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Gov. DeSantis urges President Biden to help get internet access to Cuba

This comes as thousands of Cubans are taking part in anti-government protests.
Credit: AP
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks to journalists following a round table on Cuba, Tuesday, July 13, 2021, at the American Museum of the Cuban Diaspora in Miami. (AP Photo/Rebecca Blackwell)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is urging President Joe Biden to help get internet access to the people of Cuba.

This comes as thousands of Cubans are taking part in anti-government protests.

“I write to urge you to assist in providing Internet access to the people of Cuba standing up against communist oppression and demanding a voice after decades of suffering under the yoke of a cruel dictatorship,” DeSantis said in the letter.

DeSantis goes on to say internet access would be a critical tool for the people of Cuba as they "stand up against the repressive Communist government." 

Late Thursday, the governor held a press conference in Miami to double down on his push to restore internet to the island of Cuba. 

“Mr. President, please, heed the calls. Stand with the people of Cuba in their hour of need," he said. 

DeSantis added that Florida can and stands ready to assist with the effort as long as they get "quick movement" from the White House.

“Our view is time is of the essence here. Every day that the regime has to black out the truth is a day that they can get the upper hand on this," DeSantis said. "Every day that the truth is out, not only throughout Cuba but in the world, is a day where freedom is gonna have the upper hand. So, let’s act now.”

In cities across South Florida, and even here in Tampa, people are taking to the streets in support of historic anti-government protests. 

The second most populous country in the Caribbean has not seen such government dissent since 1959 — when Fidel Castro led a revolution that overthrew then-president Fulgencio Batista. Since then, the Communist Party has been able to hold on to power, despite decades of U.S. sanctions.

So, how did Cuba get to this point?

For starters, the protests are reportedly being linked to high prices of goods and food shortages. Cuba is no stranger to economic turbulence, but the coronavirus pandemic placed the country in a position it hasn't been in, in nearly three decades. 

In 2020, the government confirmed that its gross domestic product had shrunk by 11 percent. The pandemic played a large part in that decline with travel restrictions reducing tourist arrivals by 94 percent in 2021. Couple that with U.S. sanctions, which were ramped up under former President Donald Trump and still in place under President Biden, and the import-dependent country is now facing food and medicine shortages.

It's not just the impact the pandemic has had on Cuba's economy that's creating the turmoil, it's how it's currently impacting the Cuban people as well.

The island was relatively spared in 2020. Daily cases stayed under 100 for the majority of the year but have since skyrocketed. According to John Hopkins University, Cuba is currently seeing a weekly average of more than 5,000 cases. Deaths are also on the rise. In total, 1,579 have died due to COVID-19. 

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