Cuba curtails mobile internet service in response to massive protests

From our Bureau of Predictable Socialist Responses to Dissent with some assistance from our Bureau of Caribbean Celebrations of St. Patrick’s Day

As expected, Castro, Inc. has tried to shut down communication on the island once again, as it did during the July 11 protests in 2021. Whether this will stop the protests or prevent them from spreading remains to be seen. The situation remains very fluid. And as of 10 am today, March 18, it is still difficult to find photos or videos online, possibly due to the internet shutdown.

From El Guolstriyu’nal (Wall Street Journal)

Cuba’s state-run telecommunications company curtailed mobile internet service in parts of the Communist island Sunday afternoon as hundreds of demonstrators took to the streets to protest hourslong power outages and a lack of food, according to residents and a network monitoring firm.

Video recordings posted on social media showed hundreds of demonstrators chanting “electricity and food” in Santiago de Cuba, the island’s second largest city. The demonstrations spread to Bayamo, another city on the eastern end of the cash-strapped country. 

The drop in mobile internet traffic extended for about five hours and took place at the same time as the protests on Sunday afternoon, according to San Francisco-based network monitoring firm Kentik. Most Cubans rely on cellphone service to access social media as few households have broadband access.

“The dip in traffic looks similar to what we witnessed when the Cuban government was disabling mobile internet service in a response to the July 2021 protests,” said Doug Madory, the director of internet analysis at Kentik.

To contain the spread of mass demonstrations in mid-2021, Cuban authorities cut internet service, along with the fixed phone lines of some activists on the island. The shutdown made it hard for Cubans to organize or to get news of the demonstrations out to the rest of the country.

Residents and activists said that mobile internet service was cut at the site of the protests on Sunday.

The Cuban embassy in Washington didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on the internet cuts.

Cuba forbids all but government-sanctioned demonstrations. Regardless, residents have protested by banging pots and shouting antiregime slogans amid rising anger over daylong blackouts, galloping inflation and increased shortages of fuel and basic foods. 

One video of the protest in Santiago showed hundreds of demonstrators, most of them women, angrily yelling at the local head of the Communist Party as she tried to calm the crowd from the roof of party headquarters. “We have a very complex situation,” the official said. 

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