Cuba held a ceremony on Wednesday in the eastern city of Santiago to celebrate the arrival of a 1,630 kilometer (1,012 mile) undersea fiber-optic cable from Venezuela. The cable, which arrived on Tuesday after a 19-day voyage, is expected to drastically transform communications in Cuba, which has some of the slowest internet connections in the world.
Speaking to an audience that included Vice President Ramiro Valdes, Cuban Computer Science and Communications Minister Medardo Díaz hailed the arrival of the cable, saying it “opens a breach in the [economic] blockade” imposed on Cuba by the U.S. government. He also said the cable would “reinforce [Cuba’s] development, integration and national sovereignty.”
The Cuban government has historically blamed its poor communications on the U.S. embargo, which until recently prohibited any fiber-optic cable from nearby Florida. The Venezuela-Cuba cable, which was financed by Venezuela and laid by French company Alcatel-Lucent, will become operational in July and will increase the speed at which Cubans exchange information with the rest of the world by 3,000 times.
The cable’s arrival coincided with news from Havana that the Cuban government appears to have unblocked domestic access to dissident blogger Yoani Sánchez’ website Generación Y, as well as two other web portals that are critical of the government. It remains unclear whether the change is permanent.