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Eric Schmidt and Entourage Pay a Call On Cuba 190

VentureBeat reports that the unofficial Google ambassador to the world has made another significant visit to a place where Internet access is either forbidden or impractical for most of the citizenry; hopefully it heralds change on that front. Continuing his tour of countries with authoritarian governments and less-than-favorable Internet access, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt made a secret visit to Cuba yesterday. The U.S. government has forbidden its citizens from traveling to Cuba or spending any money within the country since cold war tensions in the 1960s. Even though the cold war is over, the ban remains in effect, which is why Schmidt’s visit is significant. Unofficially (meaning not on behalf of his company), the powerful Googler has also made controversial visits to North Korea and Myanmar to promote Internet freedom, and has previously spoken out against online censorship happening in both China and India. Schmidt, says the article, "was joined by a crew of former Google employees as well as author Jared Cohen."
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Eric Schmidt and Entourage Pay a Call On Cuba

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  • by LetterRip ( 30937 ) on Sunday June 29, 2014 @09:59PM (#47347407)

    The ban has nothing to do with 'Cold War tensions' it is because Cuban immigrants to Florida hate Castro for the property that he nationalized - and pissing off those voters risk losing Florida in federal elections (and thus losing the Presidential election). Thus draconian prohibitions related to Cuba stay in place.

  • I live in Canada (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Ralph Spoilsport ( 673134 ) on Sunday June 29, 2014 @10:00PM (#47347413) Journal
    We go there for vacation whenever the fuck we want. Americans need to get fucking clue and get over themselves. It's just fucking Cuba. No big deal. America has relations with China, and they've executed WAY more political prisoners than Cuba has, and you;re probably reading this on a Chinese built computer. So bag the anti-communist BS and grow up.
  • by nodwick ( 716348 ) on Sunday June 29, 2014 @10:15PM (#47347471)
    Some types of travel to Cuba are legal. The US has been granting so-called "people-to-people" licenses to allow people to legally visit Cuba for the purposes of cultural exchange. According to the NYTimes [], the visas were created by Bill Clinton in 1999, stopped being issued by Bush in 2003, and resumed being handed out in 2011 by Obama. More info from a Forbes article []:

    The whole purpose, for the US government’s perspective, is to intimately experience the day-to-day lives of residents while learning about Cuban cultural, social and religious organizations firsthand. For this reason, all participants are required to adhere to the approved full-time schedule of activities – beg off to relax by the hotel pool and OFAC could pull the company’s license.

    So there are restrictions: you have to travel with a tour guide, and your trip agenda has to be filled with culturally-relevant activities rather than just random tourist stuff. It wasn't clear from TFA if Schmidt's visit was under this particular license, but his trip agenda ("to get a tour of Cuba’s University of Information Sciences in Havana and discuss life within the country") certainly sounded like it would have qualified.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 29, 2014 @10:35PM (#47347543)

    Yes, American media, particularly media from Miami, could not possibly be biased about Cuba.

  • by ShanghaiBill ( 739463 ) on Sunday June 29, 2014 @10:38PM (#47347551)

    Yep, without Florida last election, Obama would have lost by -71 electoral votes.

    In either 2000 and 2004, GWB would have lost without Florida. Florida is a big swing state.

  • by Patent Lover ( 779809 ) on Sunday June 29, 2014 @11:07PM (#47347661)
    No, they go to jail for being black in a black neighborhood. When was the last time you were stopped and frisked while walking down the street?
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 29, 2014 @11:32PM (#47347745)

    Americans think it is a great idea to put up an embargo around Cuba and deny food and medicine to children THAT WERE NOT EVEN BORN WHEN THE COLD WAR WAS ON. Go, america, go. What a great country.

    An embargo is not a BLOCKADE. The Cuban Missile Crisis ended a while ago.

  • by sumdumass ( 711423 ) on Sunday June 29, 2014 @11:40PM (#47347761) Journal

    Thats a crock of crap. The only countries in the embargo is the US. Even Canada and Mexico do not participate.

