For Whom the Telephone Tolls?

by    /  June 11, 2012  / No comments

Fraud and criminal negligence by the only phone company in Cuba

Etecsa building

An Etecsa office in Varadero. Photo: Flickr user Flodigrip's World. Creative Commons License.

I don’t know much about the law, which is not really a problem in Cuba, where very few laws are followed to the letter. However, as a customer of the only phone company in my country (ETECSA-CUBACEL, a state company, like all companies here), I feel there should be sanctions for two offenses of a universal nature: Fraud and criminal negligence.

  1. Is it worth-while to focus on the last images and letters coming from the inside of the last living utopia on Earth? Is Cuba by now a contemporary country or just another old-fashioned delusion in the middle of Nowhere-America? A Cold-War Northtalgia maybe? Can we expect a young within that Ancien Régime still known as The Revolution? I would like to provoke more questions than answers.
  2. Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo was born in Havana City and still resides and resists there, working as a free-lance writer, photographer and blogger. He is the author of Boring Home (2009) and is the editor of the independent opinion and literary e-zine Voces.

Cuba’s human rights activists, bloggers, and freelance journalists often find that their phone service has been cut off for no other reason than to prevent them from communicating with the rest of the world, hindering their work on the island.

Even when the activists have plenty of credit (including in hard currency) and are neither the subject of police investigations nor court proceedings, ETECSA-CUBACEL conspires against them. The company refuses to give any explanation when these customers complain about their disabled cell phones or landlines to technical assistance.

Disabled service has been the case for hundreds of Cubans in the past few years, since the government has allowed Cuban nationals to use cell phones. Before only foreigners benefited from such “privileges.”

Actions against phone users are carried out without prior warning and always in situations where making a call means the difference between repression going unpunished or being denounced. After you’ve been arrested (without charge), dropped service can even mean the difference between reassuring family members, or spending days “disappeared” in some police station.

In the free world, ETECSA-CUBACEL’s complicity with politicians would constitute a crime leading to calls for its directors to resign, recriminations from its shareholders, financial compensation, and a formal apology to its defrauded customers.

Regrettably, in the Cuban legal system, held hostage by the State, such demands would never amount to anything. The bell’s tolls (or jangles) for justice must wait until after the current “democratizing” transition to a supposed State capitalism.

But it must be noted that the despotic tradition of the island’s governments bears no ideological traces. Rather, it is a tradition that attempts to exercise absolute control over the most anti-establishment members of society.

Translation: Alex Higson.

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