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Cuba Jails US Worker Handing Out Laptops, Cellphones 400

Posted by kdawson
from the most-of-us-would-be-guilty-of-that-crime dept.
eldavojohn writes "An American citizen working as a contractor for the United States Agency for International Development has been arrested for giving away laptops and cellphones in Cuba. The intent was to enable activists to connect with each other and spread information of what's happening inside Cuba. From the article: 'Cellphones and laptops are legal in Cuba, though they are new and coveted commodities in a country where the average worker's wage is $15 a month. The Cuban government granted ordinary citizens the right to buy cellphones just last year; they are used mostly for texting, because a 15-minute phone conversation would eat up a day's wages.' A Representative on the House Foreign Affairs Committee said the arrest was 'no surprise' while a human rights watch group cited a report outlining the Cuban Criminal Code offense of 'dangerousness,' which is most likely the one for which this individual was detained. There is at present no way to contact the individual nor official word on why he was detained." The article quotes an actvist with Human Rights Watch who said that "any solution to the contractor's case would probably be political" and that "the Cuban government often provokes a negative reaction in the United States just as [the two] countries begin to move toward more dialogue."
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Cuba Jails US Worker Handing Out Laptops, Cellphones

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  • Oops (Score:2, Funny)

    by sexconker (1179573)

    There is at present no way to contact the individual nor official word on why he was detained.

    He should have kept one of the phones or laptops for himself.

    Oops.

    • by c6gunner (950153)

      Hiding a laptop in your ass is a rather difficult proposition. Maybe if they'd sent the goatse.cx guy ....

  • Chi Chi! Get the yayo!

  • Free laptops and cellphones huh? Any malware/spyware installed on those?

    I wouldn't trust it unless I could wipe it.

  • by kheldan (1460303) on Monday December 14, 2009 @08:32PM (#30438112) Journal
    From the mentioned report on Cuba:

    "Raul Castro's government has relied in particular on a provision of the Cuban Criminal Code that allows the state to imprison individuals before they have committed a crime, on the suspicion that they might commit and offense in the future. This "dangerousness" provision is overtly political, defining "dangerousness" as any behavior that contradicts socialist norms. The most Orwellian of Cuba's laws, it captures the essence of the Cuban government's repressive mindset, which views anyone who acts out of step with the government as a potential thread, and thus worthy of punishment."

    Reading this, it's no wonder to me that I walked out on the movie Minority Report about 10 minutes in, because it's exactly like that. My sympathies to the poor bastard and his family, they'll probably never see him alive ever again.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by maxume (22995)

      You missed the happy ending, where it all falls apart.

    • by PPH (736903)

      Where's Raul going to send these people? Guantanamo?

    • by RajivSLK (398494) on Monday December 14, 2009 @08:50PM (#30438316)

      walked out on the movie Minority Report about 10 minutes in

      You actively don't watch movies that tackle issues you disagree with? That is a very very close minded attitude.

      P.S. had you stayed for the remainder of movie you would have seen that the movie was a warning against such a law. That's ironically akin to not reading Animal Farm because you dislike communism.

    • Wait, you walked out on a MOVIE that explored the concept of pre-crime as a moral dilemma 10 minutes into it? I don't get it. Are you only able to watch happy romantic comedies, and early adam sandler movies?

    • which views anyone who acts out of step with the government as a potential thread

      *gasp* They're not going to sew him, are they?

    • The most Orwellian of Cuba's laws, it captures the essence of the Cuban government's repressive mindset, which views anyone who acts out of step with the government as a potential threat, and thus worthy of punishment.

      Wait a few years and we'll have that kind of laws as well.

  • by yuri82 (236251)

    ...to keep its nose of other people's business. The US government's "freedom" fighters can't wait to destroy Cuba. What right does the US have to be there trying to create chaos?

    • The same they have to create havoc in Afghanistan and Iraq: Everyone on the planet wants to be free like an American. Everyone knows that.

  • Dual Standards (Score:2, Insightful)

    by glowworm (880177)
    So here he was, an American in a foreign country who was providing material means for people to rebel, overthrow, dissent, terrorise their legal government. One does wonder what would happen if an Iranian or Iraqi came into America and provided material means for people to rebel, overthrow, dissent terrorise the American government? Maybe a book on how to achieve things? Would said Iranian or Iraqi have been imprisoned under American laws? Maybe even sent to a place where torture was the norm like Guantanam
    • One does wonder what would happen if an Iranian or Iraqi came into America and provided material means for people to rebel, overthrow, dissent terrorise the American government? Maybe a book on how to achieve things?

      Umm, you can buy books like that in bookstores here. And on the web. And check them out of University libraries....

  • Dear USians (Score:2, Insightful)

    by mjwx (966435)
    You don't have to like the laws of other nations, but when within their borders you have to follow them or face the consequences.

    When visiting the U.S. would I not be expected to follow U.S. laws. If I have a problem with this my choices are not to go to the U.S.

    If you went and did the same thing in Australia you'd be charged as well, granted you'd only get a fine and not jail time the only difference is that we'd charge you under our tax and import laws (nice and civil like). The person in question w
    • So while we're allowed to complain about "telcos" being so utterly inhumane and charging us for basic rights, the government should intervene, etc., we're not allowed to get upset that another country will do who-knows-what do an American who was passing out laptops and cellphones?

