Cuba’s digital revolution

Havana, April 21 2021: The 11.2 million people in Cuba have been the least connected population on earth for a long time as the one-party communist leadership in Cuba has always been leery of the internet. The government is now desperately trying to control and limit the use of 3G internet that arrived in the nation in 2018 and has connected 4.2million residents of the country.

Raul Castro, the former president and one of the leaders of Cuba’s revolution, lambasted the internet for propagating what he called, lies, manipulation and subversion. For the outlawed opposition and political dissidents meanwhile, the internet is a boon and a favored tool for registering and organizing protest.

Castro has publicly blamed Washington for what he believes  is a counter revolutionary movement which is leaderless, has no social base and is focused solely on social media activism. “Don’t forget that the US government has created a working group on the internet in Cuba which aims to convert social media into subversion channels,” he says.

The newly sworn in President Miguel Diaz-Canel was originally a fan and encouraged the “informatization of society,” but he’s quickly become disillusioned with the internet, once he realized its use for criticizing the authorities.

In a video that went viral on social media, dissident artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcantra was shown being arrested in a poor neighborhood on Monday. Activists, journalists and artists have often used Twitter to complain against the police and how their freedoms are being limited and controlled.

Authorities prevent mass social gatherings by not allowing people to leave their homes and people have complained about their internet and telephone being shut down.

According to an American sociologist Ted Henken, who is an expert on the subject, “There is a struggle going on in Cuba over the control, direction and impact of digital technologies, and it’s not clear how that is going to end.”  Henken is the author of upcoming book “Cuba’s Digital Revolution.” He said that after the uptake in the use of 3G, people have become more mobile in terms of offline and online movements and in November last year, a real impact was felt from the use of technology to support the cause of public disapproval of authority figures.

The San Isidoro movement got a strong response from the government when artistic dissident voices led by Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara gathered in a house calling for the release of a rapper while streaming their demands on Facebook, even managing to attract an international audience.

The Culture Ministry soon had the group removed from Facebook and there were demands by some 300 artists on social media for freedom of expression, a novel concept in Cuba.

The Cuba internet Task force was set up by the US State Department in 2018 to examine the challenges and possibilities of expanding internet use in Cuba but it has been blamed by Castro for being a tool of subversion against the principles of socialism.

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