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Obama as Cuba’s Internet provider

Obama as Cuba’s Internet provider
Formal talks on US-Cuba ties started Wednesday, with President Obama
insisting on Cubans being given access to the Internet. He is right to
see the Internet as the people’s searchlight for freedom – despite his
doubts about ‘democracy promotion.’
By the Monitor’s Editorial Board

The great power of the Internet and smart phones is in their ability to
connect people with shared values and interests – instantly, and across
any borders that might divide people. These virtual communities have
become a force in world affairs, either for good, such as during the
Arab Spring, or for ill, such as Islamic State’s recruitment of
fighters. Not surprisingly, almost every nation has yet to come to grips
with this digital dynamo of collaboration.

President Obama’s faith in the Internet as a force for good was cemented
during the 2008 election. His campaign team set a model in how to
mobilize popular support over the Web. And even though he entered office
as a critic of “democracy promotion” by the United States, he now
insists that Cuba’s Castro regime provide open Internet access for its
people as a condition for normalizing diplomatic relations. Formal talks
to establish ties after five decades of estrangement began on Wednesday
in Havana.

Cuba is the least-wired country in Latin America, and ranks with China
and Iran in its restrictions on freedom of the Internet and other
telecommunications. Its authoritarian leaders fear an uprising if Cubans
can more easily organize. Pro-democracy revolts have long relied on
communication tools such as pamphlets or telephones. But recent
protests, such as those in Tunisia, Hong Kong, and Ukraine, were able to
spring up quickly and in larger numbers because of the special abilities
of the Internet and cellphones.

Cuba’s regime also worries that a greater flow of ideas over the
Internet will undercut its propaganda about the quality of life in the
island nation. The sunshine of truth might also better expose the many
abuses of the regime, such as corruption and its treatment of political
prisoners.

Mr. Obama’s pressure on Cuba is important not only for Cuba. For the
fourth consecutive year, Internet freedom has declined around the world,
according to the nonprofit advocacy group Freedom House, as more
governments block or filter the Web, or arrest those who use the
Internet for dissent.

Democracy promotion has gone out of favor to some degree since the Iraq
War, and as more despots learn how to suppress groups agitating for
freedom. But the Internet remains a compelling instrument for “soft
power.” It rests on the hope that openness, transparency, and the flow
of ideas create a moral arc of progress. Cuba is the next test ground
for this hope. Obama should not waver in assisting Cubans in finally
getting connected to the world.

Source: Obama as Cuba’s Internet provider – Yahoo News –
http://news.yahoo.com/obama-cubas-internet-provider-212134049–politics.html;_ylt=AwrBEiEA4MBU0EQAF9LQtDMD

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