The team, led by Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt, met with Cuban
officials as well as independent people in the technology and
digital field, according to a report on the independent news website
14ymedio.com, which was started last month by blogger Yoani Sanchez.
Google is on an official two-day visit "to promote the virtues of a
free and open Internet," the report said.
Schmidt appeared to confirm the report when he retweeted a message
on Twitter posted by Sanchez about the visit.
Neither Google nor the Cuban government made any official statement
about the executives' presence in Cuba.
Cuba does not allow open Internet access. Only 2.6 million out of a
population of 11.2 million have Internet access, almost entirely
limited to government-run centers, foreign companies and tourist
hotels. Most of those who do have access are only been able to
explore a limited, 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.
Schmidt was accompanied by Jared Cohen, director of Google Ideas, as
well as two other staff, Sanchez said.
Google Ideas describes itself as a "a think/do tank that explores
how technology can enable people to confront threats in the face of
conflict, instability or repression," according to its website.
Schmidt and Cohen are the coauthors of The New Digital Age,
published last year, and have a track record of speaking with
leaders of countries that restrict free speech to advocate for a
free and open Internet.
[to top of second column]
Schmidt was the first high-profile tech executive to visit Myanmar
last year in the wake of reforms that prompted Western nations to
ease sanctions following decades of military dictatorship.
The Google delegation in Havana met with students and was given a
tour of Havana's University of Information Sciences on Saturday,
according to 14ymedio.
Sanchez started 14ymedio, Cuba's first independent online newspaper
in May, although the site has been repeatedly blocked in Cuba.
The Cuban government sought to discredit Sanchez as a paid
propagandist doing the bidding of the U.S. government.
The 14ymedio.com site seeks to draw attention away from the
communist-ruled country's state-controlled media and challenge the
government's heavy media restrictions. Cuba has been tolerating more
criticism in recent years but not yet from such a
professional-looking website produced on the island.
Sanchez's blog on daily life and politics in Cuba, Generation Y, has
rattled the Cuban establishment, and she has won prestigious media
awards in the United States and Europe.
(Additional reporting by Edwin Chan; Editing by Bill Trott)
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