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Cuba's Joint Venture Phone Company, In Bed With the Censors

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Dark night, a blackout in the vicinity of the Buena Vista neighborhood in Playa. The dilapidated shared taxi I'm taking stalls, and with an exhausted snort refuses to start again. A passenger and the driver are trying to fix it, while on both sides of the street we see people sitting outside their houses, resigned to the power outage. I look in my wallet for my mobile, wanting to tell my family I'm delayed so they won't worry about me. It's an ugly picture: we are surrounded by darkness, in an area where crime isn't child's play, and to top it off my cellphone doesn't work. Every time I try to dial a number I get the message, "Call Failed." Finally, the car is purring again and we manage to advance, but the telephone service is not restored to the useless gadget and I feel like throwing it out the window. When I get home I discover that Reinaldo can't call from his, either, and that my blogger friends can't even receive text messages.

Our only mobile phone company cut the service for all of Friday night and part of Saturday, canceling for more than 24 hours a service for which we paid in convertible currency. With its announcements of "instant communication," Cubacel comports itself as if it is an accomplice to the ideologically motivated censorship; supporting the reprimand from the political police, it puts an error message on our screens. It uses its monopoly power to punish those clients who deviate from the official line of thought. Part of its business capital, provided by foreign investors, is used to support the infrastructure of a momentary or prolonged boycott of certain cell phone numbers. A contradictory role for a company that should connect us to the world, not leave us hanging when we need it most.

It is not the first time this has happened. Every so often someone flips a switch and leaves us in silence. Curiously, it happens when there is important news to report and urgent information to bring to light. The forced cancellation of the concert by the group Porno Para Ricardo may have been the trigger for the phone company to violate his own maxim of keeping us "in touch with the world." The possible cremation of the body of Orlando Zapata Tamayo and everything that is happening around that event could be another reason to turn off our voices. What is certain is that on Friday night -- in the midst of the darkness and worry -- Cubacel failed me again, showing me the military uniform that hides beneath its false image as a corporate entity.

Yoani's blog, Generation Y, can be read here in English translation.
Translating Cuba is a new compilation blog with Yoani and other Cuban bloggers in English.