Blinded by the light from Washington

The sun seems to be shining on Cuba of late. Not even the pro embargoers can fight off a wry smile. As the saying goes “any press is good press” and Cuban officials are basking these days in the limelight as the world’s newspapers fire out the next articles like bullets from a soviet era Kalashnikov. When the US of A talks, the world twitters and sometimes about anything and everything, with all this excitement there´s is not one self respecting journalist out there that is not yearning for his shot at a Cuba piece.

The past 2 weeks have seen further miracles materialize akin to the winning hand of a novice at a Casino. Benefits reaped in impromptu style due to the woes of its neighbor Mexico. Dismal hotel figures all over the island being bolstered by rebooked and scheduled tourists offered “Refund or Cuba” for their Cancun or Mayan vacation. The sun shining again for Cuba when least expected.

Yet, these apparent “good times” appear to be bolstering more than just the economy as egos move to the forefront. Commenting a new hotel deal to be signed by a Qatar government owned enterprise, the Cuban hotel chain Gran Caribe´s president, Luis Miguel Diaz said, “this sends a clear message to the world that Qatar is on Cuba’s side and supports its politics with respect to the rest of the world”.

This week has also seen an abrupt change in Cuba´s educational curriculum sanctioned by the new education minister Miguel Díaz-Canel after his predecessor was abruptly fired some weeks ago. The new curriculum is to include the compulsory subject of “Leninism/Marxism” which is to be taught to all children from September 2009.

Another move that quietly went into place this week was the reintroduction of complete limitation of internet access across Cuba. Over the past two years Cuban´s who only have access to government controlled or “National” email accounts which only allow communication on a type of national intranet and the sending/receiving of emails nationally, would pay hard CUC currency, as if they were tourists, at hotel lobbies and Internet Café´s in tourist Hotel´s. These “open” connections allowed Cuban´s to search the real World Wide Web, chat on systems such as yahoo and AOL and send emails from non government sanctioned accounts such as Yahoo or Gmail to the rest of the world. However, this week Cuban´s returning to their usual venues have been told this; “Internet use is only for foreigners for the time being,” said a worker at the Hotel Nacional’s business center. “According to a new order from ETECSA [Cuba’s telecom monopoly] only foreigners can surf the web at hotels.” An ETECSA official then confirmed the change but said he was not authorized to comment. Last year to much fanfare, Cuban´s were allowed to stay at hotels nationwide after over 15 years of these being restricted only to foreigners. This week´s move means that Cuban´s can stay at the same hotels as foreigners but cannot use the internet service there.

Let the sun shine brightly

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