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  • Morning Bell: Bringing the Light of Freedom to Cuba

    The society that Pope Benedict XVI will find when he lands in Cuba next week will be a destitute one, prostrate in every way. The once proud and comparatively wealthy Cubans are now among the poorest in the hemisphere, definitely the least informed and, consequently, the least free. For outsiders, Cuba is a cautionary tale about what happens when a minority with guns takes over and tries to create a socialist paradise. For Cubans, who can’t escape, Cuba oscillates between inferno and merely tedious existence.

    Cuba is disconnected from the rest of the world, via phone or internet, because the communists in charge want it that way. Information is power, and the last thing the generals in charge want is an empowered population. And the Internet, of course, is the most liberating media of all.

    The Heritage Foundation and Google Ideas will team up today for a conference on how to bring connectivity to Cuba. The featured speaker at this conference will be Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), whose parents hailed from Cuba and who has used his position as ranking member of the Western Hemisphere subcommittee of the Foreign Relations Committee to become a powerful voice for human rights.

    Cuba’s numbers tell a sad tale. According to the World Bank, Cuba’s mobile phone penetration is tiny: 8.91%. And, no, it’s not poverty that can be blamed for this state of affairs. Nearby Haiti, with a GDP per capita of $739, has a mobile phone penetration of 40.03%. As for the Internet, according to the International Telecommunications Union, only about 1.7 Cubans out of a 100 are online. Haiti’s penetration hovers between 10 and 11.

    The Internet is the embodiment of Adam Smith’s invisible hand, moved along by the wisdom of crowds. Communists, indeed even socialists, with their fervor for central planning, command-control decision by elites, cannot abide the liberating force that is the Internet.

    And it is through the Internet that people can get out images and accounts of what the government does to them. Think of Neda Agha-Soltan the young Iranian woman whose assassination in the streets of Tehran, captured by a citizen journalist, brought to the world the obscenity of the Iranian regime.

    This is why Cuba’s Communist guardians cannot trust their people to be online. Indeed, this is why they set out to destroy the vibrant media environment they found, just as they had to destroy the culture and even the architecture. Cuba in 1958 had its problems, to be sure, starting with a corrupt dictator in Fulgencio Batista. But in terms of GDP per capita and other markers it led Latin America. This was definitely the case with media.

    Again, the numbers tell the story. Pre-Castro Cuba had 58 daily newspapers and was eighth in the world in number of radio stations, according to the U.N. statistical year book. This placed the tiny island only behind Brazil, Mexico and Argentina, countries with many times Cuba’s population. Today Cubans must contend with the dreary Granma, Cuba’s Pravda, which no one reads.

    In 1959, when Castro took over, television was the new medium and, again according to the U.N., Cuba’s 45 sets per one thousand inhabitants was by far the most in Latin America and fifth in the world, behind only Monaco, the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. And Cuba’s 23 television stations led Latin America. Today there’s the Castro hour, followed by the Castro hour.

    Back to the Pope’s visit. Upon his arrival, he will see a society preserved in aspic; the 1940s and 1950s vintage cars are emblematic of a society that ceased to evolve when it became communist.

    The Pope can make some headway in bringing change to the island by agreeing to meet with dissidents, something the hierarchy of the Cuban Catholic Church has said he won’t have time to do–though he is making time to meet with the ailing dictator Fidel Castro if he bids him from this death bed.

    The head of the Catholic Church in Cuba, Cardinal Jaime Ortega has rightly received criticism for this decision. Cardinal Ortega, The Washington Post said yesterday in a tough editorial, “has become a de facto partner of Raul Castro, meeting with him regularly and encouraging his limited reforms.”

    Much like Pope John Paul II helped bring the light of freedom to Eastern European citizens enslaved by communism, so too can Pope Benedict XVI help spread the message of liberty to the people still held captive by archaic oppression in Cuba

    Heritage and Google will together scratch the surface of finding our own solution. By spreading awareness of what Cuba’s situation is, we will have begun to help.

