Cuba's state-run telecommunications firm severely constricted the access of ordinary citizens to swathes of the internet in recent days, with social media and messaging apps all impacted. As Breitbart News reported this week, the anti-information move comes amid a rising tide of anti-government protests on the island, which are being violently repressed by the regime.
Resourceful Cubans were able to sidestep the government's attempt to crack down on the flow of information on and off the island, however, by using Cuba's proximity to Florida and the availability of hobbyist amateur radio operators to keep talking. Relatively simple, low-power, homemade radios allow voice communication on common civilian frequencies between Cuba and the Southern United States now, as it did decades ago in the pre-internet age.
The Cuban government soon got wise to this, however, and rapidly started using extremely high-power jamming equipment to render the useful parts of the radio spectrum unusable. At the time of publication, that jamming was still ongoing, Floridian radio amateurs said.
“Don’t believe the good things they say about communism. It’s not real,” said Adrián Arteaga, who escaped Cuba when he was 18. https://t.co/wdyWMlyxfX
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) July 15, 2021
Cuban exile and licensed U.S. amateur radio station operator Alex Valladares spoke to Breitbart London from Florida and explained how, after the internet went down in Cuba, he felt he had a duty to let Cubans know they weren't alone and to help convey information in and out of the country.
Valladares said: “if they are protesting in Cuba and I'm a free man, I think the best thing that I could do is pass them the welfare information, the emergency communication. They don't have the internet now, the government don't want them to know the truth, they don't want them to know they are organised, that they are all out on the streets.”
He said he started talking to Cubans on shortwave on the frequencies he knew most Cubans would be able to receive and transmit on, with the rudimentary equipment they had. But he soon found the frequency he was using became completely flooded with high-power noise, so Valladares switched to a new one, and the same soon followed.
In fact, he said, wherever Cubans were trying to talk to exiles in Florida on amateur radio, massive jamming knocking stations off the air quickly followed.
“[The interference] is following me and following the Cuban people when they have their daily nets. They don't want the people to communicate in Cuba, that's why they cut off the internet and all sorts of media is blocked … They tried to block any signal there because they don't want the Cuban people – many who have homemade radios – they don't want them to listen to the exiles in Miami like me, and many others around Florida delivering the world to them,” Valladares said.
This was possible, he said, because the Cuban government has a large amount of decades-old jamming equipment dating back to the Cold War, when the regime would try to block broadcasts of U.S. government anti-Communist stations like Radio Marti from reaching Cuban ears.
Valladares is now concerned for the wellbeing of radio operators on the island, given the degree to which speaking to the outside world is an act of defiance to a murderous regime. While he encourages his listeners not to reply vocally to his messages and to make non-verbal sounds instead to let him know they are out there while avoiding identification, it remains the case private radio operation in Cuba requires a government license, meaning the regime has a list of radio owners and their addresses.
“I always look for the best empty frequency, and I talk at 1.2kw, I know they are listening to me because I have had feedback from Cuba and they say they are listening to me,” Valladares explained. “There are a couple of Cubans I talked to on Sunday and Monday, but I couldn't talk to them yesterday and I'm a little bit concerned about their lives, maybe the government went for them, you know?”
“They are going after these protesters, they are looking at the [viral protest] videos and they are going after them, to their houses, they take them out at night, and they kill them. With no justification,” he added.
As Breitbart has reported this week, the Communist regime has indeed been absolutely brutal in its repression of protests, including firing into crowds, public beatings, and visiting suspected protesters at their homes and shooting them in front of their families.
As for what comes next, Valladares said he would keep broadcasting and trying to find a way around the jamming. He said that, while he recognized many Americans would normally be rightly against the government getting involved in a foreign civil war, such a thing generally involves two armed sides fighting, which he said wasn't representative of the situation in Cuba. With the population totally disarmed, the protests were characterized by citizens with stones against soldiers with guns, he said, and the Cuban people needed help.
He called for aid from the United States and NATO, saying: “The government of Cuba is massacring the people who do not have weapons. Nobody in Cuba has weapons. Fidel Castro took the weapons in 1961. Anyone with a weapon has been put in jail.”
“In Cuba, the only people who have weapons are the government and they are massacring the people, and that has to be stopped … SOS Cuba, Freedom to Cuba. The Cuban people need freedom,” Valladares told Breitbart News.
Breitbart approached the Federal Communications Commission, Radio Marti, and the American Radio Relay League for comment on the massive interference on the 40-meter band presently being experienced in the vicinity of Cuba but they all had failed, at the time of publication, to respond.
Thousands of Cubans in at least 16 cities took the streets peacefully on Sunday to demand an end to the 62-year-old communist regime. https://t.co/ZX9C1gOj9v
— Breitbart News (@BreitbartNews) July 12, 2021