Cuba restores internet access after protests, but not social media

Social media is the only way Cubans can access independent media, while messaging apps are their main means of communicating amongst themselves.

Picture: dole777/Unsplash

HAVANA - Cuban authorities restored internet access on Wednesday following three days of interruptions after unprecedented protests erupted over the weekend, AFP journalists said.

Access to social media and messaging apps such as Facebook, WhatsApp and Twitter remained blocked on 3G and 4G, however.

Social media is the only way Cubans can access independent media, while messaging apps are their main means of communicating amongst themselves.

One person has died and more than 100 were arrested, including independent journalists and opposition activists, since the anti-government protests broke out in the communist-ruled island over the worst economic crisis in decades.

Web monitoring group NetBlocks reported disruptions from Monday in Cuba on major social media and communications platforms.

Cuba was quick to blame a half-century of US economic pressure for the crisis, but the downturn also comes amid strict measures against COVID-19 and an uptick in cases.

Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez on Tuesday said the United States had incited social unrest through a Twitter campaign using the hashtag #SOSCuba.

"It's true that we don't have mobile internet, but we're also lacking medicines," Rodriguez said.

"I have to tell you, Cuba will not renounce its right to self-defense."

The US on Tuesday urged Cuba to end the internet restrictions and demonstrate "respect for the voice of the people by opening all means of communication, both online and offline."

Streets in the capital Havana were calm on Wednesday, but there was a visibly larger security presence, particularly around the parliament building, where protesters shouting "Down with the dictatorship," "Freedom" and "We're hungry" gathered on Sunday.

New calls went out on social media on Tuesday for a protest outside the parliament building, which was surrounded by police vehicles.

NetBlocks said some Cubans have been able to get around the internet restrictions by using virtual private networks, or VPNs.

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