HAVANA – In a new age of Cuban connectivity, Senator Marco Rubio is using Twitter to start a direct conversation with Cubans living on the island.
In his first tweet Thursday, under the name @MarcoRubioCuba1 , Florida’s republican senator told his more than hundred new followers the Cuba policies he supports in the United States Senate are motivated by one objective: so the Cuban people can elect its leaders the same way others countries do in the Western Hemisphere.
In a subsequent video, also posted on the same Twitter account, Rubio said, "our interest is to simply support democracy in Cuba."
Rubio is said to have the ear of President Donald Trump when it comes to Cuba policy, which under the Trump administration has taken a significant slide back to Cold-War era friction.
“Having access to the Cuban people by way of this social media outlet is vital,” said Laura Ortiz, Hispanic Media Director at Rubio’s Washington office.
In Cuba, some who are actively engaged in social media as a way to discuss daily challenges on the island are touting the new account.
“I think this will provide opportunities for Cubans to voice their concerns directly to a U.S. congressman who is key in Cuba-US relations,” said Camilo Condis, a young entrepreneur who is one of the most active Twitter users on the island.
“If used properly, it could become a direct channel for communication between Rubio and Cubans in Cuba,” Condis added.
Condis, 33, believes Rubio can learn from Cubans on the island not just the hard-core anti-Castro voices.
“If he really wants the Cuban people to decide their own fate, he should listen to all kind of actors in Cuban civil society,” Condis said.
Condis and many Cubans on the island believe Rubio does not hold wide support because they believe he has designed or supports sanctions that are hurting the Cuban people instead of the government.
Rubio, in another Tweet, said scarcities in Cuba have nothing to do with the U.S. embargo because Cuba can negotiate with almost all the countries in the world.
In Spanish, Rubio said “the suffering is the result of the Communist Party impeding economic prosperity because it fears losing control if people no longer rely on them for basic goods.”
“So far, the account repeats several falsities: that Trump regulations have no impact on Cuban private sector, or that the embargo has no bearing on Cuba’s economic problems overall,” said Michael Bustamante, assistant professor of Latin American history at Florida International University.
Bustamante is not optimistic this new Twitter account will be a forum for serious policy analysis and debate.
“This is like Donald Trump creating a Twitter account to communicate with feminists,” said James Williams of Engage Cuba, an organization that promotes engagement with the communist island.
“It’s not going to go well…guy who has never even been to Cuba lecturing people who live there is quite something,” Williams added.