HAVANA (AP) — Cuban bloggers and tweeters talked tech in Havana on Thursday at a Spanish-organized forum promoting social media in one of the world’s most unplugged nations, prompting accusations from state-run media of an attempt to foment subversive activities.
With about 50 people present on the first day of the three-day Click Festival, organizers and attendees insisted their purposes are not political.
“Click Festival is a technological event that aspires to spread the world about the use of new technologies here in Cuba,” said Spaniard Jose Luis Antunez, one of the organizers. “It’s an apolitical event, although it may have some links, and above all we want people of all ideological stripes to attend.”
Antunez is a member of Spain Blog Event, or EBE for its initials in Spanish, which holds a similar conference each year in its home country and gets sponsorship from tech companies such as Microsoft and IBM.
Thursday evening, Cuban state-run website Cubadebate posted a strongly worded editorial seizing upon such corporate sponsorship, among other things, to allege nefarious intent by the organizers.
“In Havana they are cooking up a subversive monster, supposedly not politicized, ‘promoting’ the use of information and communications technologies,” the editorial read.
“The intention of the Click Festival is clear,” Cubadebate added. “To advance the strategy of constructing networks ahead of an aggression, as was done in Libya, Syria and before in Yugoslavia, and strengthen the idea of the counterrevolution linked to the United States as a promoter of freedom on the Internet.”
Dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez, who is routinely excoriated in the official media, kept up a fast-paced barrage of tweets on subjects such as Cuba’s woeful Internet access and the “rights of the Internaut.”
“We Cubans are ready to become human beings of the 21st century,” she told journalists. “We want to have access, and enjoy and learn from the new technologies.”
Cuba is one of the least-connected countries in the world and relies on costly, plodding satellite hookup.
The government historically has complained that the U.S. embargo prevented it from linking to undersea cables that run near the island.
However a $70 million fiber-optic link strung from Venezuela has not changed Internet access in Cuba so far, and it’s not even clear whether it’s being used.
Cuban authorities stopped talking about the cable last year after its arrival, amid rumors of corruption and project mismanagement.
A Venezuelan official said recently that the cable was operational, but did not address rumors of problems with the infrastructure the cable was to link to.