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Continuing his tour of countries with authoritarian governments and less-than-favorable Internet access, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt made a secret visit to Cuba yesterday.
The U.S. government has forbidden its citizens from traveling to Cuba or spending any money within the country since cold war tensions in the 1960s. Even though the cold war is over, the ban remains in effect, which is why Schmidt’s visit is significant. Unofficially (meaning not on behalf of his company), the powerful Googler has also made controversial visits to North Korea and Myanmar to promote Internet freedom, and has previously spoken out against online censorship happening in both China and India.
The news was reported by Cuba blog 14ymedio (via Huffington Post), which indicated that Schmidt was joined by a crew of former Google employees as well as author Jared Cohen. Schmidt and company were apparently there to get a tour of Cuba’s University of Information Sciences in Havana and discuss life within the country.
“No one took out their cellphones to check the web — it’s not possible in Cuba — and it didn’t occur to anyone to show us the latest doodle, nor to tell us in figures the scale of the company in which they work,” wrote 14medio blogger Yoani Sanchez in a report for HuffPo.
Only three percent of Cuba’s population has access to Internet, which is apparently very expensive. And while we don’t know the official reason for Schmidt’s visit, it could have something to do with understanding the country’s situation as well as how to increase uncensored Internet access to Cuban citizens without breaking the bank.
Via The Verge