The Rise of Cuba’s Digital Awareness
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Government responses to the Covid-19 pandemic have eroded the essential pillars of democracy in countries around the world, creating a crisis for global freedom—Freedom House, October 2020. 

While there’s consensus on democratic recession globally, COVID 19 has provided much oxygen to a bad situation. “Digital authoritarianism” has spread inexorably around the world and internet freedom is under siege by repressive governments, and leaders with autocratic ambitions are exploiting the virtual world for political control.

On Sunday, July 11 2021, many took to the streets of Cuba protesting poor conditions arising from the “collapse of the economy, food and medicine shortages, price hikes and the government’s handling of Covid-19.”The protests were organic and spontaneous with social media as the catalyst for mobilising people for rallies and spreading the news about the demonstrations across Cuba.

Internet access is relatively new as mobile internet access was introduced to Cuba in December 2018. Although it was being run for the state, it picked up a lot of traffic over the following years. In the communist’s state of Cuba, it is illegal to gather in large numbers, but social media has gardened urgency and unity amongst the citizens, as numbers increase daily of those joining the movement.

Although it remains unclear whether the state had anything to do with it, an internet blackout took place during this time which was then restored on Wednesday, July 14th; while maintaining restrictions on specific platforms like Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter. Many believe it to be the ploy of the government to block communications, but citizens remained vigilant and have bypassed restrictions through VPN.

US President Joe Biden had this to say about Cuba; “Cuba is, unfortunately, a failed state and repressing their citizens” but the contrary is also true that the decade-old US trade embargo has only further worsened the harsh realities of Cubans who are demanding a turnaround for, which is being reported that is under review by Biden’s administration after Donald Trump restored US sanctions including restrictions on travel by Americans to Cuba and new curbs on U.S. investments there, which Obama relaxed in the last months of his presidency.

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel responded to Biden’s comments by questioning the US locus and claims of accountability, which he says they lack, adding that, “a failed state is that which, to please a reactionary and blackmailing minority, is capable of doing damage to 11 million humans…The United States has failed in its attempts to destroy Cuba despite spending billions of dollars in its attempts to do so.” He described the US high COVID-19 death toll, police violence, and racism as “shameful record of wars”.

While democracy has been on a consistent downward spiral globally for more than a decade, the coronavirus outbreak has worsened the condition of democracy and human rights in about 80 countries including Russia, China, Turkey, Venezuela, Sudan, Zimbabwe, Mali, Kazakhstan, Costa Rica, Brazil, Bangladesh and Afghanistan and Belarus.

Freedom House released a scathing report in October 2020 in which it notes inter alia,“ government responses to the Covid-19 pandemic have eroded the essential pillars of democracy in countries around the world, creating a crisis for global freedom”. Freedom of expression, one of the anchors of democracy is in crisis in many parts of the world as internet freedom is increasingly being stifled by governments through surveillance, censorship and complete closure of social media platforms.
The crisis of democratic governance, having begun long before the pandemic, is likely to continue after the health crisis wanes, as current legislations and rules being introduced could prove difficult to undo.

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