Leaked video shows Cuban spy course on dangers of social media
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A lecture published on the video-sharing website Vimeo shows an unidentified man giving a roomful of Cuban intelligence agents a crash course on social media and the Web. According to the speaker, opposition blogs are being funded by the U.S. to "fuel the counter-revolution" in Cuba.
Eduardo Tato Fontes Suarez is an intelligence officer with Cuba’s interior ministry.
A lecture published on the video-sharing website Vimeo shows an unidentified man apparently giving a roomful of Cuban intelligence agents a crash course on social media and the Web. According to the speaker, opposition blogs are being funded by the U.S. to "fuel the counter-revolution in Cuba".
The man, later identified on Cuban blog Penultimos Dias as Eduardo Tato Fontes Suarez by people claiming to be his former classmates, works for Cuba’s interior ministry. Over the course of the 58-minute video, Suarez explains how new technologies are being used by cyber activists around the world. He says the U.S. is “trying to turn bloggers into a new category of enemies of the state”.
Fontes goes on to point out that bloggers such as Yoani Sanchez, author of the award-winning Generation Y blog, has become a Twitter sensation and could organise protests in Havana similar to Iran's Twitter-fueled protests in 2009.
Fontes also alleges that the NGOs founded by young Cuban Americans are different from “historic terrorist groups like the [Miami-based] Cuban American National Foundation (CANF)". Historically, Cuban-exile groups such as CANF and the US Cuba Democracy PAC lobbied lawmakers in Washington to uphold staunch policies against Cuba like the US embargo and the travel ban of American citizens to the Caribbean island. In recent years, younger generations of Cuban Americans have been proponents of liberalising the US-Cuba policy. Unlike their elders, Fontes says, these new NGOs and online communities have the power to effectively "deceive Cuban youth” and paint the Cuban Revolution in a negative light.
The video has been leaked at a time when the Internet and social networks have been used by young people across the Middle East and North Africa to organise recent anti-government uprisings.
Extracts of of the full lecture with English subtitles by France 24. For the uncut, non translated lecture, see below.
Post written with France 24 journalist Romina Ruiz-Goiriena
"The government is the sole existing provider in Cuba. They have the power to turn off the switch faster and for longer than Mubarak did in Egypt"
Ernesto Hernandez Busto is an writer and editor of the Cuba blog Penultimos Dias. He lives in Barcelona. In the video, Fontes accuses Hernandez of being on the CIA’s payroll.
The government is the sole existing Internet provider in Cuba. It has the power to flip the switch faster and for a longer period of time than Mubarak did in Egypt. This video is really proof that a Cold War-era mentality still exists in modern times.
What we also see is that the Cuban government is at a crossroads. On one hand, they understand they’re in urgent need of the Internet in order to function, especially with the new set of economic reforms they are planning to implement in the coming years. Hotel managers need to be able to put in orders and email guests in the same way police officers need to be able to send records electronically from one city to the other.
On the other hand, they know that by doing so, they’re also opening themselves up to a system they can’t control 100 percent all the time. As long as one person has access to the Internet, it might be something they can control, but it's not something they will ever be able to completely contain.”
Watch the original full length video below. The video is in Spanish and it has not been subtitled. For a full transcript click here.
"They acknowledge in the video itself that we [Roots of Hope] threaten them. It’s clear that the Cuban government doesn’t know how to handle our message."
Felice Gorordo is the co-founder of US-based Roots of Hope, one of the organisations that Fontes attacked in the attached video. Roots of Hope was behind Colombian rockstar Juanes's 'Peace without Borders' concert. In the video, Fontes blames Roots of Hope for wanting to cancel the concert. In fact, Juanes had threatened to call it off if Cuba refused to loosen draconian security measures. According to the organisation’s website, Roots of Hope is a privately-funded organisation that does not receive any U.S government funding and “seeks to empower Cubans to be the authors of their own futures”.
They acknowledge in the video itself that we [Roots of Hope] threaten them. It’s clear that the Cuban government doesn’t know how to handle our message, which is apolitical and only seeks to increase contact with Cubans on the island and Cubans overseas.”
Following the legalization of cell phone access in 2008 by President Raul Castro, Roots of Hope launched their ‘Cell phones for Cuba Project,’ which aims to give every Cuban citizen a free refurbished mobile phone.
The Internet in Cuba does not work in the same way it does in other Communist countries like China or Vietnam, where the Web is generally accessible despite a high level of government control. In Cuba, legal Internet access is only available to a privileged group of government officials and doctors, or by purchasing prepaid cards in hotels that cost the equivalent of 12 euros an hour.
The average salary in Cuba is approximately 15 euros a month, making legal access to the Internet a luxury for most Cubans. The prohibitive Internet access price also serves as an effective extension of government censorship. Most Cubans rely on illegal connections to access the Web, at extremely slow speeds.