Google’s Top Executives Visit Cuba to Promote Open Internet

Español A team of top Google executives visited Cuba last week to promote open internet access, according to Yoani Sánchez, a dissident journalist who met the visitors in Havana. The team, led by Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, along with Jared Cohen, Brett Perlmutter, and Dan Keyserling, met with Cuban officials, as well as independent leaders in the technology and digital sectors.

Google is on an official two-day visit “to promote the virtues of a free and open internet,” according to a report on the independent news outlet 14ymedio, launched last month by Yoani Sánchez. Schmidt seemingly confirmed the report when he retweeted a message posted by Sánchez about the visit. Neither Google nor the Cuban government has made any official statement about the executives’ presence in Cuba.

According to 14ymedio, the visitors met with its editors and reporters on Friday, and took a guided tour the next day of the University of Information Sciences, a technology research center based in Havana.

“It was a technological night without technology,” Sanchez wrote about the encounter. “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.”

Cuba does not allow open internet access. Only 2.6 million out of a population of 11.2 million connect to a network almost entirely limited to government-run centers, foreign companies, and tourist hotels. Those who do have access are only been able to explore a restricted, state-controlled basket of approved websites.

Schmidt, who was Google’s chief executive from 2001 to 2011, is becoming more visible on issues involving technology and world affairs. His mandate as executive chairman involves government outreach, thought leadership, and building partnerships and business relationships, according to the company.

Sources: 14ymedio, Reuters, CNET.

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