New reports indicate that Cuba, who already has the lowest rate of internet access in Latin America, is severely curtailing its citizens’ access to the World Wide Web in what may be an effort “to rein in a small but increasingly popular group of bloggers who are critical of the government.” Ready access to the internet in Cuba has been limited to government employees, academics and researchers, who are the only ones allowed to have their own state-provided internet accounts, with only limited access to sites outside the island. Ordinary Cubans may open e-mail accounts accessible at many post offices, but do not have access to the Web. The most popular way of side-stepping those restrictions has been the use of hotel Internet services. Although internet use at hotels is pricey by Cuban standards–$5 for a half hour, $10 for an hour, when the average monthly salary for many state workers is about $20—it has offered bloggers an opportunity to write openly about their society and share news with the rest of the world.
Now, with the approval of a new resolution barring ordinary Cubans from using hotel Internet services, which quietly went into place in recent weeks, most Cubans have lost what little access remained to the web. “Internet use is only for foreigners for the time being,” said a worker at the Hotel Nacional’s business center. “According to a new order from ETECSA [Cuba’s telecom monopoly] only foreigners can surf the web at hotels.” An ETECSA official confirmed the change but said he was not authorized to comment.
Cuban bloggers believe that the new measures are designed to suppress their work. Reinaldo Escobar, the husband of popular Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez and a blogger himself, said he was recently denied use of wireless Internet service at the Melia Cohiba Hotel. “The government did not expect that the blogosphere would make use of the Internet the way it has in Cuba,” Escobar said. “They thought the costs would be prohibitive and few would use it. But a group of Cubans is using the Internet to project their opinions and now they are reacting.”
Escobar believes authorities hope that bloggers turn to the free Internet services offered by the U.S. Interest Section or other embassies in order to later accuse them of being mercenaries financed by foreign powers.
Dagoberto Valdes, the editor of an online magazine in western Pinar del Rio province, said he and his son also were turned away at the Melia Cohiba. “It is a new form of Cuban apartheid for surfers of the web,” Valdes said. “It is another sign of change by Cuba’s government. But instead of giving the people a green light, they’re putting up another big red light, saying, ‘Do not pass.'”
For more on this story go to http://www.sun-sentinel.com/news/local/cuba/sfl-cuba-internet-cutoff-050709,0,5740923.story
The image above comes from a CBS News Report entitled “Cuban Bloggers Defy Government Control,” which can be accessed at http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2008/04/24/world/main4044051.shtml#ccmm
One thought on “Cuba further curtails internet access”