HAVANA (Reuters) - Cuba’s President Miguel Diaz-Canel launched a twitter account on Wednesday after saying that digitizing one of the western hemisphere’s least connected countries is a priority to boost the economy and defend the revolution.
Diaz-Canel, who took office from Raul Castro on April 19, tweeted a photo of a ceremony celebrating the 150th anniversary of the first Cuban war of independence from former colonial power Spain from his account @DiazCanelB.
It quickly got several hundred replies, some welcoming Diaz-Canel to the twittersphere, others attacking Cuba’s leaders and its one-party system. Castro, 87, did not have an official twitter account. He and his late brother Fidel Castro had run the country for nearly 60 years.
Cuba observers are on the lookout for signs of whether Diaz-Canel, the first non-Castro president in decades, will usher in economic and political reforms in the Communist-run country.
In the first half year of his presidency, Diaz-Canel has demonstrated more a change in style of communication, showing himself to be more open and modern, than a shift in rhetoric or policies..
His first tweet included the hashtag #somoscontinuidad, “we are continuity”.
Whether because of a lack of cash, a long-running U.S. trade embargo or concerns about the flow of information, Cuba has lagged behind in web access. Until 2013, internet was largely only available to the public at tourist hotels in Cuba.
Now Cubans mainly access the web at Wi-Fi hotspots in parks and plazas throughout the country although the country’s telecoms monopoly ETECSA has said it is working on rolling out home access and mobile internet for all the population.
In the first high-level U.S delegation to Cuba after he took office, Diaz-Canel met former Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt. He also met with executives of U.S. tech companies during his first trip to the United States in late September.
Reporting by Sarah Marsh; Editing by Susan Thomas