- The Washington Times - Friday, August 20, 2021

Two House Republicans plan to introduce legislation on Friday to counter Cuba‘s efforts to censor dissidents on the internet.

In recent weeks, the Cuban government conducted a sweeping crackdown on free speech as protests have wracked the island nation.

Rep. Claudia Tenney, a New York Republican and one of the authors of the bill, said congressional action was needed because of the White House’s inaction.

President Biden responded to the wave of censorship in Cuba by issuing new economic sanctions on the government of President Miguel Díaz-Canel. The sanctions, however, have not stopped the censorship or other human rights abuses by the communist regime.

“This bill directs the Biden administration to end its foot-dragging and finally take practical steps to assist the Cuban people in circumventing the regime’s censorship,” said Ms. Tenney.

The bill, which is titled the Championing Uncensored Broadband Access Act or CUBA, would direct the State Department and national security agencies to counter the Cuban government‘s censorship. Currently, more than one million Cubans are relying on anti-censorship technology to get around blackouts of social media sites in the island nation.

The legislation would push the U.S. national security infrastructure to expand that number significantly through the deployment of more digital anti-censorship tools.

A copy of the bill was exclusively obtained by The Washington Times.

Ms. Tenney authored the bill alongside Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar, a Florida Republican and daughter of Cuban exiles. Ms. Salazar, whose district is home to one of the largest Cuban-American populations in the country,

“The Cuban people are being massacred. They need unrestricted internet access now,” she Ms. Salara. “The Biden Administration does not have a plan so Congress is moving forward with a strategy to facilitate internet access to the Cuban people.”

The Republican bill faces long odds in the Democrat-run House, though the pro-democracy protests in Cuba have at times garnered bipartisan support in Congress.

Protests against food and medicine shortages have wracked Cuba since mid-July. In response to protests, which were amplified heavily on social media, the Cuban government has heavily curtailed access to the internet.

The new regulations make inciting acts “that alter [the] public order” a crime. Internet providers, in particular, have been ordered to cut access to individuals who “hurt the image of the state.” In practice, this has meant that anyone sharing videos or images of the protests has been blocked.

Ms. Tenney argues that such restrictions only serve to target dissidents while hiding the human rights abuses of the Cuban government.

“The regime in Cuba does not want the world to see the atrocities of socialism, nor does it wish to allow its own people the ability to communicate freely with each other or the outside world,” she said. “The United States must use the tools at our disposal to help the Cuban people overcome their government’s censorship efforts.”

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