Internet Powered Cuban Protests. The State Then Pulled the Plug.


The wave of spontaneous protests that rocked Cuba on Sunday was propelled by social media and the proliferation of mobile internet, which Cubans have only had for the past three years. The government responded by leaving the island virtually incommunicado for two days.

To contain the spread of mass demonstrations, authorities cut internet service, along with the fixed phone lines of some activists in the island. The shutdown made it hard for Cubans to organize or to get news of the demonstrations out to the rest of the country.

“We were totally disconnected,” said Alexey Seijo, an evangelical pastor in the colonial city of Camagüey. “There was no way to tell people: Let’s get together at the plaza to shout and demonstrate.”

At about 11 a.m. local time Sunday, hundreds of residents in San Antonio de los Baños, a town some 15 miles south of Havana, took to the streets to protest deteriorating living conditions and the lack of basic goods and medical care during a worsening Covid-19 crisis.

What ensued was unprecedented in more than six decades of Communist rule. As videos and messages spread through smartphones, thousands of Cubans gathered in more than 40 cities and towns demanding freedom.

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