Cuba accused of using YouTube to intimidate anti-regime activists in Canada

Thirteen Montreal-based anti-regime activists have accused the Cuban government of launching a campaign of harassment against them to prevent them from protesting against one-party rule on the island. According to a Cuban defector, a social media account run by Cuba’s state security is spreading detailed allegations against the 13 men, accusing them of trafficking cocaine from Colombia to Canada. The activists claim that they have been targeted by the Cuban government to intimidate them.

The Cuban government has chosen to strike back using an online weapon, YouTube. The El Guerrero cubano (the ‘Cuban warrior’) YouTube account broadcasts attacks on enemies of the Cuban Communist Party, sometimes by making use of video of interrogations by Cuban state security. The person behind the Guerrero account does not show their face in the videos. A recent Cuban government defector has identified the individual behind the account as Col. Pedro Orlando Martínez, head of the political wing of Cuba’s National Revolutionary Police.

The activists claim that the Cuban government is using the YouTube channel to intimidate them and that they have been prevented from entering Cuba on previous occasions. They say that they have been shown evidence that they had participated in demonstrations and posted comments critical of Communist Party rule. Under new Cuban laws, online criticism can be prosecuted as cyber-terrorism.

Carlos Andrades, one of the activists, said that the interrogators also suggested that he was engaged in drug trafficking in order to finance the operations of anti-government YouTubers. They named one in particular: a Montreal-based anti-regime YouTube channel with nearly 90,000 followers.

The arrival of the internet in Cuba has focused the Cuban government’s attention on the threat posed by online influencers in exile.

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