Cuba has launched EcuRed, it’s own version of Wikipedia. It is a surprising move for a country whose population has very minimal or no Internet access. Well, maybe not so surprising when you consider that the Cuban regime produces a large amount of propaganda targeted at the outside world, and EcuRed fits neatly into that framework.
“They do these extensive media operations,” said Mauricio Claver-Carone, a member of the board of directors of U.S.-Cuba Democracy PAC, “so that eventually the rest of the world, they hope, is seeing that, and they think it’s the truth because it’s coming from all kinds of different sources.”
If building an entire online encyclopedia seems overly elaborate for propaganda, one need only look at Cuba’s newspapers. All six major newspapers in Cuba are state run, but each claims to represent a different voice in the population, leading to the perception that multiple different viewpoints are represented in the media.
“It’s their way of continuously rewriting history, essentially, for a foreign audience,” he said, because “domestically, the Cuban government is not going to convince anyone that all is good … they survive basically off foreign political support and foreign economic support.”
This massive propaganda effort only has a chance because there are still some folks that give the Cuban government the benefit of the doubt. The targeted audience, obviously, is not the United States, a country that, as The Daily Caller reported last week, gets a pretty bad rap on EcuRed. “There is a huge audience out there that consumes anti-Americanism,” said Claver-Carone, calling it “the blame America first model.” The regime’s propaganda “feed[s] that anti-American audience.”
It also, according to Claver-Carone, serves as a “distraction, so that people don’t pay attention to the real issues on the island.”
In spite of this massive effort, technology has ultimately made it more difficult for Fidel Castro’s regime to preserve this image to the outside world. People say technology is neutral but I think technology is more in favor of democracy. It’s very difficult for a regime to have control to the extent that they are used to when people can take a photograph from a telephone.
Special Report Section
Wars in 2011
(part 1 of a 7 part report)
(part 1 of a 7 part report)
16 brewing conflicts that could erupt in 2011.
There re conflicts raging all across the globe today, from the valleys of Afghanistan to the jungles of the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the streets of Kashmir. But which are the ones that might erupt into full war in 2011? I have chosen 16 of the most likely and each day for the next week I will discuss a few of them in this section of my blog.
Côte d'Ivoire is on the brink of what may be a very bad 2011. After a five-year delay, Côte d'Ivoire held presidential elections on Oct. 31. A peaceful first round of voting was commended by the international community, but the runoff between incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and former Prime Minister Alassane Ouattara was marred by clashes and allegations of fraud on both sides.
The international community, including the United Nations, the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS), former colonial power France, and the United States, has recognized Outtara as the victor, but this has not prevented Gbagbo, with the backing of senior military officials and the Constitutional Council, from taking the oath of office. Both politicians have named prime ministers and governments as tension mounts and protests occur in the streets. The United Nations has reported disappearances, rape, and at least two dozen deaths so far.
Worst case scenario: Gbagbo stays in power, armed conflict between the supporters of each side plunges the country into civil war. Best case scenario: Gbagbo succumbs to international appeals and steps down. But it's not clear how things could get better from here. The international community has already ratcheted up pressure, including financial restrictions and travel bans. And the United Nations renewed the mandate of its peacekeeping operation there, despite Gbagbo calling for its immediate departure.
It's very possible that Cote d'Ivoire will take a turn for the worse in 2011. Gbagbo and Ouattara both have heavily armed supporters who seem ready to fight for the long haul.
At first glance, Colombia's prospects for 2011 look bright. The country's new president, Juan Manuel Santos, has surprised many former critics with his bold reform proposals, many of which are aimed at addressing the root causes of the country's 46-year civil conflict against leftist rebels. He has mended relations with neighbouring Venezuela and Ecuador, committed to protect human rights advocates, and proposed legislation to help resettle the country's four million displaced.
The news is not all good, however. Despite a series of strategic losses in recent years -- from territory to key leadership -- the country's leftist guerrillas, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), still maintain about 8,000 armed troops and perhaps twice that number of supporters. The rebels killed some 30 police in the weeks after Santos's inauguration, clearly to make a point. Meanwhile, new illegal armed groups have sprung up to capture the drug trafficking market, their ranks filled with former paramilitary fighters. These gangs are largely responsible for the rising incidence of urban violence; homicide rates have gone up by over 100 percent in Colombia's second city, Medellín, last year.
If these new armed groups are not contained, Colombia stands to regress in its long fight to finally root out the drug trade -- and the militancy it fuels. In such a scenario, FARC could see a comeback, restarting its campaign of terror in the country's major cities. As has been the case so often in Colombia's recent history, it would be the civilian population who would suffer most from such a return to conflict.
Yet the opposite scenario is equally likely in the coming months. Santos has worked with his counterparts in Venezuela and Ecuador to increase border surveillance, putting pressure on illegal armed groups holed up there. Under such pressure, FARC may even welcome the chance to start talks with the government about disarmament and reintegration. Much rests in this government's hands.
Live Long and Prosper...