The founding of the website EcuRed — Cuba’s newest propaganda tool — reaffirms one long-standing principle of comparative international politics. Communists suck at naming things.
The phenomenon is understandable. Communists were never schooled in the capitalist skill of marketing. The Soviet Union never had a “branding” initiative at the Politburo.
EcuRed was created by — get this name — the Youth Club of Electronics & Computers of Havana. The name of EcuRed’s founding organization conjures up visions of serious young people in uniforms, all gazing into the screen of an old cathode-ray tube monitor. Perhaps they meet in an otherwise barren office with a 20-year-old picture of Fidel peeling from the wall. If they want to complete the picture, perhaps they could simply rename themselves the Internet Brown Shirts.
Of course that is a silly suggestion. Our own FCC no doubt has a plan to claim the domain names InternetBrownShirts.gov, .org and .com any day now. Though, given the wimpiness of the Obama administration when it comes to Havana, the White House would probably have the FCC sign the domain names over to the Cubans if they asked nicely.
In essence, EcuRed purports to be, with a few exceptions, the Cuban version of Wikipedia. Each article on Wikipedia notes that material posted without a source may be removed. EcuRed probably has a similar process for addressing any proposed changes in content. But, in the Castro tradition of free speech, instead of the inaccurate posting being removed, the person challenging it can be removed…literally…permanently… forever.
Even by the lax standards of internet reporting, EcuRed is a sham. The bloggers on birther websites would have to scoff at how completely baseless and biased the EcuRed articles are. Ya gotta have some journalistic standards, after all.
But that assumes you are at least trying to tell the truth. EcuRed is simply a propaganda tool, but one that has the potential to reach far more people than Pravda, the official newspaper of the Soviet Union until 1991, or Pravda’s little brother, the Cuban Communist Party rag Granma.
Perhaps the most direct evidence that this new website is a propaganda tool of the Castro regime is the fact that there is no EcuRed listing for Alan Gross.
The sad & strange story of Alan Gross
Alan Gross is a 60-year-old American U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) contractor. He has been wasting away in a Cuban jail for over a year, despite never having been formally charged with any crime.
A husband and father of two daughters, Gross worked for a company in Maryland that gave him a portion of their USAID grant to deliver cell phones and computers to Cuba’s Jewish community. He had made five trips to Cuba in nine months distributing equipment. According to an article in the Washington Post, Gross had “also helped the Cubans download music, Wikipedia and the Encyclopaedia Britannica off flash drives.”
As he tried to leave the island in December of 2009, Gross was arrested. Although he has never been charged with any crime, Cuban officials now claim that Gross is an American spy.
International opinion on Alan Gross varies. He’s been labeled both a patriot and a puppet. Many feel he is simply an unintended casualty of the ongoing U.S.-Cuba stand-off.
Alan Gross may be called a lot of things (for believing he could move around Cuba unencumbered, naive is a good start), but he is certainly not an American spy. The CIA doesn’t train their inductees in language by giving them Rosetta Stone, which is how Gross learned the broken Spanish he speaks in jail.
And, judging from his activities in Cuba, if Gross is a trained American spy, we have a lot bigger problems here than our relations with Cuba. If Gross is on the CIA’s payroll, America needs to spend a lot more money on training.
The establishment of EcuRed this month therefore puts an ironic new twist on the detainment of Alan Gross. In a country where internet use is restricted for most citizens, Gross was bringing Cubans equipment that would have actually given them the ability to access and read EcuRed.
Unfortunately for Alan Gross and his family, he has become a pawn. International sources who have met with the Castro regime have indicated that Gross has become a trading chip in Castro’s efforts to gain return of five Cuban nationals serving time in American jails for spying. The Castro regime is seeking a 5-for-1 trade.
Fidel Castro can write the EucRed profile for Alan Gross
2010 will be remembered as the year when Fidel Castro embarked on his “I Am Not A Tyrannical Despot World Tour.” In the twilight of his life, Castro has started a public relations campaign, trying to transform his image as a totalitarian dictator to that of an international statesman.
Castro has apologized for the systematic persecution of gays under his watch. He told a reporter for The Atlantic that Iranian leaders need to quit being anti-Semitic. But his words, unmatched with action to date, have been meaningless.
The case of Alan Gross gives Fidel Castro the opportunity to match his words with action. Gross is ill and has lost 90 of his pre-incarceration 250 pounds. Back home, his daughter is fighting cancer. International humanitarian agencies have called for his release. It’s time for the Castro regime to respond and send Alan Gross home.
As part of his activities this past year, Fidel Castro published several columns. The Alan Gross situation gives him the perfect opportunity to write and post an article on EcuRed:
Alan Gross — American contractor held prisoner in Cuban jail without charges for distributing cell phones and internet equipment. He was set free on humanitarian grounds by direct order of Fidel Castro in 2011.
Rick Robinson is the author of political thrillers which can be purchased on Amazon and at book stores everywhere. His latest novel, Manifest Destiny has won seven writing awards, including Best Fiction at the Paris Book Festival.