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Cuban American flotilla departs to demand Cuba enter the cyber age

posted 11 Aug 2012, 14:34 by Sam Mbale   [ updated 11 Aug 2012, 14:38 ]

A Cuban exile group expects to reach legal proximity to Cuba's coast with a mission to launch a huge display of fireworks to support opposition against the Castro regime and its tight grip on Internet access.

It would be "explosive" if the Internet were available to all people in Cuba, according to the leader of a Cuban- American flotilla that sailed from Key West on Saturday (August 11) en route to the edge of Cuba's international waters.
The caravan of boats is expected to stop about 12 miles off the coast of Havana, where they will set off a huge display of fireworks to protest the lack of Internet access and to support the Cuban opposition whose members they hope will gather to watch the colorful protest.

Democracy Movement leader Ramon Saul Sanchez said this is the twenty sixth flotilla he has organized in his relentless fight for democracy in Cuba which he still considers his homeland after decades of living in exile.

Dozens of members of the Miami based group turned out to join the journey and this time Sanchez said they want the Cuban government to allow Cubans on the island complete access to the Internet.

Cuba's population has remained largely cut off from unfettered access to the Internet.

Communist-run Cuba monopolizes communications in the state-controlled economy. There is no broadband Internet in Cuba and the relatively few Internet users suffer through agonizingly long waits to open an email, let alone view a photo or video, which also hampers government and business operations.

"It's not that there is no technical capacity in Cuba to provide Internet access to Cubans. It's just that there is no political willingness to provide it," said Sanchez.

Ana Margarita Abanza, a Nicaraguan woman who lives in Florida and joined the flotilla to support the Cuban cause, said that all of latin america should join in to push for democracy in the communist island.

"It's the same cause of all the people of the americas - to fight for freedom, for democracy and the well being of the people, the dignity of our people," said Abanza.

Cuba blames the United States embargo for denying access to underwater cables, saying it must use a satellite system and is limited in the space it can buy.

In February 2011, a fiber optic cable was laid from Venezuela to Cuba to provide download speeds 3,000 times faster than Cuba's current Internet. But to date there is no evidence the cable is operational and the government and state-run media have remained quiet on the matter.

"I hope the Cuban citizens will claim their rights, that they would not be afraid because there is a lot of fear in Cuba of repression by the Cuban state. And we also hope that the minds of the men of power will light up and allow Cubans to have access to the Internet, respect their freedom of expression and start to respect all human and civil rights that Cubans unfortunately have not had for the last fifty three years," said Sanchez.

In the past, local authorities and pro-Castro supporters have prevented Cubans from gathering along Havana's Malecon, the capital's coastal avenue from which the firework event has been visible in the past.

A Cuban exile who has been living in Miami only a few years after leaving Cuba, said that it is unbearable to be forced to live away from the land he loves so much but he felt he had no choice but to leave.

"It's very difficult being in a country where you are controlled day after day where you can't think and your brain is basically amputated. And to see that there are people dignified to cross back even though they are already free here, it's very beautiful," said Lazaro Lozano.

It was unclear if dissidents in Havana would be able to approach the Cuban seawall to witness the event.

Cuba's government has always labeled the Democracy Movement flotillas a provocation and has warned against any violations of crossing into Cuban territory.