How Do You Tame Computer Users? / Yoani Sanchez
Posted on May 19, 2015
Generation Y, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 18 May 2015 – Nimble fingers over
the keyboard, a life divided between reality and the digital world, plus
the gratification of amusing yourself, learning, teaching and being free
through technology. These are some of the points shared by those of us
in Cuba who have linked ourselves to information and communication
technologies, whether for professional reasons or simply from personal
passion. Now, a new association is trying to support these enthusiasts
of circuits and screens, although the management of the organization
proposes many limits on autonomy and ideological ties.
The new Computer Users Union of Cuba (UIC) will enjoy the official
recognition that has been lacking until now for independent groups of
bloggers, gamers and programmers. It will have statutes, a code of
ethics and members will be able to rely on support and visibility
through its structure. Nor is there any doubt that at the next
international event where "pro-governmental civil society" appears — in
the manner of the Summit of the Americas — the new affiliates of the UIC
If the promoters of these activities, in whatever part of the world,
want to know how a pretend non-governmental organization is generated,
they should pay attention to the details of the genesis of the new
organization that will bring together Cubans engaged in new
technologies. It will be an excellent opportunity not to see "a star
being born," but to witness how a black hole is created that that will
seek to engulf one of the wildest, freest phenomenon parallel to power
in Cuban society today.
The process for signing up for the UIC will be open until July 15.
Applicants must submit the registration form, a photocopy of their
academic degree, and sign a letter accepting the draft Bylaws and Code
of Ethics, which first must be downloaded from the Ministry of
Communication's website. It is surprising that at this point the
organizing committee which emerged from the entity's constituent
congress – despite its undeniable technological capabilities – doesn't
have its own digital site. It would have required a "civilian" portal
that does not include ".gob.cu" in its internet address, because that
would identify it as subject to the government… not as an NGO.
The UIC defines itself as an organization with a professional profile,
with both voluntary and at the same time select affiliation, created
under Article 7 of the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba. A glance at
this part of the Constitution clarifies that these organizations
"represent their specific interests and incorporate them into the task
of edification, consolidation and defense of the Socialist society." As
if that isn't enough, the president of the organizing committee, Allyn
Febles, who is also vice rector of the University of Information
Sciences, told reporters that "the new organization has as a base the
unity of it members in support of the social project of the Cuban
An attempt, no doubt, to assign a political color to kilobytes, tweets
and apps. As if they felt the need to demarcate the limits of
technologies starting from Party considerations. Why are they so crude?
Why isn't it possible to create a Union of Cuban Computer Users
dedicated to teaching the population to use the tools that allow them to
more freely and easily access new technologies? Why do they have to
interpose themselves between the keyboard and the social networks, and
not just from any ideology but from a particular sectarian and
The restrictions don't end there. In its introduction, the ethics code
defines a priori computer users as "committed to our Socialist
Revolution…" while in Article 3 it imposes maintaining conduct "in
accord with the norms and principles of our Socialist society." The
situation worsens, because Article 13 of the code itself imposes on the
UIC members the obligation to inform on colleagues who incur offenses.
Rather than an entity to preserve the rights to technology enthusiasts,
it is creating an oversight body to control them.
Like a ghost of the past, the little check box of "political membership"
reappears on the application form for admission to the UIC, where the
applicant must put checkmarks next to organizations such as the
Communist Party, the Young Communist Union or… the Federation of Cuban
Women, the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution, and the Cuban
Workers Center. Which contradicts the official spokespeople who shout
themselves hoarse saying that these latter three are not political but
rather social entities. Which is it?
The nice part of the UIC's founding documents is where they warn that
the UIC "will be working to create a climate of scientific and technical
creation and for the elevation of its members to a professional level
and a permanent technological upgrade, encouraging the identification
and the recording of the knowledge of its associates and their
preparation and fitness to undertake specific projects, as well and the
identification of opportunities to impact the economic development of
the country and the exporting of goods and services, and in this way
contributing to an increase in the welfare of its members."
But why, in order to receive these undeniable benefits, must they show
political obedience and loyalty? The answer is simple: because it is
expected that the members of the UIC will put intolerance ahead of
information sciences, being soldiers ahead of being internauts… being
censors ahead of being young people who play with binary code.
Source: How Do You Tame Computer Users? / Yoani Sanchez | Translating