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Re: Debian and Cuba

In 2003 I legally visited Cuba under a US State Department issued visa for the 
purpose of attending the Havana Biennial art festival. During my visit I 
arranged to meet with some members of the Linux community in Havana and have 
corresponded, off and on, with some of them since.

The primary instrument governing US involvement in Cuba is the Office of 
Foreign Assets Control (a branch of the US Department of the Treasury). OFAC 
has about two dozen full time employees who spend their time tracking 
unlicensed travel and other economic exchanges with Cuba.

One of the more curious actions by OFAC is an attempt to model publishing 
Cuban scientific papers as a form of "trading with the enemy" and therefore a 
punishable offense. The outcry from the AAAS and other interested parties was 
so loud that the administration actually backed off this position to some 
extent. Still, it remains to be seen whether communication about software 
engineering is something that OFAC will take a negative view of.

I think there are certainly legal ways for Debianers (even US ones) to 
correspond and interact with the Cuban Linux movement but one does this at 
their own peril. The Bush administration is very focused on "breaking Cuba's 
spine" while the GOP has a hold on the presidential office. If we can find a 
way to make Linux look like a force for capitalist change here and socialist 
change in Cuba then perhaps everyone can get together without anyone getting 
in trouble.

It seems to me that Debian would be a better choice for Cuban users. 
Rebuilding packages from source is not so ideal as new, powerful machines are 
not readily accessible in Cuba. Cuba is one of the places that needs 
strategies for maximizing the benefits from older machinery.

As an American citizen the question for me is whether helping Cubans use Linux 
strengthens a repressive regime that jails people for expressing their 
political viewpoints (ie. The Varela Project). I believe that access to Linux 
promotes the ability to freely communicate so I think it benefits the 
interests of freedom to work with Cubans on Linux.

Ean Schuessler, CTO
214-720-0700 x 315
Brainfood, Inc.

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