Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Expending Cuba Internet Task Force Formed

Cuban Internet
According to the report of Reuters, a U.S. task force ordered by President Donald Trump agreed last 7 February to spend the next year examining ways to expand internet access and the free flow of information in Communist-run Cuba.

The group, part of Trump's tougher stance on Cuba than the administration of President Barack Obama, met for the first time in Washington in spite of the Cuban government's formal protest that it was an attempt at subversion and violated Cuban sovereignty.

The group agreed to form two subcommittees to explore the role of the media and freedom of information as well as internet access in Cuba, which has one of the world's lowest web penetration rates. Cuba's state-run media monopoly is dominant on the island.

The U.S. State Department said in a statement that the subcommittees will provide the task force a preliminary report of recommendations within six months.

"It is vital that (the task force) works to counter the Castro regime's control over the airwaves and its political propaganda," Cuban-American U.S. congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, a Republican, wrote on Twitter.

Critics of the task force say that while it appears to be relatively toothless, it is part of a more hostile U.S. policy towards Cuba that is counterproductive.

By reverting to Cold War rhetoric and partially rolling back the Obama administration's detente with Cuba, Trump is fostering a siege mentality in Havana that prevents it from deepening its incipient social and economic opening, critics said.

By contrast, as the U.S.-Cuban rapprochement unfolded in 2015-2016, Cuba significantly expanded internet access, introducing Wi-Fi hotspots in public spaces and connecting more homes to the web.

A handful of independent, web-based news outlets emerged too, chipping away at state media.

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