Cuba Cuts Internet Access Amid Anti-Communist Protests

People shout slogans against the government during a protest in Havana
Cuban protesters / Reuters
July 13, 2021

Cuba's Communist government is restricting access to social media websites as anti-regime protests rock the island nation, according to an internet access watchdog.

The country's sole telecom company, the government-owned ETECSA, is limiting access to social networking platforms Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Telegram, NetBlocks reported Monday. The restrictions are "likely to limit the flow of information from Cuba," the U.K.-based internet monitor group said, after thousands of demonstrators in more than a dozen cities protested against the country's Communist regime.

The internet blackout comes amid a government crackdown on demonstrators, who took to the streets Sunday to protest the government's handling of persistent power outages, food and medicine shortages, and rising coronavirus cases. Viral videos on social media sites showed Cubans chanting "freedom" and demanding an end to the Communist regime, which has ruled the country for more than six decades. In response to the unprecedented demonstrations, government authorities have arrested more than 100 dissidents, according to Cuban human rights group Cubalex. Plainclothes officers have assaulted protesters, and police have fired tear gas and rubber bullets at demonstrators, according to activists on the ground.

Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel, who succeeded Raúl Castro to rule the country in 2018, blamed the nation's unrest on the United States' decades-long embargo on the country. The Trump administration in 2017 reinforced commercial and financial restrictions on Cuba that former president Barack Obama rolled back in an attempt to normalize relations with the Communist regime.

Against calls from Cuban officials and congressional Democrats to loosen sanctions, President Joe Biden has maintained the Trump administration's economic restrictions on the country. Biden said in a statement Monday that the White House supports the Cuban people, who are demanding freedom "from the decades of repression and economic suffering to which they have been subjected by Cuba's authoritarian regime."