Cuban Government Uses Chinese Tech Systems To Block Internet Access
Chinese multinational technology company, Huawei logo seen in Shenzhen.
Alex Tai/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

The Cuban government is relying upon Chinese-made technology to block internet access during the nation’s largest ant-communism protest in decades.

Yesterday, Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) confirmed on social media that the Cuban government uses a system made, sold, and installed by China to “control and block access to the internet.”

The lawmaker — who is of Cuban descent — earlier warned that the regime would “block internet & cell phone service soon to prevent videos about what is happening to get out to the world.”

For several years, human rights groups have confirmed reports that Chinese technology enables censorship on the island.

As Newsweek explained:

A report by the Institute For War & Peace Reporting released last December noted that Etesca, the sole company in Cuba that provides internet access, has three primary technology providers that are all Chinese: Huawei, TP-Link, and ZTE.

Another report in 2017 by the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI), a global internet censorship watchdog, found traces of Chinese codes in both the surface and the interfaces used for wi-fi access portals in Cuba.

“Etesca’s login portal — through which Cubans access the internet — appears to have been written by Chinese developers, since its source code contains comments written in Chinese. This indicates that Etesca likely hired Chinese developers to implement the portal,” the Open Observatory of Network Interference said in their report.

The Institute For War & Peace Reporting found that the Cuban government blocked — a site used to sign petitions — in 2019 during a “constitutional referendum when activists campaigning for a ban on ideological discrimination in universities used the platform to make their voices heard.” In May 2020, the regime blocked, a similar platform by which activists collected signatures to “repeal Decree-Law 370 that sanctions citizens over social media content.”

In November 2020, the government censored YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, and WhatsApp for an entire weekend while an anti-government artist collective held a protest.

Freedom House — which, launched in 1941 to oppose fascism, is the “oldest American organization devoted to the support and defense of democracy around the world” — gives Cuba a 22 out of 100 rating for internet freedom.

The group explains that “Cuba has one of the lowest connectivity rates in the Western Hemisphere.” Regular internet access “remains extremely expensive, connections are poor, and authorities both monitor usage and work to direct traffic to the government-controlled intranet.” 

Meanwhile, the government “engages in content-manipulation efforts while blocking a number of independent news sites” with political dissent punishable under several laws.

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