Are Cubans Ready to Take to the Streets?

Cuban artist Tania Bruguera (c) participates in a protest in front of the Ministry of Culture in solidarity with other detained disident artists. Photo:

By Ariel Hidalgo (Cubaencuentro)

HAVANA TIMES – Recently, some Cuban exile groups announced a call for a huge anti-government protest in Havana’s streets and in other cities, believing that the right conditions existed for a social explosion in the country. They said that this protest would be in agreement with dissident groups within Cuba.

I don’t doubt that these conditions do in fact exist. But I do doubt whether the internal opposition is ready to face the government, and especially whether it’s ready to handle the consequences of this uprising. You need to make quite a powerful call, not only to begin a protest of this nature, but also to lead it to a victorious end.

I personally don’t believe it is ready for either. Enlightened leaders such as Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara and Jose Faniel Ferrer have managed to mobilize many people in their protests and demands, but you can’t just make a simple call for people to take to the streets.

Social explosions aren’t planned. They are spontaneous and come as a response to a certain event that creates outrage among the population. This event isn’t normally anything too big, but it’s the straw that breaks the camel’s back.

Up until today, people have only dared to stand in peaceful solidarity with a hunger strike in front of a house or gathering outside a ministry to demand their rights, which is already a great step forward. However, crowds of people taking to the street to hold a public protest against the status quo is a completely different matter.

Even when this widespread unrest does happen, there is a well-founded fear that the regime will crush it with gunfire and blood like the Chinese Communists did in Tiananmen Square, to teach a lesson so that nothing similar would happen for many years or ever again, and this uprising could translate into vandalism of destruction and death. We have examples of this in our own country, not just the Maleconazo in 1994 when store windows were broken, stores were looted and Cubans threw stones at the police.

In 1933, there wasn’t a unified and strong opposition against Machado’s government, and one of the opposition groups (the ABC placed bombs against officials and police officers, but many innocent people died, including some children) began to broadcast the news of Machado’s alleged resignation on an underground radio station, to stir popular movement.

This unleashed a wave of violence that resulted in the deaths of many, as well as the leaked rumor from the US Ambassador himself of a possible intervention, which precipitated a military coup, which had been unheard of in Cuba until then.

People took to the streets to kill the regime’s alleged hitmen. You just had to point at another person and accuse them of being a “Porrista” (a type of security agent) for the mobs to drag them down the street and lynch them, without any proof. They looted and destroyed many homes belonging to alleged officials, and the chaos and killing was completely out of control. “After me, chaos,” Machado had prophesized about to board the plane that would take him into exile.

This chaos spread for many weeks, and we are still feeling its effects even today. Poet Gaston Baquero said the following about Machado’s downfall: “Cuba’s backbone broke with this downfall and the country could never walk again.”

Acts like these should never happen again. A republic of peace and brotherhood is not founded with rivers of blood, or upon the foundations of gallows. Violence can only generate more violence, just like doves can’t be born from eagle eggs.

We need a completely different attitude. If you are not only kind to the person who is kind, but also kind to the person who isn’t, this moral coup, which we Cubans call “galleta sin mano” (a slap without the hand), can be a lot more convincing than a physical blow, because it a “blow” to one’s very conscience. Abraham Lincoln asked: “Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

Jesus didn’t stop Paul the Apostle on his way to Damascus to ambush him or to throw in his face just how many Christians he had put away behind bars, or how many people had died because of his actions, but rather to ask him: Join us! Paul became Saint Paul, the most valuable Christian evangelical, the man who transformed Christianity into a universal religion.

Guillen’s verses come to mind: “Soon we’ll see ourselves, me and you, / together on the same street, / shoulder to shoulder, you and I, / without hate both you and I, / but knowing you and I, / where we are going, you and I… / I don’t know why you think, / soldier, that I hate you!”.

The phrase “together on the same street” is the key here. I’m not saying that this glorious march shouldn’t ever happen, but only when every other path has been exhausted, and when the vast majority of the population have had this “beautiful light of burning enthusiasm” ignited, that another poet, Ismael Cerna, talks about, where workers, farmers, students, housewives, painters, poets… every race and gender, and even the police and soldiers stand together.

When a great student protest was shot down by State Security agents in Hungary in 1955, police officers that were monitoring the protestors, were outraged because innocent students had been shot at, and they turned their guns against the agents, and the students overthrew the Communist regime, with the police’s and soldiers’ support, and they created a democratic republic.

