Huawei Of China Gaining In Cuba... While U.S. Companies Do Not

From 20 January 2016 to 22 January 2016, The Honorable Daniel Sepulveda, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State and U.S. Coordinator for International Communications and Information Policy led an official fourteen-member delegation to the Republic of Cuba which included The Honorable Thomas Wheeler, Chairman of the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and FCC staff, representatives from the OFAC, and according to Deputy Assistant Secretary Sepulveda, representatives of “academia, and the private sector.”  

The names of the non-United States government participants have not been disclosed by the United States Department of State.  The Washington, DC-based Information Technology Industry Council confirmed that its president, Mr. Dean Garfield, participated in the delegation “led by the U.S. Ambassador and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for International Communications and Information Policy Daniel Sepulveda.”  Other private sector participants included representatives of California-based Cisco Systems, Pennsylvania-based Comcast, Sweden-based Ericsson (North American Headquarters in Plano, Texas).

From one private sector participant on 28 January 2016: “The trip was an official U.S. delegation visit by the State Department, and [redacted] was invited to join as part of the delegation.  I can find a point of contact to pass along at the State Department who can answer your questions since they organized the trip.”  

From Chairman Wheeler on 27 January 2016: “Ambassador Daniel Sepulveda from the State Department led our delegation which also included representatives from the Department of the Treasury as well as representatives of the technology community. The inclusion of the private sector in the talks advanced the dialog with real life examples of what was possible.”  

On 1 February 2016, Republic of Cuba government-operated Empresa Nacional de Telecomunicaciones de Cuba S.A. (ETEC S.A.) reported that it would install broadband services within the area of Old Havana using equipment sourced from Shenzhen, People’s Republic of China-based Huawei Technologies Co Ltd. (2015 revenues exceeded US$28 billion).  On 6 November 2015, Huawei Technologies Co Ltd. Reported an agreement to market mobile devices, parts, accessories and to train repair personnel.  The government of the People’s Republic of China has extended substantial financial credits to the government of the Republic of Cuba. 

A challenge for United States-based communications/telecommunications companies and the United States government is how to answer the following inquiry from the Ministry of Communications of the Republic of Cuba: “If we purchase your equipment, how do we know the equipment will not be compromised before it arrives or have an ability to be compromised from abroad after its installation?  Will you augment the specifications of equipment so we may monitor all voice, text, data and email traffic flowing through the equipment?”