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Cuban Government Censors Text Messages Containing ‘Democracy,’ ‘Human Rights’

Barack Obama, Raul Castro
AP
• September 6, 2016 4:18 pm

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Cuban dissidents said Monday that Raúl Castro’s communist government is censoring mobile text messages that contain certain words, including "democracy" and "human rights."

An investigation conducted by blogger Yoani Sanchez and journalist Reinaldo Escobar discovered at least 30 key words that are blocked from reaching cell phones in Cuba, though that number is expected to be higher, Reuters reported.

Text messages that included the Spanish translation for democracy, human rights, or hunger strikes, along with the names of some Cuban dissidents, all failed to deliver.

"We always thought texts were vanishing because the provider is so incompetent, then we decided to check using words that bothered the government," Eliecer Avila, head of opposition youth group Somos Mas, which participated in the investigation, told Reuters.

"We discovered not just us but the entire country is being censored," he continued. "It just shows how insecure and paranoid the government is."

Reuters reporters also tested certain words, including Yoani’s name, which failed to deliver. The messages appeared as "sent" on the users’ phones despite never reaching their destinations.

A State Department official said in July that while a year had passed since the Cuban flag was raised above its embassy in Washington, D.C., Havana remains one of the least connected global capitals in the world.

Castro’s government permitted residents to use mobile phones in 2008 and allowed residents to access Wi-Fi for the first time last year.

The Cuban government remains fearful that opening up the internet to its people would lead to a slippery slope of U.S. influence over the island. Havana largely bans residents from setting up home internet connections and censors opposition sites it considers threats.

This has left between 25 percent and 30 percent of the island’s more than 11 million citizens with some internet access, according to Reuters. Local provider CubaCell, meanwhile, has some 3 million mobile phone accounts.

While the Obama administration has eased restrictions on telecommunications companies hoping to penetrate the Cuban market, Havana has been slow to reciprocate, a State Department official said during a conference call with reporters in July.