Cuba restricts access to social media apps to curb protests | Resisting divestment and sanctions news


Global Internet monitoring company NetBlocks said that after the largest anti-government protests in decades, Cuba has restricted access to social media and messaging platforms, including Facebook and WhatsApp.

Thousands of Cubans participated in demonstrations in the communist-ruled country on Sunday to protest a severe economic crisis that caused shortages of basic commodities and power outages. They also protested the way the government handled the coronavirus pandemic and restricted civil liberties.

London-based NetBlocks stated on its website on Tuesday that Cuba’s Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Telegram were partially disrupted on Monday and Tuesday.

NetBlocks Director Alp Toker said: “The restricted patterns observed in Cuba indicate that messaging platforms used to organize and share protest news in real time are being continuously hit.” “At the same time, some connections are kept to keep the surface normal. “

The Cuban government stated that these demonstrations were orchestrated by counter-revolutionaries funded by the United States and manipulated the frustration of the economic crisis mainly caused by the decades-long US trade embargo.

In a country where public dissent is strictly controlled, the protests basically ended on Sunday night as security forces were deployed to the streets. President Miguel Diaz-Canel called on government supporters to go out and defend their Revolutionary struggle is rare in a country where public dissent is strictly controlled.

But according to official media reports on Tuesday, another protest broke out in Rajnella, a southern suburb of Havana late Monday. A man was killed and several others, including members of the security forces, were hospitalized with injuries.

It does not say what caused the death. So far, no other deaths and injuries have been officially confirmed.

According to two residents and video clips seen by Reuters, hundreds of people took to the streets of La Ginella, chanting slogans such as “Down with Communism” and “Freedom of the Cuban People”. A 49-year-old resident, Waldo Herrera, said that some people started throwing stones at the security forces, and they eventually responded by shooting.

“I think the Communist Party has lost control and they cannot solve this situation,” he said. “People are tired of so much humiliation, so much suppression.”

Late Monday, a Reuters witness saw dozens of people leaving Rajnella with clubs.

Activists say the government is using so-called rapid response brigades—a civilian recruitment group organized by the government—to counter protesters.

Mobile internet interruption

They also accused the government of trying to interfere with communications. The mobile Internet launched more than two years ago has been a key factor behind the protests, providing Cubans with more platforms to express their dissatisfaction and allowing people to spread quickly on the streets.

According to witnesses from Reuters, in the capital, there have been regular and atypical disruptions to the mobile Internet since Sunday.

Facebook Inc, which owns Instagram and WhatsApp, said in a statement to Reuters late on Tuesday that it was concerned about restrictions on its services in Cuba.

“We are opposed to shutdowns, throttling and other Internet interruptions that limit debate in our community. We hope to restore connectivity as soon as possible so that Cubans can communicate with family and friends,” said Facebook spokesperson Joe Osborne.

When asked whether the government intends to restrict Internet connections, Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez said at a press conference that the situation is “complex”. He said that power outages may affect telecommunications services, “Cuba will never give up the right to self-defense.”

Telegram did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Twitter Inc stated that it did not find that its service was blocked.

“Our weapon is the Internet. If they take the Internet, we will be defenseless,” said Gino Ocumares, a Havana resident, who tried to connect to the Internet at government WiFi hotspots but failed. “The government doesn’t want people to see the truth.”

“provocative”

The state-run Cuban News Agency stated that the Raginella protests were led by “anti-social and criminal elements” who tried to reach the police station with the aim of attacking its officials and destroying infrastructure.

Cuba claims that behind the protests are “anti-social and criminal elements” [File: Yamil Lage/AFP]

The agency said that when security forces stopped them, they destroyed houses, set fire to containers, damaged electrical wires in the suburbs, and attacked officials with stones and other objects.

The official media also reported on Tuesday that Raul Castro, the leader of the Cuban Communist Party who stepped down from power in April, attended Sunday’s Politburo meeting to resolve the “provocation” issue.

Diaz-Canel said in April that he will continue to consult with Castro on the most important issues.

The Conference of Cuban Bishops stated in a statement that it fears that the response to protests of legitimate concerns will be “still,” rather than trying to solve these problems, and will even backfire.

The reaction to the Latin American protests was ideologically divided. The Mexican president blamed the riots on the US embargo, while Chile and Peru urged the governments to allow democratic protests.

US President Joe Biden said on Monday that the United States “firmly supports the Cuban people in safeguarding their universal rights.”

State Department spokesperson Ned Price called on the Havana government to open all online and offline communication methods.

Price said at a press conference on Tuesday: “Turn off technology and close information channels-this will not help solve the legitimate needs and wishes of the Cuban people.





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