MIAMI — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday demanded the Biden Administration intervene and help restore Internet access to Cuba as unrest and anti-government protests unfold on the island nation.
DeSantis sent a letter to Biden earlier this week, asking his administration "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 went on to call access to the Internet "of critical importance as they stand up against the repressive Communist government."
Speaking in Miami on Thursday, the governor said he has not heard back yet from the White House on his request.
"Hopefully we will get some type of response in the very near future," DeSantis said. "Time is of the essence here. Every day the regime has to black out the truth is a day where they can get the upper hand on this."
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Cubans facing the country’s worst economic crisis in decades took to the streets over the weekend, protesting more than 60 years of dictatorial rule that's led to severe shortages of food, water, medicine, and other essential needs.
In turn, Cuban authorities blocked the Internet and social media sites in an apparent effort to stop the flow of information into, out of, and within the beleaguered nation.
"The one thing that Communist regimes fear the most is the truth," DeSantis said. "And if we're able to help Cubans communicate with one another, also communicate to the outside world, that truth is gonna matter. That truth, I think, will be decisive."
Federal Communications Commission Director Brendan Carr said there are multiple ways the U.S. can assist with the Internet blockage, including moving satellites, improving communications infrastructure at the U.S. embassy in Havana, and using high-altitude balloons to beam Internet signals onto the island.
Those efforts, in turn, will allow Cubans to send photos and videos through social media, and communicate with family members in the U.S.
The only thing needed now, according to Carr, is the green light from Biden.
"The one thing that Communist leaders like least is the attention and the spotlight of the international world. And that is what the power of Internet connectivity is," Carr said. "We have the technology today that can begin to be deployed to provide connectivity into the island."
Carr added it's a common "first move" tactic for dictators to censure and shut down Internet access during period of uprising and civil unrest.
"This is a moment in history that we simply cannot sit on our hands and let pass by," Carr said. "Every single minute right now, there are people getting brutally beaten by the dictatorial regime."
Cubans have taken to the streets both on the island nation and in South Florida in protest of the country's Communist government, with many local Cuban Americans calling for U.S. intervention.
More than a dozen members of Congress, including U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio and Rick Scott, introduced a resolution on Thursday that urges Biden to coordinate an international effort through the United Nations Security Council and European Union to "impose multilateral sanctions on the regime and against those violating the human rights of the protesters."
"One of the most effective things we can do as a country, and we need President Biden to step up to make this happen," DeSantis said. "We can be helpful to getting Internet back onto the island of Cuba."