On Tuesday, Cuba launched its own version of Wikipedia, called EcuRed, an online encyclopedia with user contributions. According to the homepage, the site “was born of the desire to create and disseminate knowledge of everyone for everyone; from Cuba and with the world.”
EcuRed, which was created by The Youth Club of Electronics and Computers in Cuba, had 19,631 entries as of yesterday. Users may post or edit articles, pending approval from an administrator, though the site does not say who is in charge of running it. Like electricity in Cuba, the site is also not reliably available. It has been only intermittently accessible since yesterday evening.
The entries on EcuRed, some of which are translated by TheDC below, appear to reflect the views of the Cuban government, though nowhere on the website does it explicitly mention that the government is involved. The United States is often attacked throughout the site. For instance, in an entry entitled “Blockade,” the U.S. blockade of Cuba is described as “the most heightened expression of a cruel and inhuman policy, void of legality and legitimacy and deliberately designed to provoke hunger, diseases, and desperation in the Cuban population.”
The entry on Fidel Castro does not mention the human rights abuses, censorship, or imprisonment of dissidents that has occurred under his regime. The same soft-gloves treatment, however, is not afforded to former President George W. Bush, who in contrast to Castro was democratically elected.
“In the wake of the attacks on the Twin Towers in New York on September 11, 2001, George W. Bush gave himself the task of fighting terrorism with more terrorism on a global scale,” says the entry. “The aggressions against Afghanistan and Iraq, with tens of thousands of civilian victims, demonstrate this. He applied all possible methods of dirty war: clandestine prisons, kidnappings, extrajudicial proceedings, telephone spying, and the kidnapping of mere suspects.”
“In the presidential election campaign of 2000, Bush declared himself a ‘compassionate conservative,’ but he did not know how to stay quiet and keep to himself his past as a drug addict,” the Bush entry continues, regarding to the 2000 presidential election.
The section on the invasion of Afghanistan says, “This justification and the call for a ‘war on terrorism’ were only pretexts to unleash a wave of global domination on the part of the United States.”
The entry on Israel, a country for which Castro’s Cuba has historically harbored little affection, is also condemnatory.
“The contemporary history of Israel is the history of conquest, usurpation, occupation and colonialist expansion of the territory of Palestine and other Arab towns, by means of a war of pillage,” the entry reads.
The entry also includes a section entitled “Human Rights Abuses.”
Despite his role in the Bay of Pigs and the Cuban Missile Crisis, John F. Kennedy comes out relatively unscathed. President Barack Obama does not yet have an entry, though Wikileaks does.
It remains to be seen just who will access the online encyclopedia. Cuba is a country with very limited Internet access, and it has “one of the smallest audiences in Internet,” according to Frank Calzon, executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba. Moreover, information in Cuba is often censored by the government.
As if to illustrate this point, Yoani Sánchez, a well-known dissident blogger, wrote in a post on her blog Generación Y on December 10 that she had just learned of Wikileaks “a few weeks ago.”
“I know that it seems incredible that a blogger, someone who uses the web as a means of expression, did not know this site of revelations. But nothing is strange in this ‘island of the disconnected,’” she wrote.
Considering how little access ordinary Cubans have to the Internet, the site may be more often viewed by those outside of Cuba, though if the past 24 hours is any indication, even those outside of Cuba are likely to have difficulty logging on.