As Cuban government cuts off internet service, communicating with family becomes harder

Published: July 13, 2021 4:40 PM EDT
Updated: July 13, 2021 6:29 PM EDT

Protesters in Cuba and across the globe are calling for change in Cuba after rising COVID cases and the culmination of years of an oppressive regime.

In Miami, a crowd shut down the Palmetto Expressway. In Southwest Florida, Cubans are also gathering and hope they will be heard miles away.

These protests are calling for freedom on the island nation.

Authorities in Cuba appear to have blocked access to social media sites.

And on a normal day, it’s hard to communicate with family in Cuba.

But now, since the government controls cell service and the internet, loved ones are cut off from communicating.

Adrian Arteaga hasn’t heard from his grandmother since the protests started.

“I talked to one of my other aunts I think it was on Sunday when everything started,” Arteaga said. “A lot of people didn’t know what was going on exactly at that moment because it was the same day but they knew there was something big going on. We haven’t spoke since then.”

Not being able to talk to them is tough because he has no idea if his family is OK.

It’s also hard for Arteaga not to be able to tell his family that people in the U.S. are rooting for freedom in Cuba.

“We always thought we were alone so that’s why many of us thought the only way was exiting the island,” Arteaga said. “I don’t want that to happen; we need to let them know that they are not alone.”

The Communist government shut down the internet but some people have found private networks to post what’s happening on social media.

“There’s people dying in the streets at the hands of the police,” he said. “The government is denying the help to those that are hurt.”

And so Arteaga and hundreds of other supporters in Southwest Florida rally. They record it and send it to their families.

“We could do more, whatever we’re doing is good but it’s not enough,” Arteaga said.

In Cuba, people rely on word of mouth while others have private networks and are able to make quick phone calls.

Like Arteaga, many Cubans in Southwest Florida are having a hard time communicating with family.

In the meantime, they say if the people in Cuba are protesting in the streets they will continue to protest here too.

Michael Chacon, a WINK News employee who is Cuban, says watching police beat people he once called neighbors is tough. So is not hearing from family.

For the last two days, Chacon has frantically called and messaged family with no response.

“I spoke with my aunts and uncles two days ago when the protests started and they told me everything was heating up and since then I haven’t heard anything,” Chacon said.

In one of the last conversations Chacon had with a friend he was asked if the Biden administration was doing anything. It’s emblematic of the lockdown on information in Cuba.

“For you to just get a piece of bread you have to wait in a line for an hour,” Chacon said. “Everything, all the food in Cuba is rationed. It always has been but it’s even worse now.”

He hopes that will change.

“More than anything the one thing a human being needs is liberty and when I came to this country and I could feel the freedom, it really made me realize that makes life worth living,” Chacon said.