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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 @09:56PM (#47347397)

    So what are the legal consequences for this?

    Personally I'd like to visit Cuba but haven't, in part due to the illegality.

    • 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.

      • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        and pissing off those voters risk losing Florida in federal elections (and thus losing the Presidential election).

        Yep, without Florida last election, Obama would have lost by -71 electoral votes. Yes, that's negativate, as in less than zero.

      • 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.

        • 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 Anonymous Coward on Monday June 30, 2014 @09:43AM (#47349655)

              I'm a cuban living in Cuba (not a cuban-american). There is a mistake in your reasoning. Cuba, unlike the much of rest of the world, isn't allowed to borrow money from banks that have any (In practical terms) relations with US banks (or banks owned by US Banks), or banks that who's business is bigger with the US than with little Cuba. So Cuba has to buy "with cash in hand" in most cases -unlike the rest of the third world-. Many times in secret, to avoid any fears of retaliation -sorry for my bad English I know that is not the right word, but I don't remember any better right now- to the other part of the transaction. When I said "retaliation" I mean lost business with US enterprises due to the embargo... Multiply that by EVERY enterprise that has ANY US interest... Now you are getting the picture. And yes, there is corruption in the goverment, but small time, comparatively speaking. (Some "juniors" in mexico/colombia/etc. live much much better than ANY official in the cuban goverment)

            • What's stopping them is socialism.

              • Yes, just like Canada survived the world's last recession best of all the G8 because it sloughed off socialism too ...

                Oh wait, no it didn't.

                Get off your high horse.

          • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

            by Anonymous Coward

            You are fucking retarded. NO ONE will do business with Cuba, because of the embargo (that'd be like killing their own business). The embargo means that no one that does business with the US can do business with Cuba.

            • Stop being an idiot. The blockade on Cuba ended in the 1960s and yhe embargo only effect US companies, their forrign subsidiaries, and imports from Cuba to the US. Cuba has been a member of the WTO since 1995.

              Most of south america, central america, Russia, china, Europe, and Canada does business with Cuba. The only thing the US embargo hurts is US businesses and to a lesser extent US farmers who could ship more product cheaper to cuba than other places in the world. We do already ship food to cuba.

            • That's not remotely true. Canada does lots of business with Cuba. Only Americans are forbidden from doing business with Cuba.

        • So, what! The Cubans can just put the resources of their mighty socialist republic to work and manufacture all the food and medicine the people need. Isn't that the way it works?

      • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday June 29, 2014 @11:01PM (#47347645)

        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.

        I was in cuba with a group of attorneys. We were at a meeting with government officials who were explaining to us the evils of the US. In the middle of it, one of the attorneys blurted out, "Some of us quit divorce work because of people like you." That sentence pretty much sums up the entire state of US/Cuban relations.

        In fact, I think the only thing holding Cuba together right now is the US government and the sanctions. The US government is the enemy the Cuban's are united against. I believe if the US were to just drop the sanctions, Cuba would fall apart pretty quickly.

        Cuba is the US's neighbor and we should try to help them. They are trying to adopt some capitalism right now, and we should be trying to help. But for Cuba to move forward in a healthy way, there first needs to be a reconciliation between the Cuban's that left and the Cuban's that stayed and then Cuba has to accept that it is a third world country. Unfortunately, Cuba is not important enough for the US to devote the resources necessary to accomplish any of the above, and Cuba has neither the resources nor the ability to accept that any of the above is necessary.

        So basically, Cuba is just F*cked and there is no easy way out for them.

        • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

          by cold fjord ( 826450 )

          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 Dissident []

      • by jodido ( 1052890 )
        This is a myth. The majority of Cubans in Florida are against the US blockade of Cuba (what the US calls "embargo") and for free travel to Cuba.
        http://cocodriloazul.bloguea.c... [] []
        • While this is true, it doesn't matter. What matters is that those in favor of the blockade are passionate about making it their biggest issue that determines their vote, whereas those against the blockade will still vote based on other issues for a politician who favors it.
      • 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.

        Personally I also think it is also partly because the CIA got their nose bloodied there by Castro back when they preferred US mobsters and business to be in charge over anyone who might actually represent the local population.

    • 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 mattyj ( 18900 ) on Sunday June 29, 2014 @10:21PM (#47347501)

        I took one of these person-to-person trips to Cuba two years ago and it was pretty awesome. It's nice to travel somewhere that hasn't been ruined by American interests yet (no Starbucks, no McDonald's, etc.) It wasn't that difficult, you can find tours through chambers of commerce or other travel groups.

