The regime is now using free Internet access to lure people to its political events
On Monday, 17 October, 2016 Josefina Vidal, a leading Cuban official involved in negotiations with the US, showed up at the University of Havana for a public appearance before students there. Vidal was supposed to talk about the US embargo, and dispel hopes of improvements for Cuba as a result of negotiations in which, contradictorily, she has been one of the main agents.
To turn people out the Cuban Government resorted to offering free Internet via Wi-Fi in the location where their official was going to speak. Young people from various higher, secondary and technical education facilities communicated with each other via SMS to announce the unique opportunity of a connection they could actually afford; in a country where the minimum wage is around ten dollars per month, one hour of Internet costs around two dollars, or one-fifth of that. The Government's intention was clear: to attract thousands of young people to the university square where Vidal was, “just coincidentally,” going to be speaking.
To implement this there were two trucks that, once the official had finished speaking, withdrew, as if part of her entourage.
Yuniel Labacena Romero, the official news editor who would cover the day for Juventud Rebelde, was not bothered by this. To do her job it was enough for her to get some photos of young people looking at their phones, and another with Josefina Vidal sitting on a stool wearing a simple pullover, in contrast to the elegant clothing she normally dons for intergovernmental meetings.
The spectacle of mass congregations are a necessity for the Castro regime. Totalitarian powers tend to lead marches before they lead governments. A contempt for rules, and a cult of hysteria and hostility towards dialogue are manifested in everyday life after been first experienced in these types of tumultuous happenings.
But the human temperament requires repose, which leads to more prudence and better judgment. For the powers that be, exalted by crowds, both of these are dangerous developments. With previous sources of public mobilization exhausted, totalitarian governments need to employ new instruments. Wars are formidable occasions for this. The height of totalitarianism has always coincided with military conflict. In peacetime, however, it is necessary to devise other methods, though their motivations are less extraordinary and results less effective.
Tragic dates, sporting victories and favorable votes are part of the mobilization tools used by the Castro regime, which is now testing a new one: free Internet.
"When a hornet's nest stings" was the title of the article published by Juventud Rebelde to describe the university function. The author compared the activity to that of a swarm of insects, which can be very dangerous when attacking all together. It also claimed that fluttering about there (I suppose like a kind of bumblebee) was Susely Morfa González, the first secretary of the Union of Young Communists (UJC), best known for a video that went viral during the last Summit of the Americas in Panama, in which she claimed, frantically, that she had travelled to that country on her own savings.
A few days ago a friend of mine informed me that of the 50 Economics graduates from her daughter's class graduating in June of 2015, only 13 remained in Cuba. Her daughter knows this because she is in Spain, where she is, undoubtedly, able to connect to the Internet without any obstacles to track her classmates' transnational whereabouts. And those who turned up at that university square were probably seizing the occasion to check out destinations where they might go after they graduate, as these wasps are, no doubt, more focused on flying off than stinging anyone.
This is a great shame, as under normal circumstances our university graduates would be essential to the future of our country. But Castroism continues to build an insurmountable wall between them and that future.