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realclearworld

Smoke Signals to Cuba: Amnesty International report

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Cuban blogger Yoani Sanchez has had her phone blocked

Smoke signals to Cuba

The repression of dissent by the Cuban authorities has surged amid the Pope’s visit to the island this week.

By James Burke, Cuba Campaigner at Amnesty International

“The mobile you are calling does not exist.”

The phone in question, belonging to Cuban political activist José Daniel Ferrer García, certainly existed a week ago.

I know this because my colleagues and I spoke to him about increasing repression against government critics in the run-up to Pope Benedict XVI’s three-day visit to the island.

“The number you are dialling is wrong.”

We double check the telephone number of independent journalist and blogger Luis Felipe Rojas Rosabal. It is most definitely correct, but the recorded message would have us think otherwise.

“The number you have dialled is out of service.”

Our attempts to get through to the Havana office of the Cuban Commission of Human Rights and National Reconciliation – an organization denied legal status by the Cuban authorities – draws a similar blank.

As our efforts to communicate with government critics, human rights activists and independent journalists across Cuba are continually frustrated, it becomes clear that repression of dissent by the Cuban authorities during the Pope’s visit has become increasingly Orwellian.

From just before the Pope arrived in Cuba last Monday, mobile and landline connections belonging to government critics, human rights activists and independent journalists have all apparently been tampered with. A communications blockade is in place, and all potential voices of dissent have been silenced by the authorities.

Communication with Cuba is always challenging, as access to the internet is heavily restricted.

The Twitter accounts of independent journalists and bloggers, who are able to tweet from their mobile phones, have almost all been silent over the last few days.

Blogger Yoani Sánchez has been one of the few who has been able to send regular tweets, but has been unable to receive text messages or calls. One tweet reads “anyone who wants to communicate with me, best to use smoke signals!”

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