We know how that ended afterwards: in a bloodbath prepared by Russian troops, which won’t happen in Cuba now. However, the key lesson here is something else: the soldiers wouldn’t have turned if the protest had been violent.

We need to create a culture of peace in the Cuban people, and convince them that non-violence is the only struggle that can be effective in overthrowing Communist regimes.

In order for the sun of freedom to shine on Cuban squares and fields, every Cuban first needs a dawn of peace and brotherhood. The first glimmers of this dawn can already be seen. Making a parody of Marti, we need to put rails on this out-of-control train that is already roaring in the jungle.

So, those at the top will have to withdraw, without a single stone being thrown, without anyone being dragged along the street, without breaking a store window; and that’s how we will found the new Republic together, making everyone happy, and our future generations, and it will serve as an example of how love can raise up an entire nation, and it can be a guiding light for the rest of the world.

Read more from Cuba here.

9 thoughts on “Are Cubans Ready to Take to the Streets?

  • I doubt it is possible for me to agree more with you.
    Congratulations on clear rational thinking.
    Please count on me in every way.
    We were a substantial family in Cuba and all our assets are still intact.
    Nothing would give me more joy than a peaceful transition of powers.
    I firmly believe this is actually in the works and will happen much sooner than we all expect.
    Mark Hermann Pollack-Rothschild.

  • I agree that a violent overthrow of the government will not work, but not because of the military might of the Cuban armed forces. I once spoke to an Cuban Army Colonel who lamented that Cuban military supplies would last a month at best. It’s just that unlike many other Latin American countries, the people of Cuba are very, very poorly armed. Instead, a peaceful revolution is the only alternative. I struggle to imagine, however, the Cuban people willing to make the sacrifices necessary to deny the Castro dictatorship the support it needs to continue in power.

  • Those who complain about Cuba should look at the failed state of Colombia where the supposedly democratic government executes itself people on the streets on a daily basis and people live in abject poverty even despite Uncle Sam’s handouts.

  • At this point, what more do the Cuban people have to lose? They are already being slowly starved to death/

  • Although the articles in “Open Minded” HT are universally rabidly anti-government you will notice that never, but never, is anything devoted to what would come after the overthrow of Socialism in Cuba. What country would it be like ? Haiti ? Guatemala ? Gusanos love to, with child – like naivete, or maybe disingenuousness, compare Cuba with the United States. The Cubans left on the island, except for the tiny minority that would do the post-Socialism looting ala fall of the USSR, would regret for the rest of their lives having believed the ruse that all of their problems stem exclusively from the Cuban Government.

  • Peaceful evolution or transition is the only way to go. The Revolution brought benefits to many and appreciation and support for the Revolution gave Cuba the strength to withstand external attempts at overturning what the people had accomplished. The achievements have been many but the poor economy often limited implementation or delivery. But despite setbacks, Cuba is still an example to the world in international medical assistance and the development of pharmaceuticals including COVID vaccines.

    So despite political repression and limits on artistic freedom, there is much to preserve, value and respect.

    As external pressures diminish, we will hope that internal restrictions will diminish, a Cuban form of democracy evolve and the economy will flourish. Patria o muerta and Patria y Vida will coexist.

  • I wonder what would happen if the entire country went on a national strike, peaceful, but everyone stay home for a day. Maybe two. Government cannot function without workers. All agencies, business, tourism, everything come to a halt. Clearly articulated goals would need to be stated beforehand. Threats to arrest everyone would be pointless. See how those who hold power can operate on their own. Just a thought.

  • The only thing I can say is that people are losing their fear in the repressive apparatus. The internet has shown to the world the real essence of the Castro’s dynasty and 62 years of misery and repression is enough. Several generations of lives wasted in exchange for nothing. The Cuban people have less today than 62 years ago materially, and needless to say, the anthropological damage to the Cubans as human beings.

  • Well said. I’m an American who lived in Cuba illegally for 3 years. The only way to beat this regime is through passive resistance. Not violence. because they will come down so hard on people who rise up against them. The reference in the article to tiananmen Square is exactly what will happen in Cuba if the people try to rise up against the government. The only transition will be a peaceful transition whatever shape or form that takes….

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