Havana’s Ocean Drive Protests: 20 Years Later

Jimmy Roque Martínez

HAVANA TIMES – Twenty years have passed since Cuba’s maleconazo, the demonstrations that took place down Havana’s ocean drive on August 5, 1994 – in protest of the extreme economic crisis the Cuban people were enduring at the beginning of the 1990s as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union.

The demonstrations began after Cuban authorities detained a number of vessels that had been hijacked by people intent on leaving the country for the United States.

I was 15 at the time. That day, I found out what was going on thanks to some neighbors who had heard news of the disturbances on Radio Marti.

The station was not reliable in its reports, as it provided false information that didn’t have to do with the disturbances. However, at least they reported on the demonstration, while the Cuban media didn’t do so until nighttime.

Disregarding my mother’s instructions not to go out of the house, I went to the ocean drive on my bike to see what was happening up close.

When I arrived, the situation was already under control, but there were still many people crowding around across the area and, of course, many police officers.

People were saying that stones were thrown at buses and broken the windows of nearby hotels. I saw a man being detained and beaten by the police. No one said anything in favor or against that. It was a very confusing moment for everyone, I think.

I recall that, that same night, Fidel spoke on television and said what those at my cousin’s wanted him to say: that Cuba would no longer patrol US borders and that anyone who wanted to leave could do so freely, on their own.

That night, a new mass exodus towards Florida began. It involved vessels of every sort, most of them makeshift rafts that stood a good chance of capsizing during the voyage.

I don’t want the disturbances of 94 to take place in Cuba again. Acts of violence would only bring more pain to Cubans. To avoid these, Cuban authorities must cease implementing unpopular and repressive measures, as they continue to do.

Citizens must also begin to demand their rights peacefully, something that would prevent extreme and spontaneous situations that are generally impossible to control.

3 thoughts on “Havana’s Ocean Drive Protests: 20 Years Later

  • Trotskyists are vigorously repressed in Cuba, so their reaction to they dynastic nature of the Castro oligarchy is irrelevant. Raul’s son Alejandro Castro is a colonel in the Interior Ministry of Cuba. In that position he maintains crucial control of the MININT police and security apparatus. Whether Diaz-Canal remains in a senior position or not is not important. The Castro oligarchy has established itself in powerful position throughout the regime and will not be brushed aside.

  • Those people who consider the possibility that the Castro family will retain the reins of political power in Cuba are only a teeny tiny minority b/c a dynastic succession from Raul Castro to either Mariela or his son-in-law would be sure to be denounced by the ultra left (namely Trotskyists) as repugnant to good communist principles. Time will tell if Diaz Canel has the desire to calm the nerves of anti-Cuba fanatics who deride the regime as little more than a band of military men by replacing Raul’s son-in-law with a civilian figure as head of one of cuba’s state-run monopolies (comparing Cuba’s military men to the oligarchs of post-Soviet Russia is ridiculous b/c Raul Castro’s generals have not given up their military posts even if they are in charge of Gaviota SA, CIMEX, et cetera, and b/c the state-run monopolies in Russia were privatized in contrast to Cuba’s state companies).

  • Jimmy, I understand how your heart aches. Life as you personally experienced in 1994 at the age of 15 demonstrates the capability of man to oppress others. That is the nature of the two extremes of political dictatorships whether by Pinochet or Castro. For the people there is little difference. Socialismo or as a man in Cuba described it to me as “Castroismo” will continue to apply repressive measures. That is the only way that they can continue in power and continue to build their financial empire which is carefully managed by the son-in-law of Raul Castro Ruz for the Castro family. They will not voluntarily relinguish power.
    I anticipate that the problems for the Castro Empire will begin when Raul retires as President to be replaced by Diaz-Canel. Because at that time (three and one half years) Maduro is due to face an election in Venezuela and following the massive inflation (averaging over 26.9% for 8 years) is likely to lose. Venezuela will then cease to support Cuba with cheap energy. However, the Castro family will still control Cuba as the power and wealth is controlled by the military and in particular by General Luis Alberto Rodriguez Lopez-Callejas the aforementioned son-in-law of Raul Castro Ruz.
    Communism in the Soviet Empire eventually rotted from within, but it took over seventy years. It may be wise to anticipate a similar time period for the same to happen to the Castro Empire.

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