U.S. Senator Marco Rubio said he believes Cuba's Communist regime would collapse if ordinary people on the island nation had open access to the Internet.
Cubans are extremely innovative people, Rubio, who is a Cuban-American, told a panel looking at the role of Internet access in Cuba. Anyone who can figure out how to keep a 1957 Chevy running is going to figure out how to organize online.
The event, held Wednesday, was sponsored by the conservative Heritage Foundation think-tank and Google Ideas. Rubio's speech in Washington came days ahead of a visit to Cuba by Pope Benedict XVI on Monday to officially celebrate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of a statue of the Virgin of Charity, a symbol of nationalist unity, the Washington Post said.
On Wednesday, Rubio told the panel, 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.
Cuba has dominated discussion in Washington circles lately amid reports Raul Castro’s government has been cracking down on dissents ahead Pope Benedict's visit. The pope's trip began Friday in Mexico. He will fly to Cuba on Monday.
Rubio said an Arab Spring-type revolution could be repeated in Cuba if technology improved on the island.
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, said the Florida Republican.
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 [Cuban government] know that.
Rubio also said free Internet access in Cuba would be 50 times more powerful than the radio and TV broadcasts that have been beamed from the U.S. over the past decades. Rubio said the U.S. should help Cuba develop its technology capacity.
Provide them access to the Internet, and the Internet will take care of everything else, said Rubio, who former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said he thinks should be the GOP nominee for vice president.
Earlier this month, Reporters Without Borders, a nonprofit group based in France that advocates for press freedom, released a report that named Cuba among the nations that combine often drastic content filtering with access restrictions, tracking of cyber-dissidents and online propaganda, news reports said.
Other countries named in the report for restrictive Internet access include Bahrain, Belarus, Burma, China, Iran, North Korea, Saudi Arabia, Syria, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Vietnam.
I want political liberties in Cuba, said Rubio. The Cuban people, in a free and open society, have a right to choose 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.