San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Cuba, Venezuela Take ALBA to New Depths

HAVANA – Starting in the first half of 2010, Cuba expects to use a “shark-proof” underwater fiber-optic cable that will connect the island with Venezuela and increase 3,000-fold its current capacity for phone connections abroad, state media reported Monday.

Wilfredo Morales, an engineer with the Cuban-Venezuelan firm Telecomunicaciones Gran Caribe, told the Communist Party daily Granma that the laying of 1,550 kilometers of cable will be finished by 2010.

The installation of the cable was approved at the beginning of 2007 as part of the accords within the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, or ALBA, a Venezuelan-led initiative involving Cuba, Bolivia and Nicaragua.

According to Granma, Telecomunicaciones Gran Caribe is making progress on designing the projects and in selecting the entity that will build them.

The main cable will connect the northern Venezuelan town of La Guaira with the southeastern Cuban city of Santiago de Cuba, will run more than 5,400 meters deep and will have a capacity of 640 gigabytes.

It will be “shark-proof” thanks to its special sheathing and it will consist of two segments: one between Venezuela and Cuba and another linking the communist-ruled island with Jamaica.

The design of the project will permit the subsequent expansion of connections with other countries, such as Nicaragua and Haiti.

Cuban authorities accuse the U.S. government of impeding the island’s access to the Internet by means of the fiber-optic cables that run by it, one of which links Cancun, Mexico, with Miami and passes just 32 kilometers (19 miles) from Havana, Granma said.

Cuba has been connected to the Internet since 1996 via a satellite link offering very limited bandwidth and, according to Havana, any modification of the channel requires the permission of the U.S. Treasury Department, which enforces Washington’s 45-year-old economic embargo against the island.

Havana claims that is the main reason its citizens cannot have the Internet in their homes and why online access is provided only to companies and some professionals.

Since taking office in February, Cuban President Raul Castro has authorized the sale of computers to individuals, but the Communications Ministry ruled out giving the public expanded Internet access in the short term.

In addition, the regime blocks access from the island to certain Web sites considered to be against Cuba’s communist government.


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