    Follow Mike Gonzalez on Twitter @gundisalvus.

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    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    21 Responses to Morning Bell: Bringing the Light of Freedom to Cuba

    1. Frank says:

      Jesus would say something along the line of before you remove the splinter in your brother's eye, remove the plank from your own eye. The USA is rapidly going socialist with its own blend of crony capitalism, high taxes, massive deficit spending, ever growing big government, fewer freedoms for the average American, more red tape & regulations if you want to start your own business, corrupt politicians, corrupt & secretive Central Bank, big business bailouts at taxpayers expense, ever expanding government intrusion into our private affairs, decreasing gun ownership, etc., etc. America is no longer land of the free & home of the brave. Now its land of big government rules, regulations & surveillance & home of the live easy welfare net.

      The USA no longer has any moral authority to lecture Cuba on anything!

      • Todd says:

        Can't argue with that, but "We The People…" have to change that and change it quick. If we do not get rid of the socialist Democratic party, the country of the Free and Brave is gone for good.

      • Ben C. says:

        Well said – you are absolutely correct.

      • Gary says:

        You are correct. The solution is in whether we have enough people who believe in individual liberty or not. right now it is approaching 50% of those who are buying in to big government. individual liberty is slowly bleeding away. Pray to God is what I say.

      • David says:

        Bit of a silly argument. Heritage isn't a part of the establishment creating the socialist America. Am I disqualified to suggest solutions to the high price of gas in Europe because I live in a country where the price of gas has doubled is 3 years?

    2. Steve West says:

      The way things are going in the USA right now, it may not be too long before you will write a column about bringing the light of freedom to America, that is IF you will still have the freedom to write such government-critical thoughts. Freeing up Cuba is a good thing. Keeping all of our God-given and Constitution-protected liberties intact, however, is MUCH more important. Everything good and of-liberty seems to be under attack by our government, the ACLU, and almost every other left-leaning group of "Americans." We are now involved in what has become an uphill battle because we have all too often turned the other cheek, as we were taught in church. Well, one of the things I learned in anatomy class is that we only have four cheeks, and the last one of them was turned in 1947 when we allowed Justice Hugo Black to turn Jefferson's phrase "separation of church and state" 180 degrees without even a meaningful murmur from us. Shame of him (and the other four justices who voted with him), and shame on us!

    3. Mary......WI says:

      And so the question is, could the transformation plan for the USA by Barack Hussein Obama be communism where, like in Cuba, everyone lives equally according to the government dictates……where people are nothing more than zombies, serfs…knowing there is no way out of the barbed hold of the government back to freedom? I fear the answer may be yes. He CANNOT be re-elected as president of the USA for another 4 years….those 4 years might become an eternity…a true dictatorship.

      • dodger says:

        Mary, I agree wholeheartedly. I just pray Odumbo doesn't find some way to "postpone" the election, like a national emergency of some sort. If that happens and he gets away with it, we're sunk.

    4. freedom says:

      Thank you very much for this.
      I wonder if you saw the Letter to the Pope written by Professor Carlos Eire of Yale University. This was originally published in babalublog.com and then picked up by NR online:

      pope letter LIW

    5. zucccchini says:

      If the internet is all so powerful, why don't the masses see what the present government is doing in restricting liberty and freedom right under their very noses. Regulations and mandates are a daily mantra for Americans.

    6. Gregory Mascaro says:

      It will be a natural procession for Cuba to become more democratic(A free Republic I hope) and free. As time passes the old ways and old guards die and the youth come to power. Powers that oppress will be challenged and tyrants will be removed.

