The long-suffering Cuban people are rising up in protest across the island nation. News reports indicate they are facing extreme food and fuel shortages, a lack of hard currency, a significant drop in tourism and the economic activity it generates, and appallingly inadequate health care. The Cuban economy retracted last year three times as much as did the American economy, from a vastly smaller base to begin with. And Florida Governor Ron DeSantis has the right answer for what Cubans need right now – Internet access.
Mr. DeSantis knows that Internet access is the key. Internet access allows activists and pro-freedom leaders to communicate with one another. Internet access allows news from abroad and from across the island to flow to the population, so they can know what’s going on in the outside world and in their neighboring cities. Internet access makes possible the information flow that fuels the uprising.
That’s why control of information, and its circulation among the population, is one of the standards – and most critical – tactics of a communist regime working to maintain its control of a target population.
Leon Trotsky outlined it best in his 1920 short book, Terrorism and Communism.
“No government waging a serious war will allow publications to exist on its territory that, openly or indirectly, support the enemy,” wrote Trotsky. “Still more so in a civil war. The nature of the latter is such that each of the struggling sides has in the rear of its armies considerable circles of the population who support the enemy.”
The ruthless tyrants who run the Castro regime believe they are in a war – a war against truth, a war against capitalism, a war against their own people. They have been acting that way for more than 60 years. They have not allowed true freedom of the press or the right to free assembly since Fidel Castro first took control in 1959.
Mr. DeSantis explained his thinking in a letter he sent Biden on July 14, laying out the case:
“At first, the world could see the images and videos of this mass movement, but now the tyrannical regime of President Miguel Díaz-Canel has shut off access to the Internet. The Cuban people have lost their ability to communicate with one another … Equally as important, the world has also lost the ability to see what is happening on the ground as the Cuban people rise in support of freedom.”
As Mr. DeSantis references later in his letter, the American government has long understood and acted on the critical role played by information in supporting efforts by captive peoples to oppose communist governments. First through Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, and later through Radio Marti (now Radio & Television Marti), U.S. taxpayers for more than half a century – during the entire duration of the Cold War and since – have supported efforts to ensure that communist governments’ control of information was not entirely one-sided, and those pro-freedom activists had access to information the communist government denied them.
The rise of the Internet and the flourishing of mobile communications technology over the last two decades have vastly complicated the communist governments’ task in seeking to control the information flow – now it flows not just from the outside in, from a relatively few sources, but from side to side, and from millions of sources, as activists communicate with one another and pass information beyond the reach of the governments’ censors.
The information flow is too large to allow for censorship of individual news articles or even individual news sources. So the only remedy for a communist government that needs to be in total control of the information flow is to shut down the Internet entirely – which is exactly what the communist government of Cuba has done in response to the uprisings against it.
The good news is, modern technology has advanced so much that it allows the remarkable ability to provide Internet access to an island population from remote platforms offshore. In 2017, Google used its “Loon” program, which employs balloons, to provide Internet access in Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maris wreaked havoc with the island’s cell network.
That’s what Mr. DeSantis is calling on Mr. Biden to do – make possible the remote restoration of the Cuban population’s access to the Internet.
Mr. DeSantis understands the critical role played by information in the communist Cuban government’s efforts to maintain its iron grip over the island nation. Does Mr. Biden?
• Jenny Beth Martin is the co-founder and national coordinator of the Tea Party Patriots.