        The restrictions are not extremely enforceable, but know that the Cuban government is looking after you, too. Don't make an ass of yourself while there. In any case, roving around the country in an air conditioned tour bus was quite desirable, it was hot.

        Aside from that, if you have some cultural relevance (teacher, sports figure, musician) you can go without it being a 'person-to-person' cultural exchange, I think you just have to clear it with the US Treasury. My guess is that Schmidt et al were able to do that, to spread the good word of a truly American company.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      In practical terms, virtually nothing. I went for a couple weeks in the 1990's, driving to Toronto and joining a bunch of Canadian tourists on their chartered beach-vacation flight, ditching them as soon as we landed in Matanzas. The Cubans were perfectly happy to welcome a tourist with hard currency, even assenting to my friends' requests that their passports not be stamped with entry/exit visas.

      Admittedly, those were the days that you could cross the Canadian border with a US driver's license, and I was

    • So what are the legal consequences for this?

      Even if Schmidt's visit were illegal, Americans who get caught having been to Cuba (which usually doesn't happen unless one is stupid and talks about their holiday to all and sundry) typically only pay a large fine, they don't serve jail time.

      • Jay-Z and Beyonce also recently traveled there earlier this year or so, and were parading in front of cameras and nothing happened to them. I think when you are rich and famous, rules in general, don't apply.
    • He is rich and powerful, what are you expecting?

    • Laws are only for small guys. Did David Gregory go to jail for breaking the Gun Laws on TV?

    • Well its like this. Eric is rich and works for Google, which like Facebook is most likely a CIA front for gathering information ready for the big purge. So what are the legal consequences of this visit for Eric? Well, er, none. Most likely the CIA would love to get plenty of data on Cubans, promote pornography, homosexuality, general deviancy, "democracy" (so that every four years they can vote for one of two puppets who have both pledged their alleigence to Israel and be happy under the illusion that they

    • So what are the legal consequences for this?

      Personally I'd like to visit Cuba but haven't, in part due to the illegality.

      No. You can go there now yourself. Go talk to a travel agent. They fly you to Canada first, then off to Cuba where they don't stamp your passport. I've not been myself but I know at least a doze people who have made the trip. It's a very nice place to visit, and has been described as a lot like Jamaica but with less crime.

    • It is not illegal to visit Cuba, but you won't be getting in with traditional methods (direct flights to/from the USA, tourism visa, etc). Hundreds of missionaries and educators visit Cuba each year, and are quite welcomed by the Cuban government.

  • Bad summary (Score:5, Informative)

    by bananaquackmoo ( 1204116 ) on Sunday June 29, 2014 @09:58PM (#47347403)
    It is NOT impossible to LEGALLY visit Cuba. My friend did it in a study abroad program during college in the US. That said, they don't make it easy.
    • Re:Bad summary (Score:4, Informative)

      by KingOfBLASH ( 620432 ) on Monday June 30, 2014 @04:41AM (#47348557) Journal

      Actually, a lot of people just go through an intermediary country. Book a flight to Mexico City, then from Mexico City to Cuba. The Cuban customs will even give you the "stamp" on a piece of paper they staple on your passport. After you leave you can rip it out and the US government never needs know.

      Why you would do this when visas are still available is beyond me, but people do do it.

  • 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 mattyj ( 18900 )

      The issue with the US government is really communism, read up on your American history a little bit before posting stupid crap like this.

      Granted, by this time it's more of a grudge than anything. BTW, China has a lot more at stake when it comes to the US, like carrying a significant amount of our debt and as you so eloquently explain, importing every manner of toy and electronic device. It behooves the US to allow travel there. It has nothing to do with communism but everything to do with commerce. Cube doe

      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by cold fjord ( 826450 )

        stations. There's no such thing as a 'chain' there, everything is one-off. Although, for some reason you can get M&M's and Pringles. Other than that, you're forced to go native and it was pretty great.

        It is a lot less great if you live there. That is why they flee by the thousands, or tens of thousands, when they get a chance.

        Fifty years later, Cubans still are fleeing the revolution []

        The Lost World, Part I []

        I’m used to seeing military and police checkpoints when I travel abroad. Every country in the Middle East has them, including Israel if you count the one outside the airport. The authorities in that part of the world are looking for guns and bombs mostly. The Cuban authorities aren’t worried about weapons. No one but the regime has anything deadlier than a baseball bat.

