President Joe Biden on Thursday said he is considering ways to restore internet access to the people of Cuba after its government blocked it to stop news and images from the protests from getting out.
‘They’ve cut off access to the internet. We’re considering whether we have the technology to reinstate that access,’ Biden said at the White House during a joint press conference with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
The internet blackout, enacted Sunday after protests over food shortages began, have left much of the island without the ability to communicate.
Florida‘s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is seen as a top contender for the GOP presidential nomination in 2024 should he run, asked Biden on Wednesday for federal assistance to provide Internet access to the people of Cuba.
In his letter to Biden, DeSantis noted: ‘The Cuban people have lost their ability to communicate with one another, and many Floridians born in Cuba have no information on the safety of their loved ones. 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.’
He called on Biden to provide the necessary authorizations and funding to help boost Internet access on the island.
Additionally, DeSantis held a press conference on Thursday in Florida to highlight the issue as he seeks a second term as governor in next year’s election.
‘The one thing that communist regimes fear the most, is the truth. And if we’re able to help Cubans communicate with one another, also communicate to the outside world, that truth is going to matter, that truth, I think, will be decisive,’ DeSantis said. ‘And so, Mr. President, now’s the time to stand up and be counted.’
DeSantis said every option should be explored, including using offshore and satellite technology to supply internet service, even using hot air balloons as to provide connectivity.
The balloons would hold transmitters to get a signal around. There were used around Puerto Rico in 2017 after Hurricane Maria struck that island.
President Joe Biden said he is considering ways to restore internet access to the people of Cuba after government disabled it
Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis, a possible 2024 WH candidate, asked Biden for federal assistance to provide Internet access to the people of Cuba
White House press secretary Jen Psaki acknowledged on Thursday that the lack of internet ‘is a huge issue in Cuba and one that is very challenging for the people of Cuba so they can gain access to accurate information they can correspond with family members and others.’
‘We are certainly looking at that to see what can be done to address, but in terms of that specific proposal I don’t have an assessment of that,’ she added.
At the White House on Thursday, Biden also called communism a ‘failed system’ after he faced criticism from conservatives and some Florida Democrats for not showing strong enough support for the protesters in Cuba.
‘Communism is a failed system, universally fail system. And I don’t see socialism as a very useful substitute,’ Biden said.
The White House had given a more measured response to the protests that took place over food shortages and power outages on the island nation, refusing to call out the ‘communist’ government but denounced the ‘authoritative regime’ instead.
Cuba is suffering its worst crisis in years from a combination of the coronavirus pandemic that has paralyzed its economy, including the vital tourism industry, inefficiencies in the state-run economy and the tightening of U.S. sanctions on the island.
The country has been governed by the Communist Party for some six decades.
Cuban protested lack of food shortages in their country
Biden was under pressure from critics to speak out more strongly about the protests
People hold Cuban and US flags as they march during a protest showing support for Cubans demonstrating against their government, in Hialeah, Florida on July 15
Crowds gathered for more protests in Hialeah, Florida on July 15 following unprecedented unrest in Cuba earlier this week
People chant during a protest showing support for Cubans demonstrating against their government, in Hialeah, Florida on July 15
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and other officials pressed the White House on Thursday to support efforts to preserve internet service to antigovernment protesters in Cuba, even advocating the use of giant balloons as floating Wi-Fi hotspots to allow images of dissent to stream unabated from the authoritarian nation. Pictured: A protester in Florida on July 15
Florida Democrats want Biden to come to Miami to give a pro-democracy and human rights speech that would address the situation in Cuba but could also tie in Haiti.
A part of the Florida Democrats’ concerns is that Biden is missing an opportunity to court the crucial Hispanic vote, which Biden dramatically under performed with in Florida during the 2020 election.
The Cuban vote is particularly powerful in that swing state. Donald Trump won Florida’s Cuban vote 56% to Biden’s 41% in last year’s election, which helped the former president carry the state.
‘I really believe this is one of those moments, I put it up with the moment of ‘Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall’ because I do believe we can give the hope to the people in Cuba,’ Democratic state Sen. Annette Taddeo told the Miami Herald. ‘It’s really about the people in Cuba who need to hear it. The words of the president of the U.S., be it Republican or Democrat, should matter.’
Some Democrats worried Biden was taking the lead of liberals and being too cautious in his early statements. While progressives, like Sen. Bernie Sanders, expressed support for the protests, they said nothing about totalitarian government.
‘All people have the right to protest and to live in a democratic society. I call on the Cuban government to respect opposition rights and refrain from violence. It’s also long past time to end the unilateral U.S. embargo on Cuba, which has only hurt, not helped, the Cuban people,’ wrote Sanders on Twitter.
In the protests, many Cubans expressed anger over long lines and shortages of food and medicines, as well as repeated electricity outages. But there were also calls for political change in a country governed by the Communist Party for some six decades.
Police arrested dozens of protesters, sometimes violently, and the government has accused protesters of looting and vandalizing shops. Smaller protests continued Monday and officials reported at least one death. No incidents were reported Wednesday.
Republicans, in contrast, have taken a much tougher stance on the Cuban government.
Miami-Dade Democratic Party chairman Steve Simeonidis issued a warning on DeSantis, who is seeking a second term in the gubernatorial campaign in next year’s election.
‘The fact that Ron DeSantis is pretending to lead on this issue while completely making it partisan shows that this is a political game he’s playing ahead of his reelection campaign,’ Simeonidis said. ‘I don’t think there’s anything that Joe Biden could do on any issue that would receive any praise from South Florida Republican elected officials.’
People protest to show support for Cubans demonstrating against their government in Miami
Gov. Ron DeSantis’ letter to President Joe Biden on the situation in Cuba
Biden considering US intervention in Cuba to restore internet access during widespread blackouts