telecommunication firms could open up investment in Cuba now that the Obama administration will allow companies to operate there, a final global frontier for the Internet age.

    But before cellphone and Internet providers rush in, they will closely study potential pitfalls in setting up shop in the Communist nation with one of the poorest populations in the region, analysts said.

    The Cuban government has not been helpful in allowing its citizens access to communications technology, said David Gross, who was U.S. ambassador and coordinator for International Information and Communications Policy during the Bush administration. Now that the United States has opened the door, he said, “the question is whether the Cuban government will allow people to come inside.”

    Cuba has the lowest percentage of telephone, Internet and cellphone subscribers in Latin America, according to Manuel Cereijo, a professor of electrical engineering at the University of Miami. About 11 percent of residents subscribe to land-line telephone service, and 2 percent have cellphone service.

    Under President Obama’s plan, U.S. telecom companies would be able to build undersea cable networks that connect the two nations. Cellphone carriers would be able to contract with Cuba’s government-run wireless operator to provide service to its residents and offer roaming services to Americans visiting the island.

    U.S. satellite operators such as Sirius XM Radio and Dish Network could beam Martha Stewart and MTV programs to the nation. Cubans could also receive cellphones and computers donated from overseas.

  33. United States: New Rules Regarding Telecommunications Service To Cuba
    Last Updated: December 2 2009

    In early September, the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) and the Commerce Department Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS) published long-awaited regulations implementing the Cuba policies announced by the White House in April 2009. In a sweeping departure from prior U.S. policy, these presidential policies – which are intended to promote the freer flow of information to the Cuban people – significantly reduce the licensing requirements and other barriers for telecommunications providers to offer services to Cuba. In addition, they authorize the following:

    transactions involving the establishment of new fiber-optic cable and satellite facilities between the U.S. and Cuba
    roaming agreements with Cuban telecommunication providers
    expanded travel to Cuba in connection with business activities related to telecommunications

    These changes may be a major boon to American telecommunications companies, which have sought to do business in Cuba for many years. The ultimate outcome of the White House initiative, however, hinges on a number of factors. Although new regulations have been adopted by certain U.S. government agencies, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is awaiting State Department guidance and has not yet changed its Cuba policies, which date back to 1993. It is not known how the State Department and the FCC will conform its policies to the White House initiative – nor is it known how the Cuban government will react to the policy changes.

  34. For the record, US companies have been trying to offer Cuba high-speed internet connectivity and other telecom services for years.

    Castro has always refused to deal with US companies, no matter how good the deal he has been offered.

    Cuba is by far the least connected country in the Americas. The part that is connected is censored and monitored by the secret police.

    Most Cuban friends can only email me from authorized email access points and can only send and read text emails, no photos or file attachments. Before they can use the antiquated email system, they have to register with proof of identity and full address, and all have been warned their emails are read by the secret police.

    A typical lineup at one of these places is a couple of hours. Since most Cubans are too poor to pay a dollar for an hour of email, they make deals with their neighbors in the lineups and pay a few cents for a few minutes of email.

    A friend recently waited over 10 hours in a lineup in order to send one email.

    Most have never seen the web.

    If they wanted to access a censored version of the web, they have to go to a hotel, provide proof of identity, and pay a month’s salary for two hours of censored and slow web access.

    Most Cuban hotels still won’t let an average Cuban enter the door without a bribe, much less use their internet service.

    I know some foreign residents with permission to access a highly censored version of the web from their homes. I’m sure many communists and Cuban businessmen also have this privilege.

    Though there have been improvements over the last few years, Yoani Sanchez still has more trouble accessing the web than many homeless Haitians. That’s a fact.

  35. AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL URGENT ACTION CUBA: Further information – Prisoners of conscience await sentencing – Three brothers who have been in pre-trial detention in Cuba since late 2012 have now been tried and are due for sentencing. They are at risk of being sentenced to between three and five years’ imprisonment. Amnesty International believes they are prisoners of conscience, detained solely for exercising their right to freedom of expression. Twenty-two-year-old Alexeis Vargas Martín and his two 18-year-old twin brothers, Vianco Vargas Martín and Django Vargas Martín, detained in November and December 2012 respectively, were tried on 13 June at the Provincial Court in Santiago de Cuba, south-eastern Cuba. They are now awaiting sentencing, due to be issued on 1 July, for the charges against them of public disorder of a continuous nature (alteración del orden público de carácter continuado). According to information received by Amnesty International, the Public Prosecutor has asked for Alexeis Vargas Martín to be sentenced to five years’ imprisonment and three years for Vianco and Django Vargas Martín, who were 16 at the time of arrest. They were reportedly subjected to a summary trial, with none of the witnesses for the defence being allowed to testify. In political trials such as these it is typical for the judge to pass the sentences requested by the public prosecutor.

    The brothers, from the city of Santiago de Cuba, are all members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unión Patriótica de Cuba, UNPACU), a civil society organization which advocates for greater civil liberties in the country. Since their detention, Alexeis Vargas Martín is being held at Aguadores Prison in Santiago de Cuba province, while Vianco and Django Vargas Martín are held at the Mar Verde prison in the same province.

    Amnesty International believes that their arrest and detention is in response to their peaceful exercise of their right to freedom of expression and that it is intended to send a message of intimidation to other government critics, particularly other members of UNPACU. The three brothers are prisoners of conscience and must be immediately and unconditionally released.

    Please write immediately in Spanish or your own language:

    Calling on the authorities to release Alexeis Vargas Martín, Vianco Vargas Martín and Django Vargas Martín immediately and unconditionally, as they are prisoners of conscience, detained solely for peacefully exercising their right to freedom of expression;

    Urging them to allow the free exercise of the right to freedom of expression, association and assembly, without fear of reprisal.


  36. Mario,

    Before you print certifiable propaganda, you might want to check out hotel and travel sites for Cuba using Google ads.

    I see plenty from where I am.

    The only place where there are slight restrictions on travel and advertising are in the USA.

    All of these have easy workarounds and hundreds of thousands of Americans travel to Cuba each year.

    Anyone who believes a website like Cuba solidarity campaign is the one who is naive.

    Such campaigns collect millions of dollars from gullible fools and hand the money over to Castro and his military.

    Of the tens of millions of Americans who have visited Cuba since 1959, not one has ever chosen a life of a socialist worker.

    Yet millions of Cubans are still trying to escape.

    That should tell you who is in the tiny minority.

  37. Google comes to Havana? Really?

    Some political trouble makers perhaps. No serious business though. No cuban hotel owner, state owned or private, may even think about advertising on Google Adwords. No taxi driver, no dentist, no restaurant, no exporter. And it’s more: no Google Adwords paying customer, from anywhere in the world, may target his advertising on Cuba.

    “More unusual economic sanctions prohibit Cubans from using some functions of Google search engine, such as Google Analytics (that calculates the number of visits to a website and its origin), Google Earth, Google Desktop Search, Google Toolbar, Google Code Search, Google AdSense and Google AdWords, depriving Cuba of access to these new technologies and many downloadable products. The US company provided an explanation by his representative Christine Chen: “We had it written in our terms and conditions. Google Analytics can not be used in countries subject to embargoes”

    Read more:

    Some naive Cubans adore the United States and the US corporations. Luckily for their country, authors like Yoani are the tiny minority.

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