JUNE 2001

Cuba has surprising talent and experience in the areas of electronics computers, computer software, and data processing. The country benefited from its association with the former Soviet Union, and some European countries, which turned out many skilled electrical and computer engineers, information technology specialists, and computer scientists.

Cuba's electronic industry has its origin in the mid-1960s when the Ministry for Iron and Steel Machinery(SIME) began assembly of radios from imported parts. In 1974 SIME started producing black-and-white television sets. Then came a plant to produce batteries(1975), telephone switchboards(1981), and color television sets(1985). In 1985 SIME also started production of semiconductors.

Also, in 1976 a separate electronics institute was created, the National institute of Automated Systems and Computer Skills(INSAC). In 1994 INSAC was incorporated into the newly created Ministry of Steel, Heavy Machinery and Electronics. The Ministry of Communications is also responsible for small scale production of certain electronics products.

The entity Cuba Electronica was created in January 1986 as part of the Foreign Trade Ministry. It is responsible for importing electronic equipment and exporting computers, peripherals, semiconductors, and software. A well known Irish expert has said that the Cuban information-technology industry matches that of the Republic of Ireland, which has been particularly successful in persuading a range of information technology companies to establish their European base in Cuba.

One of the most advanced areas of the electronics industry in Cuba, and the best in Latin America, is the production of biomedical instrumentation and equipment. The Central Institute for Digital Research(ICID)in collaboration with the CIGB has developed very high technology biomedical equipment, among them the Cardiocid-M, an electrocardiographic system for diagnosing cardiovascular system diseases; the Neorocid, an electromyographic and electro-neurographic system for giagnosing peripheric nervous system diseases, and various applications for state-0f-the-art genetic engineering research.

The rapid increment of Cuba's electronic technology industry occurred between 1975 and 1989. Among others:

  • Computer equipment plant, established in 1978, with a 5,300 square meters production area
  • Printed circuit board plant, established in 1982, with a 5,500 square meters production area
  • Electronic modules production plant, with 6,000 square meters production area
  • Electromechanical production plant, with 8,500 square meters production area
  • Monitors and television set plant, established in 1975, with an annual capacity of 15,000 units
  • Alphanumeric keyboards plant, established in 1988, equipped to produce keyboards compatible with IBM, DEC, and other microcomputer systems. Production capacity of 250,000 units per year
  • Printed circuit boards plant, which can produce 40,000 square meters per year of circuit boards. It uses Betamax material and carries out the printing serigraphy.
  • Electronic Research and Development Center, established in 1985
  • Electronic Components Complex (CCE), producing active and passive components, established in 1985
  • Medical equipment complex established in 1989. Produces instruments and equipment for the Biotechnology Research Centers.

During the 1970s, Cuba embarked on a program to develop its own second genetation minicomputers, based on Digital's PDP-11. Most of Cuba's early computer specialists were trained in East Germany. In the mid 1980s two main centers of computational research were established: one at the CUJAE, the other at Universidad Central.

Cuba has developed computer networks. Presently there are four networks with international connectivity: CENIAI, TINORED, CIGBnet, Informed. CENIAI began networking in 1986, and has a UUCP link to the Internet since 1993.

Since 1991, there has been a surplus of electrical and computer engineers in Cuba due to the closing of many industries.Many of these engineers changed their lines of work and expertise to the areas of telecommunications, computers, information technology, networking, data processing. They now work at special Centers created by the government, such as: the Bejucal base, the Wajay complex, the Paseo complex, and the several computational research centers created since 1993 at several Universities and Institutes. A large group has specialized at China, Russia, Vietnam, France, and Germany. Most recently in Holland, Sweden, and Austria.

In 1991 a highly restricted project was undertaken by a group within the Military Intelligence Directorate of Cuba's Ministry of the Armed Forces. The group initially was instructed to obtain information to develop computer virus to infect United States civilian computers. The group spent about $50,000 to buy open-source data on computer networks, computer viruses, SATCOM and related communications technology. These efforts have continued at a much larger scale. The project was until recently under the direction of Major Guillermo Bello, and his wife, Colonel Sara Maria Jordan, both of the Ministry of the Interior.

Cuba has the technology and the capacity to produce a new kind of cyberweapon, the Transient Electromagnetic Devices(TEDs). TEDs generate a spike-like pulse that is only one or two hundred picoseconds in length at very high power. TEDs are very small, cheap, use low power, and relatively easy to build. They can be built using spark-gap switches, automobile ignition parts, fuel pumps, and other relative inexpensive components.TEDs can burn out a broad range of electronic devices, with effects that are similar to a lightning strike. The compact devices fit in a briefcase.

Cuba has acquired the capacity to conduct cyberterrorism. Cuba represents a serious threat to the security of the United States in the cyberwarfare phase of terrorism. This threat has increased enormously since 1999 with the cooperation between Cuba and the PRC


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