Florida governor Ron DeSantis told members of the Cuban exile community in Miami on Tuesday that he would like Florida companies to help Cuban dissidents by beaming in internet services to groups coordinating protests on the ground in Havana.
Cuba’s government blocked social media sites late Sunday in an effort to prevent demonstrators from coordinating with each other, but also to create a media blackout, forcing news organizations covering the pro-democracy protests — the largest in decades — to rely on the official Cuban government transmissions on the subject, rather than on-the-ground reports.
“On Monday, Cuban authorities were blocking Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Telegram said Alp Toker, director of Netblocks, a London-based internet monitoring firm,” ABC News reported. Twitter does “not appear to be blocked,” though it does appear that Cuba’s government has the power to restrict access.
Cubans only recently gained access to social media and, since 2019, that access has fueled “regular” protests, though most of those demonstrations were small and quickly extinguished. Experts, however, agree that these larger protests, which began on Sunday, are “absolutely and definitely fueled by increased access to internet and smartphones in Cuba.”
Certainly, over the past two days, Cuban dissidents have been able to use social media services like Twitter to broadcast evidence that the Cuban government is engaging in a vicious crackdown. As the Daily Wire reported Tuesday, individuals involved in the protests have been able to send video to stateside allies — videos that often show, in graphic detail, how Cuba’s police are responding to the demonstrations, arresting, detaining, and, in some cases, reportedly physically harming pro-democracy protesters.
DeSantis told Cuba’s exile community on Tuesday night that he is trying to convince Florida companies to beam in access to the internet, providing secure, open networks to Cuban dissidents so that they can continue to organize, even if the government moves in to shut down communication.
“What does the regime do when you start to see these images? They shut down the internet. They don’t want the truth to be out, they don’t want people to be able to communicate,” DeSantis said, according to the Miami Herald. “And so one of the things I think we should be able to do with our private companies or with the United States is to provide some of that internet via satellite. We have companies on the Space Coast that launch these things.”
DeSantis did not specify how a company would be able to restore social media access to Cuba’s dissidents, but he did say that he would make a few calls to “see what are the options.”
In his speech, the Herald added, DeSantis refuted the White House’s contention that the protests are motivated by a lack of COVID-19 care, and that food and medicine shortages happened in a vacuum, divorced from larger, ongoing issues with the island’s Communist government.
“Everyone here is in agreement in all of these fundamental truths and one of those truths is the people who are out in the streets revolting are not complaining about a lack of vaccine or for some tangential issue,” DeSantis said Tuesday night. “They’re revolting against a corrupt, communist dictatorship that has ruled that island with an iron fist for over 60 years.”