    The only thing if anything denying Cuba food and medicine is either corruption in Cuba or Cuba's government. The US is not the only place Cuba can get food or medicine- cold war or not.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2014 @12:03AM (#47347815)

    The US send food and some medicine to Cuba. What is really stopping Cuba from having enough food and medicine is money. Cuba for the most part can't afford it. They think things cost so much because they have to import them from China and if they could import them from the US, they would be so much cheaper that they could afford them.

    I compared prices for random tools available at a government store in Cuba. The tools were virtually identical to the made in China tools available at my local Home Depot for almost the exact same price.

    Medicine is the same when the government bothers to import it. If you go to Cuba, you are requested to bring all sorts of over the counter things like aspirin and band aids. Those are the types of things that are difficult to get there.

    Someone stopped us on the street and asked us for any extra toiletries we had from our hotel. He was hoping to get some soap for his daughter. He couldn't afford to buy them on his own.

    Cuba is a third world country. The people can't afford basic necessities. The embargo isn't hurting them as much as they like to think.

    I'm sure there is corruption in the government, but it isn't obvious. It doesn't appear that government officials are living large at the expense of the people. It just looks like the current economy can't support the entire population in a reasonable manner.

  • by cold fjord ( 826450 ) on Monday June 30, 2014 @12:29AM (#47347895)

    You are missing the other half of it. The cubans that stayed, hate the cubans in Florida as much as the cubans in Florida hate the cubans that stayed.

    Many of the Cubans in Cuba want to join the Cubans in Florida, thousands of them try every year. The Cubans in Florida don't hate the Cubans in Cuba, they are opposed to the communist government that is oppressing their friends and family back in Cuba.

    The easiest way out for Cuba is to turn away from Communism. It is one of the last hold-outs on the planet in inflicting that failed system on its people. Activists in Cuba support the continuance of the embargo.

    The Time to Help Cuba’s Brave Dissidents Is Now: Why the Embargo Must Not be Lifted []

    Another brave group of Cuban opponents of the regime has actually taped a television interview filmed illegally in Havana. “Young Cuban democracy leader Antonio Rodiles,” an American support group called Capitol Hill Cubans has reported, “has just released the latest episode of his civil society project Estado de Sats (filmed within Cuba), where he discusses the importance U.S. sanctions policy with two of Cuba’s most renowned opposition activists and former political prisoners, Guillermo Fariñas and Jose Daniel Ferrer.”

    The argument they present is aimed directly at those on the left in the United States, some of whom think they are helping democracy in Cuba by calling for an end to the embargo. In strong and clear language, the two dissidents say the following:

    If at this time, the [economic] need of the Cuban government is satisfied through financial credits and the lifting of the embargo, repression would increase, it would allow for a continuation of the Castro’s society, totalitarianism would strengthen its hold and philosophically, it would just be immoral If you did an opinion poll among Cuban opposition activists, the majority would be in favor of not lifting the embargo.

    Next, they nail the claim that travel without restrictions by citizens of our country to Cuba would help spread freedom. The men respond:

    In a cost-benefit analysis, travel to Cuba by Americans would be of greatest benefit to the Castro regime, while the Cuban people would be the least to benefit. With all of the controls and the totalitarian system of the government, it would be perfectly able to control such travel.

    We know this, as I reported a few months ago, about how a group of Americans taking the usual state-controlled Potemkin village tour came back raving about how wonderful and free Cuba is, and how Cuban socialism works.

    Finally, the two former prisoners made this point about lifting the embargo:

    To lift the embargo at this time would be very prejudicial to us. The government prioritizes all of the institutions that guarantee its hold on power. The regime’s political police and its jailers receive a much higher salary and privileges than a doctor or engineer, or than any other worker that benefits society. We’ve all seen municipalities with no fuel for an ambulance, yet with 10, 15, 20, 50 cars full of fuel ready to go repress peaceful human rights activists.

Trap full -- please empty.