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Empowering the Cuban people with the Internet

Mar 21, 2012 | Blog

Today, I participated in a conference on the Internet’s role in empowering the Cuban people to reclaim their country from the Castro tyranny.  The event was co-hosted by the Heritage Foundation and Google Ideas.

Over the past year, authoritarian rulers in North Africa and the Middle East have been overthrown by spontaneous popular uprisings.  These events have been greatly aided by their people’s access to technology that makes it easier to connect with each other and share ideas more freely. In today’s conference I discussed the need to ensure we help the Cuban people connect and communicate with each other, in the hopes that greater connectivity would help them achieve what the Arab people are achieving today in the Middle East and North Africa.  

Over the past fifty years, the Castro brothers have kept the Cuban people in a virtual “darkness”. The digital world we live in is largely unknown to the Cuban people. Google, YouTube and blogs are strictly prohibited in Cuba to the average citizen. Only the government elite and foreigners have access to the Internet in Cuba, and the few who might illegally access a limited piece of the Internet.  

There are flashes of rebellion in Cuba that are allowing the outside world to see the reality of Cuba, not the state-run media farce.  

Habla sin miedo, roughly translated to “say it without fear”, is one example of what people can do with access to a cell phone. Cuban dissidents can call a telephone number here in the United States and record messages describing government abuses. Their messages are automatically converted into posts that are shared on Twitter and YouTube.

Cuba Sin Censura, or “Cuba without Censorship”, is another example of how cell phones are opening access to the people of Cuba. In Cuba, cell phone rates are high and smart phones are uncommon. This organization works to help the few with cell phones access news from the real world and not the Cuban government.

Just a few weeks ago, the Miami Herald posted a smuggled video from Cuban dissidents showing the inside of Combinado del Este, one of Cuba’s most notorious prisons. The clip is just under four minutes long, but it is a shocking look inside the treatment of those, including some Americans, imprisoned in Cuba.