        Castro’s checkpoints are there to ensure nobody has too much or the wrong kind of food.

        Police officers pull over cars and search the trunk for meat, lobsters, and shrimp. They also search passenger bags on city busses in Havana. Dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez wrote about it sarcastically in her book, Havana Real. “Buses are stopped in the middle of the street and bags inspected to see if we are carrying some cheese, a lobster, or some dangerous shrimp hidden among our personal belongings.”

        If they find a side of beef in the trunk, so I’m told, you’ll go to prison for five years if you tell the police where you got it and ten years if you don’t.

        No one is allowed to have lobsters in Cuba. You can’t buy them in stores, and they sure as hell aren’t available on anyone’s ration card. They’re strictly reserved for tourist restaurants owned by the state.

        The Lost World, Part II []

        • People flee Mexico by the thousands or tens of thousands, why aren't we hating Mexico?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      My computer was made in Taiwan, you insensitive clod.

      • also known as the Republic of China.

        • also known as the Republic of China.

          Officially, Taiwan is simply a province of China. Whether it is a province of the Republic of China or of the People's Republic of China is still a matter of disagreement.

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Americans need to get fucking clue and get over themselves.

      I'm not sure what the polling data indicates, but count me as an American who thinks the Cuba embargo is not just a foolish anachronism, but an actual violation of the fundamental right to travel freely.

      Like a lot of things in the USA, there is a powerful lobby propping it up. Aside from that, if Cuban cigars weren't illegal, what else could crooked politicians proffer to show their power and connections? Interestingly enough, of the handful of

      • No mod points when I need them...Yes - the absolutely fundamental right of free travel has been violated by this "embargo" and there is zero rationalization for it remaining in place. Just a tremendous lack of courage from the political weenies...
    • Re:I live in Canada (Score:5, Interesting)

      by interkin3tic ( 1469267 ) on Sunday June 29, 2014 @11:13PM (#47347681)
      At this point, it has very little to do with communism. Florida is a big primary state and a big electoral state. Florida has a lot of Cuban-americans who would prefer we invade the island. They have traditionally fiercely opposed lifting the sanctions. Evidently this isn't as true as it was []. Still, outside of cuban americans, not many people care one way or the other.

      Thus, politicians gain very little and risk quite a bit by opposing the sanctions.

      And yes, it is fucking stupid on multiple levels: it was probably always counter-productive, political leaders should show some fucking backbone and end it, citizens shouldn't be so apathetic about keeping an entire nation impoverished, and why is florida even allowed to vote? []

      But, dumb as all that is, "we still hate communism" is not a big reason why we still have sanctions.
      • Sure blame the Floridanos but isn't the problem the agricultural sector?

        Stop making fructose and ethanol from government subsidized maize.

        Pay Mexican farmers a decent price for corn and you might see less 'illegals' crossing the border. Kickstart the Cuban economy by buying their sugar.

  • Not quite (Score:5, Informative)

    by WaffleMonster ( 969671 ) on Sunday June 29, 2014 @10:01PM (#47347423)

    Restrictions are on commerce not travel.

    You can go there as long as you don't spend any money.

    • Can I spend bitcoin? Trade for goods with gold?
    • Actually, you can't legally spend U.S. dollars. If you change your money for a foreign currency before you get there you're legally ok. You might get harassed anyways, of course.
    • by Anonymous Coward

      Wrong, wrong, wrong (this used to be true but changed over 10 years ago, see 31 CFR 515.420).

      There is so much bad legal advice in these comments, I would exceed Slashdot's posting limit if I tried to correct it all. I sincerely hope that nobody gets legal information from Slashdot threads.

  • America the free lol (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Funny how they act that Cuba is soo taboo. Personally I been to Cuba 8 times already. Nicest beaches i have ever seen, and everything is pretty cheap there (except Havana), relatively safe and nice people. Also met a few Americans going through Canada.

  • by argStyopa ( 232550 ) on Sunday June 29, 2014 @10:04PM (#47347431) Journal

    All Americans can travel to Cuba.
    There are constraints and restrictions, but they're mostly bureaucratic and pretty much trivial.

  • ... 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.

    Good luck with that. Maybe they'll turn a few of their '57 Chevys into mobile hot spots.

