Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Sen. Marco Rubio: Internet access could lead to regime change in Cuba

Posted on Wednesday, 03.21.12

Sen. Marco Rubio: Internet access could lead to regime change in Cuba

In a speech in Washington, Sen. Marco Rubio said unfiltered access to
the Internet among ordinary Cubans on the communist island could advance
the fight to end the dictatorship.
By Erika Bolstad

WASHINGTON -- The Cuban regime as led by the Castro brothers would fall
— and fall fast — if ordinary people on the island had access to the
Internet, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said Wednesday.

The regime would quickly go the way of those in the Middle East during
the Arab Spring, he told a panel looking at the role of internet access
in Cuba.

"Cubans are extremely innovative people," Rubio said. "Anyone who can
figure out how to keep a 1957 Chevy running is going to figure out how
to organize online," Rubio said. "I think you would be shocked at how
quickly things would begin to unravel for the regime if the people of
Cuba had unfiltered access to the Internet and social media."

The event, which was co-hosted by the Heritage Foundation and Google
Ideas, focused how Internet access could empower the Cuban people. The
discussion was one of many about the island dominating Washington in
recent days, timed just days before a papal visit to Cuba by Pope
Benedict XVI.

"I think Raul Castro clearly understands that his regime cannot survive
a Cuban reality where individual Cubans can communicate with each other
in an unfettered manner," Rubio said. "If Cubans are able to communicate
with each other ... if these groups are able to link up with one
another, and coordinate efforts and conversation, the Cuban government
wouldn't last very long under the weight of that reality. I think these
guys know that."

A report issued earlier this month by Reporters Without Borders named
Cuba among the nations that combine "often drastic content filtering
with access restrictions, tracking of cyber-dissidents and online

Other nations cited in the report with restrictive Internet policies
include Bahrain, Belarus, Burma, China, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia,
Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.

Rubio called the potential of wide Internet access "fifty times more
powerful" than the television and radio broadcasts beamed from the U.S.
to Cuba for the past several decades. He said the next foreign policy
goal for the U.S. should be to build Cuba's technological capacity.

"Provide them access to the Internet and the Internet will take care of
everything else," he said.

Rubio defended the U.S. embargo of Cuba and said it is a "powerful
leverage point" to negotiate democracy with a successor government to

It's also a "perverse incentive" to keep foreign companies — including
American ones — from engaging with the Castro regime and advocating for
the status quo in exchange for economic access. Corporations are
interested in making money, not necessarily in regime change, Rubio said.

"I want political liberties in Cuba," Rubio said. "The Cuban people, in
a free and open society, have a right to chose any economic model they
want. But ultimately the Cuban people in a free and open Cuba will have
the choice of whatever economic model they want. So my interests in Cuba
are political liberties."

Rubio said he's also concerned about one of the few existing
non-governmental institutions in Cuba, the Roman Catholic church. He
said he is troubled by the church's role in negotiating the exile of
some dissidents to Spain after their release from prison..

"I'm deeply concerned that the Cuban church has negotiated political
space for themselves in exchange for their moral imperative," he said.
"And I hope the pope's visit doesn't reinforce that."

Rubio said that Cuba's recent move to develop its offshore oil resources
is also worrisome, because it's a source of revenue for the current
regime that "doesn't in any way diminish their grip on power."

Cuba's leadership remains uninterested in change because the privileged
and elite few there see the island as "13 million person plantation
called Cuba," Rubio said. "They own this plantation, this island, they
have it pretty good."

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