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  • Cuban Solidarity Plus

    Cuban Solidarity Day should make us renew efforts to extend a little more freedom to the Cuban population, which is still effectively imprisoned under their creaky Communist autocracy.

    May 20 marks the 110th year of Cuba’s independence, of which 53 long years have been spent under the Castro brothers’ dictatorship. Public events such as The Heritage Foundation’s program Friday, May 18, will demonstrate that the Cuban people are not forgotten.

    As important as this is, there are other, more concrete measures that can and should be taken as well. One critically important step is introducing the communications revolution to Cuba.

    The Internet, mobile phones, and social media are fast changing the way the rest of the world shares information. Today, Latin America accounts for 8 percent of the world’s Internet usage, with 25 million daily users in Mexico alone. Over 80 percent of these users access social media for communication. Regionally, Cuba presents a unique case.

    The Castro regime is expert at controlling communication internally and externally. According to Freedom House, Cuba is the only country in the Americas that consistently makes the list of the Worst of the Worst: The World’s Most Repressive Societies for widespread abuses of political rights and civil liberties, including control of digital communication. In Cuba, only the privileged few have access to the Internet, and they are heavily monitored. All other Cuban users are limited to the Cuban “intranet,” which was created with Chinese technology.

    Still, small cracks in the Castro regime’s censorship of communication are appearing and should be exploited. Since the accession of Raul Castro in 2008, ordinary Cubans have been able to own cell phones if they have the dollars to pay for them. Though there are over 1 million cell phones in Cuba today, the catch is that calls are prohibitively expensive, particularly international calls. Sending a tweet from a mobile phone can cost more than many Cubans earn in a day.

    Yet mobile technology offers a way forward. In March of this year, dissidents with video-capable cell phones were able to smuggle out images from one of Cuba’s most notorious prisons. This kind of activity has shaken other hard-line autocracies—Iran comes to mind—and led to uprisings all over the Middle East.

    As recommended by Heritage’s Ray Walser, various actions are open to the U.S. government. We can help Cubans acquire mobile phones and expand access to computers at the U.S. Interest Section in Havana. We should also explore satellite Internet coverage of Cuba, similar to that which cover rural areas of the U.S. Not only do Cubans deserve U.S. solidarity; they deserve our help as well.

    Posted in International [slideshow_deploy]

    One Response to Cuban Solidarity Plus

    1. Traveller says:

      I spend a great deal of time in Cuba and sadly the U.S. is seen as the great enemy by almost all ordinary Cubans because of your ridiculous embargo. This is one of the reasons the internet is so difficult for Cubans to get — the U.S.'s refusal to allow broadband access by Cuba. did you realize that?

      Nevertheless all our Cuban friends have cell phones and use them very frequently. But none of them want ANYTHING to do with the American Interests Section. Americans are seen as oppressors by most Cubans.

      The rest of the free world cannot believe how the supposedly free Americans are FORBIDDEN by their government to travel to Cuba. How do you stand for it?? where is your famous American fight for freedom?

      Keep blaming everything on the Cuban government — it seems to me that the American government is the oppressive one in this case. At least that's how the rest of the world sees it.

      We pity you Americans for your lack of freedom and human rights. At least Cubans all have the right to an education, free medical care, a place to live, and food in their stomachs. Not like so many Americans — even war vets!! — who have to live on the streets.

      Wake up, America! It's time….. and get over this embargo already. It's the height of hypocrisy — and it makes you odious to the average Cuban.

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