When Helping ‘the Cuban People’ Means Bankrolling the Castros
When Helping ?the Cuban People? Means Bankrolling the Castros - WSJ
U.S. legislation to ease sanctions will instead primarily benefit Havana’s state-owned monopolies.
By MAURICIO CLAVER-CARONE
June 23, 2015 7:07 p.m. ET
Three bills full of lofty but disingenuous rhetoric about “supporting the Cuban people” were recently filed in the U.S. Senate to ease sanctions. To have an honest debate about sanctions on Cuba, it’s important to understand how that totalitarian regime conducts business. The bills primarily benefit three monopolies in Cuba, all owned and operated by the Cuban government: Etecsa, Alimport and Gaesa.
Let’s look at each piece of legislation:
• The Cuba Digital and Telecommunications Advancement Act. This bill’s purpose is to provide millions of U.S. dollars to develop telecom infrastructure for the Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba, S.A. (Etecsa), owned by the Cuban government. The company works with the secret police of Cuba’s President Raúl Castro, tapping phone lines, monitoring conversations, censoring the Internet and persecuting Cubans discovered with homemade satellite dishes.
Etecsa is very good at what it does, according to a recent report by Freedom House, a nongovernmental organization based in Washington, D.C., that ranks Cuba, China, Iran and Syria as the world’s most Internet-repressive governments.
The cosponsors of the Cuba Digital and Telecommunications Advancement Act, including New Mexico Democratic Sen. Tom Udall and Arizona Republican Sen. Jeff Flake, argue that foreign investment in Etecsa will lead to greater Internet connectivity for the Cuban people. Apparently they are unaware that Telecom Italia owned a 27% stake in Etecsa from 1995-2011. Or that America’s Sprint Corporation provided Etecsa with its first Internet connection in 1996, and that France’s Alcatel-Lucent laid new fiber optic cable for Etecsa in 2012.
None of those “foreign investments” improved connectivity for the Cuban people. What the investments did was improve the Cuban government’s ability to control its people.
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