Commissioner of the Federal Communications Commission, Brendan Carr, on Sunday said the United States should help prevent a Cuban regime Internet shutdown ahead of planned protests in the country on Monday.
Thousands of people are expected to take to the streets across the country this week as part of the “Civic March for Change” to demand greater political freedom and the release of jailed political activists.
Cuba has also seen growing frustrations amid ongoing food shortages and high food prices in the midst of worsening economic conditions in the country, further exasperated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Monday’s protests follow unprecedented uprisings in July, which were the largest on the island since Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution, Reuters reported. The summer protests against a lack of freedom and worsening economic conditions saw the country plunged into an Internet blackout.
President Joe Biden’s administration imposed targeted sanctions on Cuban officials and security forces following July’s protests.
“Tomorrow, November 15, the brave people of Cuban [sic] will once again take to the streets to demand their freedom from the brutal and oppressive regime,” Carr wrote on Twitter on Sunday. “It is more important than ever that the U.S. support this movement by helping to circumvent the regime’s Internet shutdowns.”
Carr also re-tweeted a Nov. 5 statement in which he praised Sens. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Rick Scott (R-Fla.), and Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.) for introducing a new bill that would ensure America has the strategic capability to bypass Internet shutdowns from oppressive regimes like those seen in Cuba and Venezuela.
Specifically, the “Protecting Against Tyrants by Restoring Internet Access and Yielding Vital Interconnectivity in Designated Areas (PATRIA Y VIDA) Act” would “build a strategy to protect Internet freedom worldwide and strengthen support for technologies that allow users to evade foreign government-backed censorship and restrictions.”
Monday’s pro-democracy protests, organized by Archipelago, an opposition group headed by Cuban playwright Yunior García Aguilera, 39, have been banned by Cuba’s ruling Communist Party and its President Miguel Diaz-Canel.
The regime has accused the protests of being part of a destabilization campaign by the United States, which maintains a Cold War-era embargo on Cuba. U.S. officials have denied the allegations.
Dozens of activists have been harassed and detained ahead of Monday’s planned demonstrations, and García Aguilera told The Washington Post that his own phone lines and Internet connection were cut.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday also condemned what he called “intimidation tactics” utilized by the Cuban regime ahead of Monday’s planned protests, which also coincide with the reopening of the country after 20 months of pandemic-related lockdowns.
Blinken said that Washington will pursue measures that support the Cuban people and seek “accountability” for the communist regime’s crackdown on opposition protesters.
The secretary of state also urged the Cuban regime to respect Cubans’ rights and keep Internet and telecommunication lines open.
“In July, the people of Cuba bravely and spontaneously took to the streets to demand change from their government: respect for human rights, greater freedom of expression, and an end to economic mismanagement by an authoritarian regime that has failed to meet their most basic needs,” Blinken said in a statement.
“The Cuban regime responded with violence, censorship, arrests, and summary trials, denying their citizens their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of peaceful assembly.”
Blinken said the communist regime has made it clear that it does not want to listen to protesters on Monday when they “will again call on their government to hear their aspirations for a better future,” and the ruling party has instead used intimidation tactics such as firing opposition supporters from their jobs and threatening them with imprisonment.
“We strongly condemn these intimidation tactics. We call on the Cuban government to respect Cubans’ rights, by allowing them to peacefully assemble and use their voices without fear of government reprisal or violence, and by keeping Internet and telecommunication lines open for the free exchange of information. We urge the Cuban government to reject violence, and instead, embrace this historic opportunity to listen to the voices of their people,” Blinken said.