      But the real impetus for freedom and change will come from our government needing new countries to buy our debt. When bringing a new country into the fold of free enterprise the first step is by selling that perspective country our debt in exchange for that country's wealth, be it natural resources or goods. When a country takes delivery of our paper it gives credibility to that countries economy and currency(Implied Credibilty) with the global world markets(world bank and the IMF)

    7. Gregory Mascaro says:

      To fulfill our financial needs this administration is looking every where for buyers of its debt including to mandate that all 401k and pension funds must have at least 20% of the value of the account to hold US debt in an effort to protect the investor(a real oxymoron). When that fails, we will embrace Cuba and all of her assets in the guise of friendship and liberty.

      Will Cuba gain a better way of life and a higher standard of living? I believe yes but at what cost? Basically what we say we want to do for Cuba they can do for themselves and not take hold of our worthless paper. The "olive Branch" of friendship will actually be the "short-end of a candy coated stick"

    8. Steve says:

      Whoa! The Internet is the embodiment of Adam Smith's "the invisible hand"???? I think the invisible hand Mr. Smith refered to was the hand of Providence…….not Microsoft.

    9. John L. Decossaux says:

      I haven't been to Cuba, but I'm sure I wouldn't want to live there, not enough freedom of religion. I saw one report that they are farming every square inch of their island like Britain did during WW2 because of blockades. That sounds like something America will be doing in a few years. If it's true-good idea! They can't be all bad. As for the Pope, it won't be the first time Catholics or Protestants collaborated with governmental powers to spread the Gospel or to keep their foot (Churches opened) in the door. I don't think criticizing people who make sure there aren't homeless people should be the goal of Christians, Republicans-maybe, but not the body of Christ. If we are going to criticize it should be that Christians in America live like pagans, immodest, immoral & not really believing the Bible is "scientifically" true. Let's take the beam out of our eye first.

    10. Patt says:

      This spot lights why the Dem, Progs and Libs don't like talk radio, they cannot control them. and they sure don't go by the Dems' talking points on how great Obama is and his wonderful henchmen. So, gotta control the flow of info and they want Fox New, talk radio (not their people of course, just the "right wingers") to go away.

    11. Gary says:

      We have a real problem in this country. Unless Obama and his socialist minions are defeated in 2012, we may be the next Cuba. Our individual liberty is crumbling and I would think before we can spread free thought around the world, we better start mighty fast on getting our's back. The progressives are destroying our country bit by bit. They have been since the turn of the last century. People need to wake up and pay attention to what is happening. A vote for Obama in 2012 is a vote for tyranny.

    12. jeddy says:

      As a voice of Conservatism, Heritage should vet their partners. Google is a decidedly left-leaning organization concerning political contributions and has, allegedly, on occasion, corrupted their search engine results to push a political agenda.

    13. Blair Franconia, NH says:

      Photojournalist Dickie Chapelle was responsible for bringing Fidel Castro to power. She later had buyer's remorse and worked to change the situation. She later became the first reporter to die in Vietnam.

    14. Margaret Merritt says:

      I believe God has taken His umbrella of protection from over this country and it's people, because of our emorality. We the people have set back and let our freedom of religon be taken away by the powers that be, now we are suffering the consiquences. It has only begun. Margaret

    15. Doesn't anyone use common sense anymore? We have a communist regime that has been sitting on our back porch sense 1960. We have put trading sanctions on them for years and refused to try to inform the people of Cuba that we are not their enemy but their neighbors and just want to be good neighbors. This has caused the Cuban people despair and hardships, not Castro. We say we can't work with a communist government and will not until Castro is out of power and a more democratic government takes its place. Now turn the page. The government and the media have convinced us that there is a big difference in trading with communist China and not trading with communist Cuba. Which one do you think has caused us the most damage?

    16. Charles Webb says:

      Cuba is a great example. When the people are disarmed they can not fight. Obama will destroy the 2nd Amendment when he selects the next liberal Supreme Court Justice. Then there will be no more ammo so all you can do is throw your gun or use it as a bat ! We are the only Country that allows the people to protect themselves from their own government and other bad guys.

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