Biden Considers Potentially Restoring Internet in Cuba

U.S. President Joe Biden said Thursday that Washington would review whether it could help restore the internet in Cuba, which has suffered blackouts since protests erupted over the weekend.

“They’ve cut off access to the internet. We’re considering whether we have the technological ability to reinstate that access,” Biden told reporters at a press conference alongside German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

A number of U.S. lawmakers have urged the president in recent days to address connectivity issues on the island, as protests over food and medicine shortages have rocked Havana, leaving at least one person dead and hundreds arrested.

Republican Senator Marsha Blackburn told VOA Thursday the Biden administration must support the Cuban people in concrete ways.

“They’ve been very hesitant to step forward. And it appears that what they’re trying to do is not take sides in a fight,” Blackburn said.

“Time is of the essence here,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said, according to Reuters. “Every day that the regime has to black out the truth is a day they can get the upper hand on this,” he said of the Cuban government.

Global internet watchdog NetBlocks has confirmed restrictions to multiple social media and messaging platforms across Cuba over the past week.

“The targeted restrictions are likely to limit the flow of information from Cuba following widespread protests on Sunday as thousands rallied against the socialist government’s policies and rising prices,” the organization said in a statement. 

Earlier Thursday, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy announced a 16-member Cuba advisory group to develop policies to support the Cuban protesters and hold the Cuban government accountable for human rights abuses.

“I know this team, many of whom are Cuban American and in one way or another have borne witness to the brutality of communism, will work diligently for the cause of freedom,” McCarthy said in a statement.

European leaders have also expressed their support for the Cuban people. On Monday, the foreign minister for the European Union, Josep Borrell, urged the Cuban government “to listen to these protests of discontent.” 

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel and other officials have blamed the unrest on social media postings by Cuban Americans and the U.S. government’s decades-long embargo on Cuba. Sanctions and restrictions imposed by former U.S. President Donald Trump and a drop in tourism related to the pandemic have put extra pressure on the Cuban economy in recent years.

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro expressed his government’s support for Díaz-Canel on Monday and said, “If the U.S. really wants to help Cuba, let it immediately lift the sanctions and the blockade against its people.”

The protests were the largest anti-government demonstrations in Cuba in decades.

Some information for this report came from Reuters.

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