    Cuban rights abuses, jailings up in new repressive wave []

    The Lost World, Part I []
    The Lost World, Part II []
    Condom shortage hits Cuba []

    • by Patent Lover ( 779809 ) on Sunday June 29, 2014 @10:56PM (#47347619)
      Cuba's only #7. Guess who's tied for #1? []
      • The concept you are overlooking is "political oppression." People in Cuba are jailed and tortured for speaking out against the Cuban government. In the US, not so much. In the US people go to jail for ordinary criminal activity.

        • 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?
        • So that can mean one of a few things now.

          1) The US executive is far more successful in finding criminals than anyone else on the planet.
          2) The US have far more laws that get you jailed.
          3) People in the US are naturally more criminal than elsewhere.
          4) Something makes US people commit crimes.

          Well? Which one is it?

        • So Cubans are oppressed but Americans deserve to be punished?

          Man, you should be writing speeches for anti-American demagogues the world over (apart from Raul Castro of course).

          Also, lots of blacks in Cuba. Cuban censuses distinguish "negro" from "mullato", whereas they are all called "black" in the US, but put them together and the numbers are much higher in Cuba. So your little eugenic theories below don't even work.

        • Oh, did the USA get rid of its right to secret trials and requests for information on citizens without court orders?

          When your government watches everything you do, you act differently. Its repression of a different kind, but its certainly there.

    • You really are on a crusade with those links, aren't you? You're not aware that the US violates more citizen's rights than Cuba ever could? Incarcerates more of its citizens? Denies more of its citizens access to decent health care or education?

      Cuba could certainly improve, but the USA is not in a position of moral authority to dictate such improvements.

  • US - the free country and people living there proud of all that freedom can't travel to this island?
    Just be proud, don't read the small print and the world is OK.
    Ah - don't forget to hang your flag out the frontyard.
    Solves everything.

    • by nbauman ( 624611 )

      Ah - don't forget to hang your flag out the frontyard.

      The one with the 50 states or the Confederate one?

  • Is the article about an American visiting Cuba or about a multi-billionaire promoting expanding the internet in countries that spend significant amounts of their GDP spying on their own citizens?

    Is Schmidt basically telling Cuba, North Korea, et al that he can cut their local spying costs by getting everyone to "speak their mind" online and then recording every word to be used for disrupting opponents and intimidating effective political activists in the same way that the NSA and FBI do? I c

  • by Miamicanes ( 730264 ) on Monday June 30, 2014 @03:04AM (#47348323)

    If there's a god, Raul Castro will announce on Monday that within 5 years, 80% of the Havana metro area will have gigabit fiber to the premises. The announcement will drive our elected officials in South Florida mad, and they'll quickly decide that getting TEN-gigabit municipal FTTP laid across Dade & Broward counties is their #1 priority...

    • Shit, where do I sign the paperwork for Cuban citizenship? :)

      if Google wired up Havana with FTTP, Uncle Raul might see a rush of technological refugees from down [] under [].

  • I think reaching out to Cuba would do much more good than publicly worrying about its dissidents and freedoms.

    It all lacks sincerity, especially after Bradley Manning, Edward Snowden, Julian Assange and Sarah Harrison.

    Co-development, sincere equal cooperation would do a lot of good to Cuba and to the USA itself. There are a lot of people and business in the USA who need assistance not less than people and companies in Cuba.
  • That's very interesting that they visited Cuba because the penalty for a US citizen travelling to Cuba is an administrative penalty of $50,000 with no judicial oversight. That means you get fined and there is no possibility of appeal. Internet access costs about £5 / hour in Cuba and something about £50-70 / month so its only really available in internet cafes.

  • Let's get this clear - it's not illegal for Americans to travel to Cuba. Not at all.

    Got that? Good. Now what is illegal, thanks to President Kennedy, is for Americans to spend money there without prior authorization from the US Department of Treasury. This is how the US government "gets" people who go to Cuba without permission. See, Kennedy signed the order during the Cold War and to prevent the Communists from arguing that the US was repressive and taking away the freedom of its citizens t
    • "Now what is illegal, thanks to President Kennedy, is for Americans to spend money there without prior authorization from the US Department of Treasury"

      Does buying your all inclusive vacation package in Canada count as spending money there?

"Pull the wool over your own eyes!" -- J.R. "Bob" Dobbs