10/05/11 - Miami Herald - New media bring the world closer to Cuba
When two women at Havanas Cuatro Caminos market began beating on pots and
pans with spoons one day in August, their protest call for freedom echoed
around the world.
At least 16 video entries, many of them the same or similar footage, were
posted on YouTube and reposted on websites from Miami to Madrid. They
showed the women calling out for freedom before police arrived to take
them away. As a crowd followed, a rhythmic chant of Libertad, Libertad,
Cuban dissidents have long demanded respect for human rights and for just
as long, pro-government demonstrators have clashed with them. But what has
changed in Cuba and changed drastically is that new media are bringing
these events to the world almost as quickly as they unfold.
A protest by a group of women on the steps of the Capitolio building in
Havana was likewise prime material for videographers, bloggers and Twitter
aficionados. Members of the crowd can be seen holding up cellphones to
capture the event.
During a meeting of dissidents in Palma Soriano a small town northeast
of Santiago that was a hotbed of protests this past summer dissident
José Daniel Ferrer, watching from a distance, posted tweets as security
agents surrounded the home and broke up the meeting with tear gas.
Its undeniable that the new media is playing a role in the narrative of
what is coming out of Cuba, said Ted Henken, a Baruch College professor
who has studied Cuban bloggers. There is this network where people have
learned to share their view of reality through texting, sending videos,
New media are capturing not only the protests of human rights activists
such as the Ladies in White, who are calling for the release of political
prisoners, but also the aggression of pro-government mobs who try to break
up their marches.
But for those who hope that the cascade of emails and texts that led to
mass mobilizations during the Arab Spring might be repeated in Cuba, the
islands antiquated telecom system is a stumbling block. With only about
16 percent of Cubans with Internet access, it is the rest of the world
rather than those inside Cuba who are more likely to see the videos and
The Cuban Internet is like their old cars Cuba is stuck at Web 1.0,
said Larry Press, a professor at California State University Dominguez
An undersea fiber optic cable connecting Cuba and Venezuela that should
make Cubas Internet connections much quicker and more efficient has been
completed for months but service still hasnt begun.
Still, dissidents and bloggers have expanded their repertoire and often
exchange information on how to thwart government blocks on blogs and other
Independent blogger Yoani Sánchez, who has established a reputation
writing about the activities of dissidents and her own thoughts on Cuban
life, seems adept at getting around censors. The government is no longer
blocking her blog and she has said sending SMS text message tweets
from her mobile phone has become an important alternative when Internet
access is lacking. Sánchez has nearly 165,000 Twitter followers and
usually sends out several tweets daily.
Yoani Sánchez is better known outside Cuba than inside Cuba, said Andy
Gomez, a senior fellow at the University of Miamis Center for Cuban and
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