Alan Gross: Castro's prisoner
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    Cuban government, dissidents, move battle to the internet

    Cuban government, dissidents, move battle to the
    By Shasta Darlington, CNN
    February 17, 2011 — Updated 1624 GMT (0024 HKT)

    * A leaked video appears to show an intelligence briefing about the internet
    * The lecturer says the government must use the internet to its advantage
    * Only a small percentage of Cubans have unrestricted internet access

    , Cuba (CNN) — For years, small groups of Cuban dissidents have
    taken their demands to the streets, calling for political as
    they get pushed around and shouted down by swarms of government supporters.

    But a recently leaked video suggests the war between the Communist
    government and its opponents has shifted to a new battlefield: the internet.

    The video shows what appears to be an official intelligence briefing, in
    which a lecturer talks about the dangers and possibilities of the web.

    "We aren't fighting the new technology," he tells his audience, who are
    dressed in the military uniforms worn by Cuba's Interior Ministry
    officials. "We simply have to get to know it and use it in our favor,
    but also know what the enemy is doing."

    The 54-minute video was posted on the video-sharing website Vimeo by
    someone identified only as "Coral Negro" and has since appeared on
    dozens of blogs, many of them critical of the Cuban government. CNN
    wasn't able to verify the authenticity of the video.

    Although it was leaked this month, the video appears to have been
    recorded last summer, well before the social-media-fueled uprisings in
    North Africa and the Middle East. But for Cuba¹s dissident bloggers,
    there are plenty of parallels.

    Yoani Sanchez followed via Twitter the upheaval in Egypt that ultimately
    led to the ouster of Hosni Mubarak and responded with her own

    "What a great lesson the Egyptians are giving us!" she wrote.

    Sanchez has won a huge global audience with her "Generation Y,"
    which criticizes the Cuban government and comments on daily hardships.

    "There are a lot of similarities with Egypt," she told CNN Wednesday.
    "The dissatisfaction of the people, a single voice in power for so long.
    And that's why I was so enthusiastic about what was happening there."

    But she said there are also very important differences — namely Cuba's
    low internet penetration. Recent figures show an estimated 1.6 million
    people there are internet users, out of a population of 11.2 million.

    According to the leaked video, the Cuban government's fear is that
    U.S.-backed dissidents will use social networks like Twitter and
    Facebook to incite unrest.

    "Technology in itself isn't a threat," the lecturer says. "What can be a
    threat is the person behind the technology, in the same way it can be an
    opportunity for us to do something with it."

    Cuba has jailed American aid worker , who was a subcontractor
    for USAID. Cuban officials have accused him of distributing
    satellite equipment to dissidents to help them connect to the internet.

    The State Department and Gross' family say he was working with Jewish

    Gross has been formally charged with "acts against the independence and
    territorial integrity of Cuba" and could face up to 20 years in prison
    when his case goes to trial.

    In the leaked video, he's called a "mercenary."

    "It's just like the Bay of Pigs invasion," the lecturer says. "But this
    man is coming with different weapons. He didn't come on a boat with a
    gun in his hand, but it's the same story."

    Nonetheless, Cuba isn't turning its back on the internet. Dozens of
    pro-government blogs have also appeared, many of them written by
    journalists who work for state-run media.

    "They have their bloggers and we have our bloggers," the unidentified
    man in the video says at one point. "We'll see who comes out stronger."

    For years, the government blamed the U.S. for restricted access
    to the internet, but this month, it completed an undersea fiber optic
    cable connecting the island to .

    When that network goes online this summer, Cuba's bandwidth will
    increase by 3000. But the question remains whether Cubans will be
    allowed unlimited access to it without restrictions.

    Cuba currently accesses the internet via expensive satellite
    connections. As a result, the government has said it cannot offer
    internet access to the broader population, lacking the money to create
    the necessary infrastructure to support it. It has given priority to
    and workers, who often can only access a limited
    intranet. The government also provides connections at very high costs to
    foreign diplomats, businesses and journalists.