      Sure, he shouldn't have done if it was illegal. And the Cuban government should respect human life enough to realize that giving someone a free laptop is probably a pretty minor offense. Let's hope they do.

      And anyone that wants

      • No, you're not. Likewise, a fanatic islamic fundamentalist has no right to complain about women showing their face in public in the US. Different country, different laws. It's probably wrong, at least from your point of view, but you're in no position to demand a change.

  • Without those cell phones and laptops (paid for by the USA), how are people meant to use their training in democracy and civil society (paid for by the USA) to organize spontaneous demonstrations and peaceful non-violent provocations (paid for by the USA) to install a new democratic leader (paid for by the USA)?
  • Leave Cuba Alone (Score:3, Insightful)

    by MrPloppy (1117689) on Monday December 14, 2009 @08:59PM (#30438444)
    Mod me down but while I think Cubans should be able to access the internet and communicate freely I think they should be left alone to work out their own problems. Cuba has been under attack (sanctions etc) for a very long time and you have to bear in mind the US relationship with central and south America hasn't exactly been hmmm how shall we say very fair. The US has been happy to triain death squads at the school of americas http://www.soaw.org/ [soaw.org] and fund the over throw of democractically ellected goverments (Chile, Nicuragua, Guatmala most recenly the atempt in Venuzuela and not to mention Syrian and Iran) so you could see the leader ship in Cuba might be a little paranoid.
    • by tftp (111690) on Monday December 14, 2009 @11:59PM (#30440138) Homepage

      you could see the leader ship in Cuba might be a little paranoid

      They have no need to be paranoid after the Bay of Pigs [wikipedia.org] invasion in 1961. It was a war. From this link:

      Cuba's losses during the conflict are variously reported as 4,000 killed,wounded or missing [6], or about 5,000.[7] Cuban sources report over 2,200 casualties[50].

      So after that little incident Cuba subscribes to the principle "Beware of Greeks bearing gifts". And this guy just showed up bearing gifts.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      The problem is that this isn't "freely". This is pushed and prodded from the USA. Often time these people handing out laptops and cell phones were directly or indirectly from the US gov't themselves. If a Cuban or Iranian national was found doing the same things trying to foment revolution and spread of Islamic ideas Americans would be up in arms.
    • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @01:16AM (#30440630)

      Hear, hear! This is nothing more than just another example of this country's hypocrisy. Fighting insurgencies in Iraq while trying to jump-start their own insurgency in Cuba. Why do we still have an embargo on this small island nation anyway? Because they're Communist? Because they violate human rights? Last I checked, China does both, and yet they're our largest trade partners. Oh, I see, so when it's beneficial for us, we can look the other way and make exceptions right?

  • We have a similar catch-all equivalent, called "causing a public disturbance".

    • by c6gunner (950153)

      Me giving you a laptop causes a public disturbance?

      Go on, pull the other one!

      • by selven (1556643)

        You're right, public disturbance laws are for protests, not this. Here they would grab the hard drives and investigate them for child porn.

  • An American citizen working as a contractor for the United States Agency for International Development has been arrested for giving away laptops and cellphones in Cuba. The intent was to enable activists to connect with each other and spread information of what's happening inside Cuba

    What I see here is clumsily staged bit of agitprop worthy of Bush and Cheney - and very high risk for any Cuban activist foolish enough to become involved.

  • Jeez, the Cubans are getting lax. Hard to find good, old fashioned totalitarians these days.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Reverse it. Suppose foreigners had come here and started handing out goods we labeled contraband but were perfectly legal in their respective countries. We would likely react accordingly and arrest (or at least detain and deport) them. How about we change our attitudes regarding other nations to something like this: mind our own damn business. Thank you for reading.

  • by hyades1 (1149581) <hyades1@hotmail.com> on Monday December 14, 2009 @09:38PM (#30438890)

    I wonder how somebody doing the same kind of thing would have been treated in Chile under Pinochet, or one of the other countries where the US has installed its own bloody-handed dictators. Actually, I don't wonder at all. At least in Cuba the guy has a chance of getting out alive. If Pinochet or one of the other US puppets got hold of him, he'd already be missing some body parts and rotting in a shallow grave somewhere.

  • by tompaulco (629533) on Monday December 14, 2009 @10:13PM (#30439254) Homepage Journal
    The Cuban government granted ordinary citizens the right to buy cellphones just last year; they are used mostly for texting, because a 15-minute phone conversation would eat up a day's wages.
    Ironically, in order to get the same information as a 15 minute phone conversation takes 2 hours when texting, and eats up 3 days wages.
  • by evilandi (2800) <andrew@aoakley.com> on Tuesday December 15, 2009 @06:01AM (#30442008) Homepage

    "the average worker's wage is $15 a month" - No it isn't. Cuba does not use the dollar.

    This is the usual bullshit propaganda from the kind of people that want you to believe that third-world workers on two dollars a day can't afford to eat. They arrive at this rubbish by pricing first-world food at first-world prices (herb ciabatta from a New York delicatessen at $4 a loaf, instead of flat bread baked by the family where the ingredients are grown by the local farmers and sold at market for less than quarter of a day's wages).

    The developing world does not price its goods in dollars, nor do they shop at the deli counter. Get over it.

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