Opening day–and some Cuba links

The U.S. Interests Section in Havana is now the U.S. Embassy, and the Cuban Interests Section in Washington is now the Cuban Embassy. Fingers crossed, and for any non-Spanish speakers wanting to follow developments in Cuba, here are some interesting links:

Granma, the official organ of the Cuban Communist Party, publishes an online edition in English , as well as in French, German, Portuguese and Italian. Buzzfeed recently did a story on the paper, describing its newsroom as the slowest in the world, noting the paper’s lack of Wi-Fi but also the fact that Granma will be the first news outlet to report Fidel Castro’s death when it happens:

14ymedio, the digital newspaper set up by Cuban independent journalists, also has an English edition, though not all its articles get translated from Spanish:

Since 2011 Larry Press, a professor of information systems at California State University, has been writing an excellent blog on how the Internet is developing in Cuba . One of his more entertaining posts is an open letter to the anonymous Cuban official charged with monitoring his blog

Finally, there is a wealth of detail on everyday life in Cuba to be gleaned from the country’s bloggers, and Translating Cuba has over 60 blogs by independent commentators. Yoani Sanchez is perhaps the best known of these, but there are many other good bloggers such as Regina Coyula, who posted earlier this year on the return of bus conductors on Havana’s transport system:

And still more on Cuba and Ebola

The New Yorker has this admiring article by Jon Lee Anderson on Cuban doctors working in West Africa:

The Huffington Post has a more deadpan view by dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez, with a photo of Cuban doctors at a U.S. Agency for International Development clinic in Liberia:

Online in Cuba

The cost of an hour of internet access in Cuba costs about a third of the average Cuban’s monthly salary.  Will the cost go down with more access points? The 118 new internet access points recently opened in Cuba seem to be working, and a very good place to follow the country’s slow path to connectivity is the blog The Internet in Cuba, whose author has been covering the issue since the 1990s. He writes

Cuba was one of the leading pre-Internet networking nations in the Caribbean. The small community of Cuban networking technicians was like that of other nations at the time. They were smart, resourceful, and motivated. They believed, correctly, that the Internet was important — that it would have a profound impact on individuals, organizations and society. They were members of the international community of Internet pioneers.

For background on Cuba’s slow road to internet access, The Economist published this piece over two years ago:

Dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez recently visited the area in eastern Cuba where the undersea fiber optic cable from Venezuela joins the island:

And here’s a New York Times blog about a blogger, University of Havana journalism professor Elaine Diaz, who supports Fidel Castro but adopts a mildly critical view in some of her writing:

On the state of U.S.-Cuba relations

The Associated Press reports on U.S. Secretary of State’s forthcoming decision on whether to recommend removing Cuba from a list of countries sponsoring terrorism:  The article notes that the decision will have a major impact on bilateral relations, either “ushering in long-stalled detente or slamming the door on rapprochement, perhaps until the scheduled end of the Castro era in 2018.”

Foreign Policy has a blog post about dissident Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez, who told an audience at Washington’s Cato Institute that she believed the U.S. trade embargo against Cuba should be lifted:

The U.S. State Department’s Bureau for Narcotics Control and International Law Enforcement Affairs annual report on drug trafficking had rather favorable things to say about Cuba, a country the region’s narcotraficantes would just love to bring into their fold.  The report notes that “Cuba’s domestic drug production and consumption remain negligible as a result of active policing, harsh sentencing for drug offenses, and very low consumer disposable income” and the country “maintained a significant level of cooperation with U.S. counternarcotics efforts “The report also praised “the technical skill of Cuba’s security services,” which gave it an edge over drug traffickers attempting to access the island.

And earlier this month Granma, Cuba’s official newspaper, published an interview with U.S. Consul General Timothy Roche on the procedure for obtaining a U.S. visa. The U.S. Interests Section in Havana requested the interview shortly after Cuban authorities lifted the exit visa requirement for most Cubans wishing to travel abroad.