Cubans’ Surge Of Social Media Usage Brings Possibility Of Political Change

In our increasingly wireless and internet savvy world, we are hard-pressed to find countries who have not caved to the social media trend. Years behind the technological obsession that Western countries have had for generations, Cubans have recently experienced a surge in internet accessibility and usage. This has brought a newfound social media presence, which carries the possibility of being a powerful political tool to incite change within Cuba. Taking matters into their own hands, Cubans took to Twitter to protest high mobile Internet prices. Thousands of tweets were posted under the hashtag #BajenLosPreciosDe­Internet, in hopes of catching the watchful eye of the Cuban government. Quickly gaining social media traction, it became the largest digital protest the island had seen in years. Students, business owners, and Cubans of all ages participated in what many are describing as a social media revolution. 

Cuba’s independence in 1959 paved the way for the communist regime, rejection of international politicized aid, and the restrictive access of media to all Cubans. A fiercely socialist government has worked tirelessly to slow down the internet era in their country in order to maintain political order. Cuban officials feared this new social media rise would be used to turn on the government. Yet Cubans are not pushing for harsh legislative change, instead, seeking government interaction. The focus has largely centered around local and personal concerns, which facilitates government interaction and strengthens the country’s morale.

On July 5th, the President of Cuba’s Councils of State and Ministers, Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, attended a formal meeting with many other Latin American delegates discussing Cuba’s overall integrity and position as a Latin American country. Díaz-Canel reiterated Cuban investment and excitement regarding the event stating, “the vocation of our government to advance processes that help us be more transparent before the people, and allow us to address, in a comprehensive manner, dysfunctional government activity, and avoid evils like corruption.” As Cuba faces global and local pressures to uphold democratic values, this only benefits Cuban citizens and their relations with other countries. Transparency holds the government accountable for their actions, all the while under the eye of Cuban citizens.

The island’s only newspaper is government mandated and written with a bias that fiercely supports the communist party and the Cuban revolution. According to Reporters Without Borders, Cuba has consecutively maintained a low ranking of 172 out of 180 participating countries on the World Press Freedom Annex. With many internet sites still blocked and wireless data not accessible to all, Cubans are suffering from the inability to outside information. 

The Council on Foreign Relations writes on the U.S.- Cuban relations, which have continued to be rocky since 1959, with matters recently taking a turn for the worse. Two years ago, President Donald J. Trump announced that he will reinstate travel and business restrictions on anything traveling to Cuba from the U.S. Criticizing the Obama administration’s loosened restrictions stating they “do not help the Cuban people—they only enrich the Cuban regime,” Trump added that U.S. sanctions will not be lifted until Cuba frees all of its political prisoners, respects freedoms of assembly, legalizes opposing political parties, and schedules free and fair elections. His actions have caused fierce condemnations as many believe this will only further isolate Cuba and worsen their social, political, and economic situation. Despite Trump’s isolationist tactics, Cuba has shown its fierce ability to persevere, both on an individualistic and legislative scale. By uniting through what may seem like frivolous means (Twitter, WhatsApp, Telegram), Cubans are demonstrating their resilience during the country’s trying times.

The bold use of social media in Cuba is rapidly changing its political climate. Cuban citizens and politicians alike are realizing the power civilian interaction carries. Making access to wireless internet more feasible is proving to be greatly beneficial to the country while making fundamental strides towards a more egalitarian democracy, where citizens’ input is heard. I believe as time goes by and international pressure continues to mount, fighting against Cuba’s political regime, accessibility of internet access, press freedom, and emphasis on citizen engagement will follow.