Cuba

Siri, it seems, doesn’t know everything. Just ask who the president of Cuba is.

The summer of WiFi in Cuba

In this archive vide, Cubans gather at the WiFi hotspots at all times of the day.
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In this archive vide, Cubans gather at the WiFi hotspots at all times of the day.

Now that Cubans can get on the internet with their mobile phones, it was inevitable that they’d begin playing around and testing their phones’ capabilities.

For those lucky enough to have iPhones or iPads, asking Siri, the personal assistant for the devices, provocative questions such as what is the meaning of life has become a source of amusement. But when some Cubans asked Siri who the president of the island is, they were surprised to find that Siri thinks Cuba has two presidents: Raúl Castro and Miguel Díaz-Canel .

When the question is posed in Spanish, pictures of both Castro and Díaz-Canel pop up and both are listed as Jefe de Estado (Head of State). U.S. users of the devices inquiring about who the president of Cuba is get the same response: pictures of both men appear with the legend head of state.

Apparently Siri does not know that on April 19, 2018, Castro retired as president of Cuba’s Council of State and Council of Ministers and that Cuba’s National Assembly of People’s Power selected Díaz-Canel, the only candidate in the running, to replace him.

But perhaps Siri is more of a political analyst than some people are giving her credit for. While Díaz-Canel does indeed carry the title of president, Castro remains as head of the ruling Communist Party and continues to have substantial political clout.

Meanwhile, Cubans have been having fun on Twitter commenting on the meaning of Siri’s response.

“If in fact Raúl directs the PCC and that organization is the leading force (#PartiDios) ... Those are things that Siri already knows,” tweeted Cuban blogger Norges Rodriguez.

If you ask the same question about the Cuban presidency on a Google-powered Android device, however, it knows the correct response is Miguel Díaz-Canel.

IMG_APTOPIX_Cuba_Interne_4_1_E4D2MNIT_L363953505 (2)
People use a public Wi-Fi hotspot in Havana in January 2017. Desmond Boylan AP

In December, ETECSA, the state phone company, rolled out 3G mobile wireless, meaning Cubans could finally get the internet on their cellphones. The service is far from perfect. It’s very expensive for the average Cuban and the network is patchy.

While Cuba now has 5.3 million mobile lines for a population of just over 11 million, there are few Cubans who can afford an iPhone or IPad.

Follow Mimi Whitefield on Twitter: @HeraldMimi

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Mimi Whitefield has covered Latin America and the Caribbean for more than two decades. The Miami Herald’s former Rio de Janeiro bureau chief and a 2017 winner of the Maria Moors Cabot Prize, she now focuses on Cuba coverage.
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