The Associated Press (AP) reported that Cubans all across the country marched on July 11. It was the biggest anti-government demonstration since the days of former Cuban President Fidel Castro, the report added. The country underwent its worst economic crisis in decades as a consequence of sanctions imposed by the Trump administration. A resurgence of Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) infections made matters worse for Cuba.
One male protester interviewed by AP said: "We are fed up with the queues [and] the shortages. That's why I'm here." He declined to identify himself by name for fear of being arrested by authorities. Cubans who planned to join the protests only discovered where they will be held through social media.
Many Cubans who attended the protests took pictures and video using their smartphones. They then posted these on social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook.
Havana blamed the U.S. for its sanctions that crippled its economy. It also accused the U.S. of helping organize the widespread protests using social media platforms. Thus, it quickly moved to block internet access to prevent future protests.
Alp Toker of the London-based internet monitoring company Netblocks said Cuban authorities blocked a number of social media and messaging platforms on July 12. These included Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram and Telegram. While Twitter did not appear to be blocked, Toker pointed out that the Cuban government could censor it likewise. "This does seem to be a response to social media-fueled protest," he said of the ban.
Cuba had not been connected to the internet until 2008. During that year, Havana allowed citizens to access the internet – albeit with restrictions. Mobile access to the internet only became available in December 2018. The internet only became widely available in the island in July 2019, when authorities began lifting earlier restrictions.
The internet outages in Cuba made some Cubans turn to ham (amateur) radio to stay updated. Cubans used the 40-meter band to communicate with family members in Florida. But this came to a sudden end as the Cuban government also blocked transmissions on the band.
A number of anecdotal reports claimed that ham radio broadcasts were being jammed. Josh Nass of the Ham Radio Crash Course YouTube channel confirmed the jamming. Using special tools, he pinpointed the origin of the jamming signal as within the region of Cuba. Nass added that the jamming signals were moving to better focus on intercepting any signal coming out of the country.
N.C. Scout of American Partisan launched Operation Cuba Libre in response to the Cuban government's jamming of ham radio transmissions. The operation aimed "to allow Cubans who may not have anything but low-tech AM receivers to listen to amateur transmissions on the broadcast section of 40 meters."
In a July 27 post, N.C. Scout called on all properly licensed American ham radio operators to contact other operators via AM phone and engage in conversations. He added that the conversations should center on current events in Cuba and other relevant information.
N.C. Scout remarked that the operation hit two birds with one stone. First, it legally bypassed broadcasting restrictions imposed by the Federal Communications Commission on licensed ham radio operators. Second, it allowed Cubans to be updated about the latest information in the country.
"Repeats by a receiving station of the reports sent by another serve to ensure that the reports are being transmitted accurately. They will also serve to maximize the ability of Cuban listeners to hear the information. Take your time and speak slowly and distinctly," N.C. Scout noted.
Writing for The Organic Prepper (TOP), author Aden Tate warned that the suppression happening in Cuba could happen in the U.S. He cited a number of examples of this suppression – such as TOP itself being labeled a disinformation site and alternative news website ZeroHedge being demonetized by Google. Tate also mentioned California's decision to remove privately-owned ham radio repeaters on public land. Those who failed to remove the repeaters would face hefty fines, state authorities said.
Despite these negative incidents, Tate also noted some positive developments. He pointed out the growth of ham radio operators and how they organized a local news-sharing network within his community. "All members are pro-freedom Americans who set up shop for an hour or so to discuss the collectivist policies by local politicians," Tate said of the group.
Censorship.news has more articles about Cuba cutting off internet access and ham radio transmissions.