Democratic Rep. Val Demings on Friday called for President Joe Biden to help push internet access into Cuba.
Demings, a Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate, joins a call mostly led in recent weeks by Florida Republicans, including her likely 2022 election opponent, Sen. Marco Rubio. Advocates want Biden to disrupt the Cuban regime’s lockdown on outside information by surreptitiously getting internet service to the island.
Demings, of Orlando, is putting money on the table. She did so in a letter to Acting Assistant State Department Secretary Lisa Peterson.
Demings said she has identified up to $2.5 million per year in unallocated federal money in an open technology fund that could be used immediately for “surges” to internet freedom programs. She said Biden could spend the money at will to beam in satellite links for internet connection to Cuba.
“After 62 years of deprivation, intimidation and violence at the hands of the illegitimate communist regime, Cubans understand that opposing the Communist Party of Cuba is not without great risk — including death — but they still marched for human rights and freedom,” Demings said in the letter.
“With the support of authoritarian allies, the regime also sought to block access to social media and the free and open internet… I respectfully request that the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor immediately utilize all appropriated funding for the Open Technology Fund to support Cuban internet freedom,” she wrote.
Rubio, Republican Sen. Rick Scott, and Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis all have made similar calls in recent weeks for Biden to find some way to extend internet access to Cubans.
Demings said the money she identified has been unspent for several years due to the former administration’s lack of interest in democracy programs. In a news release, she said she believes that this existing funding can and should be used immediately by the Biden administration to support anti-censorship technology and other efforts to allow the Cuban people full and free access to the internet.