Whether the Cuban authorities monitor electronic communication between Cuba and Canada [CUB42154.E]

No information pertaining specifically to whether or not the Cuban authorities monitor electronic communication between Cuba and Canada could be found among the sources consulted by the Research Directorate. However, several reports refer to the authorities' efforts to maintain strict controls on individuals' access to both the Internet and e-mail communication (Wired News 23 Feb. 2001; RSF 20 June 2003; Todito 26 Mar. 2002). All Internet traffic is channelled through a single state-controlled portal (Wired News 23 Feb. 2001; US 19 Sept. 2002), with officially sanctioned access limited to approximately 60,000 individuals countrywide (ibid.; Kalathil and Boas 21 July 2001, 10). Of these, no more than 50 per cent are believed to be able to send e-mail correspondence outside of Cuba (ibid.). Furthermore, according to a 20 June 2003 report by the Paris-based Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF),

... the high cost of international calls ($2 a minute to the United States) and the rarity of lines to the outside world, which are assigned on a political basis and closely monitored, effectively prevent any connection through a foreign ISP [Internet service provider].

Responding to the growing demand for Internet access, a black market has developed in e-mail addresses (ibid.) and passwords that allow individuals to connect to the Internet from home (Kalathil and Boas 21 July 2001, 12). While the authorities have taken a number of steps to combat such activities, for example imposing unspecified penalties in April 2003 on 31 individuals found guilty of using someone else's e-mail address (RSF 20 June 2003), the authors of a study published by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace claimed that unauthorized Internet usage of this sort is in any case limited by the "considerable expense and difficulty of obtaining an Internet-capable computer" (Kalathil and Boas 21 July 2001, 12).

Several reports indicate that the authorities intercept and read individuals' e-mail communication (US 19 Sept. 2002; Los Angeles Times 1 May 2000; RSF 20 June 2003). While a government spokesman, Luis Fernandez, was cited as saying that the authorities' monitoring of such communication is limited to individuals suspected of counter-revolutionary activities (Wired News 23 Feb. 2001), other sources claim that monitoring is more widespread (RSF 20 June 2003; US 19 Sept. 2002; Los Angeles Times 1 May 2000). According to the Madrid-based magazine Amanecer del Nuevo Siglo, surveillance of Internet traffic is carried out by a specialized unit at the Bejucal signals intelligence base, located south of Havana (May 2003). In May 2000, David Cook, a former Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) counter-intelligence officer, stated that the Cuban authorities either attempt to track e-mail communication on a "real-time basis or they've got software programs that capture key words and phrases" (Los Angeles Times 1 May 2000).

This information was corroborated by RSF, which claimed that "where e-mail is concerned, obeying the rules means agreeing to be monitored" (20 June 2003). In the case of the domestic e-mail service offered by the Telecommunications Company of Cuba (Empresa de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba, ETECSA), provisions are allegedly in place allowing the firm to monitor all incoming and outgoing messages and decide whether or not to permit their delivery (ibid.). Furthermore, many individuals reportedly believe that e-mail messages received from outside the country are vetted by Cuban intelligence services, because such messages are often inexplicably delayed for a number of hours or are never received at all (US 19 Sept. 2002).

This Response was prepared after researching publicly accessible information currently available to the Research Directorate within time constraints. This Response is not, and does not purport to be, conclusive as to the merit of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. Please find below the list of additional sources consulted in researching this Information Request.


Amanecer del Nuevo Siglo [Madrid]. May 2003. No. 143. "China busca amigos en el Caribe." http://www.revistaamanecer.com/otros_numeros/143/40/40.htm [Accessed 17 Nov. 2003]

Kalathil, Shanthi and Boas, Taylor. 21 July 2001. The Internet and State Control in Authoritarian Regimes: China, Cuba, and the Counterrevolution. Washington, DC: Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. http://www.ceip.org/files/pdf/21KalathilBoas.pdf [Accessed 17 Nov. 2003]

Los Angeles Times. 1 May 2000. Scott Doggett. "In Castro's Cuba, Internet Hookups are Few and Far Between." (CubaNet 2 May 2000) [Accessed 17 Nov. 2003]

Reporters Sans Frontières (RSF), Paris. 20 June 2003. "The Internet Under Surveillance." http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=7295 [Accessed 17 Nov. 2003]

Todito [Mexico City]. 26 March 2002. "Bajo cuidadoso control, Cuba expande enseñanza en computadoras." http://www.todito.com/paginas/noticias/76441.html [Accessed 17 Nov. 2003]

United States (US). 19 September 2002. House Policy Committee. "Tear Down this Firewall." http://www.policy.house.gov/subcommittees/107/html/news_item.cfm.195.html [Accessed 17 Nov. 2003]

Wired News [San Francisco]. 23 February 2001. Julia Scheeres. "Cuba not so Libre with the Net." http://www.wired.com/news/politics/0,1283,41940,00.html [Accessed 17 Nov. 2003]

Additional Sources Consulted

IRB databases

Internet sites, including:

Asociación Encuentro de la Cultura Cubana

Carta de Cuba

Cuban American National Foudnation (CANF)


Global Internet Liberty Campaign (GILC)

International Freedom of Expression Exchance (IFEX)


Net for Cuba International

Nueva Prensa Cubana

Wired News [San Francisco]