Cuba is a failed state. The Communist regime cannot perform even the most basic of services, including providing food for the hungry and vaccinating its people against the coronavirus. Thousands of Cubans all over the nation took to the streets on July 11th to protest, saying that they have had enough. The protesters are demanding an end to Cuba’s dictatorial rule. The anti-government demonstrations were the largest Cuba has experienced in almost 30 years.
Protesters exclaimed, “Down with the dictatorship” and denounced Cuba’s current leader Miguel Díaz-Canel. “We are no longer afraid,” protesters declared.
The Cuban people are suffering from privation at the hands of Cuba’s Communist regime. One woman shouted, “The people are dying of hunger! Our children are dying of hunger!” But the protests were more than just about the acute shortages, as bad as they are. The protesters were crying out for freedom in a country where virtually none exists.
As Florida Senator Marco Rubio tweeted, “Socialism promises guaranteed food,medicine & income if you give up your freedom. When, as always, it fails to deliver you don’t get your freedom back. That’s why the protestors are chanting “Libertad” #SoSCuba #PatriaYVida”
Cuban President Díaz-Canel went on television to do what dictators faced with mass protests against their repressive rule always do. He threatened the protesters with violence. “The order to fight has been given,” Díaz-Canel declared. He urged “all the revolutionaries in the country, all the communists, to take to the streets and go to the places where these provocations are going to take place.”
There are signs that Díaz-Canel’s thugs are beginning to use brute force in response to the protests.
According to the Miami Herald, “images surfacing late Sunday show military deployment in Holguin and the police beating demonstrators in Isla de la Juventud, the island just south of the mainland, as security forces responded to Díaz-Canel’s call to stop the uprising.” Holguin is the fourth largest city in Cuba. The Miami Herald also reported on videos showing “members of the police beating and even shooting demonstrators.”
Moreover, Díaz-Canel’s thugs are going after journalists trying to chronicle what is happening in the streets. There are reports of an assault by government supporters on an Associated Press cameraman, disabling his camera, while another Associated Press photographer was reportedly injured by the police.
Díaz-Canel also tried to divert attention from his regime’s own failures by blaming the United States trade embargo for Cuba’s miseries. But nobody forced the Cuban government, for example, to decide making its own Covid-19 vaccine, and forego buying doses of proven vaccines from other countries or even participating in the World Health Organization’s global Covid-19 vaccine distribution program known as COVAX. As a result of the regime’s own gross mismanagement, Covid-19 cases in Cuba are surging to record levels.
President Biden declared his support for the Cuban demonstrators. Hopefully, Biden’s words will not turn out to be just another example of his hot air.
“We stand with the Cuban people and their clarion call for freedom and relief from the tragic grip of the pandemic and from the decades of repression and economic suffering to which they have been subjected by Cuba’s authoritarian regime,” Biden said in a statement issued on July 12th. “The Cuban people are bravely asserting fundamental and universal rights. Those rights, including the right of peaceful protest and the right to freely determine their own future, must be respected. The United States calls on the Cuban regime to hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment rather than enriching themselves.”
Crickets from Socialist Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, however. Senator Bernie Sanders made a tepid remark endorsing peaceful protests everywhere. Meanwhile, he went out of his way to complain that, as people in the United States were living paycheck to paycheck, “the richest guys in the world are off in outer space!” Sanders blasted his own country with his typical class-warfare rhetoric on the same day that the Cuban people risked their lives to protest against the Communist regime oppressing them.
At least Biden is saying the right things for now about the Cuban people’s protests. That’s a welcome departure from his former boss Barack Obama’s failed outreach to the Cuban regime. Instead of making concrete progress on human rights for the Cuban people as Obama had naively hoped, the Communist regime has tightened the screws on its own people.
I visited Cuba back in 2016 on what was called a “people-to-people” tour – the only legal way at the time for a U.S. citizen to spend any time in Cuba as a casual visitor. I visited Cuba shortly before Obama and then-Cuban President Raul Castro met in Havana on March 21, 2016.
The tour’s bookends were stops to see a huge mural of Fidel Castro’s ruthless henchman and executioner Che Guevara in Revolutionary Square the first day of the tour and, on the last day, a huge statue of Che Guevara outside of a mausoleum in Santa Clara where his remains are kept.
Each day of our tour in between the Che Guevara bookends was organized to show Cuba in its best light, including its education and health care facilities that Democratic Socialist Senator Bernie Sanders has applauded.
We observed examples of the Cuban people’s creative spirit in music and the arts even while they were still living under authoritarian rule. The Cubans I managed to speak with on my own appeared to be getting by, despite their daily hardships. However, younger Cubans in particular whom I met were clearly restless for something more. This showed up, for example, in their preference for modern, vibrant styles of music coming from the United States and other places.
In the years since my visit, economic conditions have worsened. Music became more and more of an outlet for some young people to express their current dissatisfaction and their yearnings for a better life.
In February 2021, a YouTube video of the rap song entitled “Patria y Vida” (Fatherland and Life) — a twist on Fidel Castro’s slogan “Patria o Muerte” (Fatherland or Death) – went viral. One of the singers declared in the Patria y Vida video, “No more lies. My people demand freedom.”
Needless to say, Díaz-Canel was not a happy camper and denounced the song. He brushed off the song’s message and reverted to the typical dictator’s playbook. Cuban authorities arrested one of the song’s rappers, Cuban-based Maykel Osorbo.
“Patria y Vida” became a rallying cry for the protesters who flooded Cuba’s streets on July 11th. Blaming the United States for Cuba’s current problems is a total dodge. Cuba’s dictator Díaz-Canel has nobody to blame but himself and his Communist Party comrades for ignoring his people’s welfare. Freedom-loving Americans owe the Cuban people, who felt driven to protest at risk to their lives, their fullhearted support.