The Cuban government has cut off Internet in large parts of the country after Afro-Cubans took to the island’s streets calling for democratic reform.
Florida lawmakers, both Democratic and Republican, are now trying to lobby the US government to restore Internet access to the island as families and friends of Cubans in the US are struggling to get in touch with their families back home.
The Internet crackdown in Cuba is intended to keep protestors from communicating with one another.
“These Internet blackouts have really been damaging,” said Dr Amalia Dache, an Afro-Cuban American scholar at the University of Pennsylvania to States Newsroom.
Much of the Cuban American population in the United States is concentrated in Florida. According to Pew Research, 66% of Cuban Americans live in areas such as Miami-Dade County and Hillsborough County.
There are nearly 2.5 million Cuban Americans in the US with 1.5 million residing in Florida alone.
Four per cent Cuban Americans also live in New Jersey. Florida’s senior US senator, Democrat Bob Menendez, himself the son of Cuban parents, has been pushing for US sanctions on Cuba.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said that the Biden administration is “exploring a range of options on restoring internet access between the US and Cuba”.
“We are quite focused on and interested in restoring internet access to the people of Cuba,” Psaki said.
The Cuban government’s internet curbs, and thus curbs on social media, have fueled numerous protests across the island.
Protests first began after shortages of food and COVID-19 vaccines were reported on the Afro Cuban neighbourhoods of the island. From there, protests quickly spread to 62 cities across the country.
Afro Cubans form the most marginalized section of the Cuban population and it is estimated that nearly 70% Cubans are of African descent.