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As Protests Rage, Cuban Regime Restricts Internet Access

Dictadura, El American

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Cuba’s communist dictatorship made public a new decree-law that deepens censorship in social networks and limits the use of the Internet on the island, with the express purpose of “defending” the socialist state and “counteracting aggressions” against it.

Under the excuse of the “inalienable right” of the State to regulate telecommunications and its role in the “consolidation of the conquests of socialism”, Decree-Law 35 of the dictatorship seeks to ensure that the Internet is used as “an instrument for the defense of the Revolution”, and not as a space for the free expression of citizens.

Weeks ago, after the social outburst that led citizens to take to the streets demanding the end of the Castro dictatorship, Castro’s heir, Miguel Díaz-Canel, suppressed the free use of the Internet and social networks in Cuba under the watchful eye of the world.

But that was not enough. In the new decree-law, the dictatorship determines and punishes ‘harmful dissemination’, which it defines as “dissemination of contents that affect against the constitutional, social and economic precepts of the State, incite mobilizations or other acts that alter public order and broadcast messages that advocate violence”, as well as the dissemination of content that, according to its own standards, spreads “false news” that threaten the “prestige of the country.”

Classification of cybersecurity incidents and level of danger in the new telecommunications law. (Official Gazette)

The dictatorship also defines in its new law some “incidents of aggression,” among which it includes concepts such as ‘cyberwar’, ‘cyberterrorism’ and ‘social subversion.’

In this sense, the dictatorship defines cyberwar as “methods of unconventional warfare and offensive actions of military character employed to overthrow the Government through the use of ICT with the development of cyber attacks to critical infrastructures to justify political, economic, subversive or interference actions.”

The definition it gives to cyberterrorism is that of “actions through the use of ICT (information technologies) whose purpose is to subvert the constitutional order, or to suppress or seriously destabilize the functioning of political and mass institutions, the economic and social structures of the State, and to force the public authorities to perform an act or refrain from doing so.”

Social subversion, according to the decree, is “pretending to alter public order and promote social indiscipline.”

All three concepts fall under the category of “incidents of aggression” and represent a “very high” level of danger for the dictatorship.

In addition, the law defines ‘fraud’ as any “action contrary to truth and rectitude that harms persons and institutions of the state,” and places it in the category of “harmful content” under a very high level of danger.

Classification of cybersecurity incidents and level of danger in the new telecommunications law. (Official Gazette)

The new law also establishes sanctions and fines to those who install, operate, exploit, maintain or commercialize telecommunications networks without authorization, as well as to those who import, commercialize or transfer by any means, install or maintain installed devices to provide or receive telecommunications services. In other words, the law subjects to punishment those who provide Internet service without authorization from the dictatorship.

The dictatorship has its back to the United States

In the face of the demands of the free world and the Cuban-American community, the U.S. Senate unanimously approved an amendment requiring the Biden administration to facilitate free, open and uncensored Internet access to Cuba.

The initiative to provide Cuba with Internet was born within days of the start of the massive protests, when the island dawned with no mobile Internet service and dozens of arbitrary arrests by the regime, and received strong bipartisan support among registered voters.

On the other hand, much has been said about the U.S. options for carrying out the proposal. Federal Communications Commissioner Brendan Carr said at the time that “it’s not a problem of technology” but of political will, and explained that the United States has the technology to carry out the measure.

In this regard, the new decree covers the dictatorship’s back in case the American government decides to carry out some kind of intervention to provide Internet to Cubans.

In Article 21 of its Decree #42, the new law states that: “the terms and conditions of the agreements for the provision of international public telecommunications services between national and foreign operators and public providers are established through mutual agreements between the intervening entities, in accordance with national legislation and with the documents issued by the International Telecommunications Union and subscribed by the Cuban State”.

Likewise, Article 22 determines that: “the routes and procedures to be used for the establishment and termination of international communications originating and concluding in Cuba” must be previously agreed with the authorities.

In addition, the law empowers the Revolutionary Armed Forces, the armed wing of the dictatorship, to “guarantee the organization of the Single Communications System in telecommunications services and the use of information technologies” according to the needs of the country.

Of course, the new decree empowers the Ministry of Communications to represent the State before international organizations and in the negotiations of international treaties, agreements and conventions.

The new regulation comes at a time of strong social dissent in Cuba, where last July 11 thousands of citizens took to the streets to demand freedom and the resignation of the dictators. Social networks were key in spreading the protests to various parts of the country and communicating to the world what was happening, so Diaz-Canel took the extreme measure of blocking the Internet for about a week.

Tomás Lugo, journalist and writer. Born in Venezuela and graduated in Social Communication. Has written for international media outlets. Currently living in Colombia // Tomás Lugo, periodista y articulista. Nacido en Venezuela y graduado en Comunicación Social. Ha escrito para medios internacionales. Actualmente reside en Colombia.

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