Cuba Tightening Internet Access

ROME, JAN. 23, 2004 ( The Cuban government plans to prohibit access to Internet from telephones paid for in local currency, a move seen as directed in part against the Church.

Starting Saturday, access to Internet from phones will only be allowed for lines paid for in dollars. Generally, only businesses and foreigners can pay for such lines.

Ignacio González Planas, minister of information, science and communications, responded to international criticism of the measure by saying that the sole intent is to avoid cybernetic attacks and viruses.

In a statement, the international charity Aid to the Church in Need noted: “The Catholic Church has only been authorized to have an e-mail access without Internet use through a server based in the bishops’ conference house.”

“There are not many cybercafes in Cuba,” the charity noted. “Only foreigners and very few Cubans are allowed to use them. Thus, the government of Fidel Castro has found another way of restricting freedom of information.”