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The arrival of Cuba’s Information Technology (IT) and Communications Minister Ramiro Valdés to Venezuela in the Spring of 2010 to serve as a ‘consultant’ to the Venezuelan government awakened a new reality in that country. Rampant with deep economic troubles, escalating crime, a murder rate that has doubled since Chávez took over in 1999, and an opposition movement led by university students and other activists who use the Internet as their primary weapon, Venezuela has resorted to Cuba for help.
In a country where in large part traditional media outlets have been censored or are government-controlled, the Internet and its online social networks have become the place to obtain, as well as disseminate, unfiltered information. As such, Internet growth and use of its social networks has skyrocketed in Venezuela, making it one of Latin America’s highest Web users. Because of its increased use to spark political debate among Venezuelans and publish information that differs with the official government line, Chávez has embarked on an initiative to bring the Internet to the poor and others who would otherwise not have access, by establishing government-sponsored Internet Info Centers throughout the country, to disseminate information to his followers.
With the help of Cuban advisors, who for years have been a part of Venezuela’s defense, education, and health care initiatives, Chávez has apparently taken to adapting Cuba’s methodology for the control of information. He has begun to take special steps toward also controlling the type of information flowing through the country’s online social networks, considering the implementation of a government-controlled single Internet access point in Venezuela. Simultaneously, in adapting to Venezuela’s Internet reality, Chávez has engaged online by creating his own Twitter account in an attempt to influence public opinion, primarily of those who browse the Web. With a rapidly growing following that may soon reach one million subscribers, Chávez claims to have set up his own online trench to wage cyber space battle.
de la Fuente, Erich, "Cuba’s Role in Venezuela’s Control of the Internet and Online Social Networks" (2010). Western Hemisphere Security Analysis Center. Paper 14.