Cuba, an Outcry

The island remains in a tense state of calm with a police presence on the streets, four days after huge anti-government protests that shook the country. Plus, the majority of social media and instant messaging platforms continue to be blocked with no access to mobile data. EFE/ Ernesto Mastrascusa

The Cuban government shouldn’t be responding to this desperate complaint with its usual slogans, repeated year in and year out.

By Leonardo Padura* (Confidencial)

HAVANA TIMES – It is very likely that a – greater or smaller – number of people who oppose the Cuban system have been encouraged by everything that has been happening in Cuba since Sunday July 11th. Some of them may have even been paid off, with the intention of destabilizing the country and provoking a situation of chaos and insecurity. It’s also true that opportunists and regrettable acts of vandalism were also present, which is something that normally happens in these situations.

However, I don’t think either of these facts can detract a pinch of legitimacy from the outcry we have heard. A cry which is also the result of the desperation of a society that has not only been navigating a prolonged economic crisis and an unprecedented health crisis, but also a crisis of confidence and a loss of hope.

The Cuban government shouldn’t be responding to this desperate complaint with its usual slogans, repeated year in and year out, and with a chorus of answers the government wants to hear. Not even with explanations, no matter how convincing or necessary they may be.

The solutions we need are the ones that many citizens are hoping for or demanding; some out on the street, others in posts on social media where they express their disappointment or nonconformity. Many do so after counting the few and devalued pesos they have in their impoverished pockets and many, a great deal of Cubans, lining themselves up outside stores in silent resignation for hours – come rain or shine -, with a pandemic too. Lines at markets to buy food, lines at drugstores to buy medicines, lines to get our daily bread and anything you can imagine and need.

I don’t think anyone with a sense of belonging, a sense of sovereignty or civic responsibility can want (or even think) that the solution to these problems comes from any form of foreign intervention, much less a military intervention, like some people have asked for, which also represents a threat because it is always a possible scenario.

I also believe that any Cuban living on or off the island knows that the US commercial and financial blockade or embargo (whatever you want to call it) is real and has been internationalized and stricter in recent years, and that it is an extremely heavy burden on the Cuban economy (just as it would be for any economy).

Cubans living abroad today that want to help their family during these tough times, have been able to verify just how real the blockade/embargo is when they find themselves with their hands tied behind their backs essentially, as they are unable to send remittances to their loved ones, just to give you one situation that affects so many. By the way (because sometimes people forget this) the blockade is an age-old policy that the entire world has condemned for many years in consecutive United Nations assemblies.

I also don’t believe anyone cany deny that a media campaign has been launched with fake news (in the clumsiest of ways too), which only diminishes the credibility of their managers at the end of the day.

However, in addition to the above, I do believe that Cubans need to recover their hope and have a possible image of what their future can be. If hope is lost, the sense of any humanist social project is lost. Hope is not something that can be recovered by force. It is rescued and nourished with solutions, changes and social conversations. When these don’t come, there have been many disastrous effects.

So many Cubans with itchy feet to emigrate and now the desperate cry of people, which also included paid-off people and opportunistic criminals I’m sure, although I refuse to believe that in this day and age, there are so many people like this, so many people born and raised among us that sell their souls or commit crimes. But if this were the case, it would be the result of the society that has encouraged it.

The spontaneous way a significant number of people protested on Cuban streets and on social media, without any ties to a formal leadership, receiving nothing in exchange or stealing anything along the way, should be a warning and I think it’s an alarming display of the rifts that have opened up between ruling political circles and the street (and even Cuban leaders have recognized this). This is the only way to explain what happened, and more so in a country where people know almost anything they want to know, like we all know.

Force and darkness cannot be solutions to convince and calm down these desperate protestors, such as the digital blackout that kept many people offline but hasn’t stopped those who wanted to say something (whether that’s for or against) from connecting. Also, violence should not be used as a line of argument, especially against the non-violent. Plus, we already know that violence isn’t always physical.

A lot of things seem to be at play for now. Maybe even later, when the calm comes after the storm. Maybe extremists and fundamentalists won’t be able to impose their extremist and fundamentalist solutions, and it won’t be rooted in a dangerous state of hate that has been brewing in recent years.

In any case, solutions are needed, responses that are not only material in nature, but also political, so a better and more inclusive Cuba can deal with the underlying reasons for this cry of desperation and loss of hope which many of our fellow compatriots have been making, in silence, but firmly, since before July 11th. These are the cries that fell on deaf ears and all of this mud came from this rain.

As a Cuban who lives in, works and believes in Cuba, I fully believe it is my right to think and have an opinion about the country I live, work and believe in. I know that times like these and whenever you try to express an opinion, you normally get a “You’re a reactionary for somebody and a Communist to someone else”, like Claudio Sanchez Albornoz once said. I also take on this risk, as a man who wants to be free, and hopes to become freer every day.

*This article was originally published on Infobae.

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times.

6 thoughts on “Cuba, an Outcry

  • M. Brown,
    Your comment includes several very good points.
    There is a lot of steely wisdom in there.

    All the best to you.

  • The leadership in Cuba is incapable of making any progress. Cuba only goes backwards.
    One of the worst run countries on the planet.
    They would get destroyed in a real election that’s why they have no intention of ever having one.

  • Thank you, Mr Padura for an excellently well-balanced and truthful commentary. While there has been much focus on the shortage of material things in Cuba, truth has also been in great shortage in the reportage and analysis of the Cuban protests and the situation on the island. There can be no doubt about the involvement of external forces as one of causes of the protest but in terms of political gravity, the internal errors of the Cuban government bear more responsability. In war the enemy always capitalizes on the weaknesses and errors of the targeted opponent!

    The present government of Cuba headed by Diaz-Canel seems to have been too comfortable in its guayabera shirts and descended into aloofness, using a top-down approach and the imposition of decisions with no input from the people. The first act of the Diaz-Canel was to add another layer of bureaucracy to the government with the creation of the post of Prime Minister, when there were already 6 Vice-Presidents!

    Thus, the Diaz-Canel government was out of touch with the people and 3 atrocious policies were being implemented that the people had no say in and which were highly unbearable for them:
    1. The long lines just to buy food
    2. The creation of dollar stores (MLC)
    3. The highly unethical decision not to use any anti-covid vaccines from friendly countries (Russia and China) while Cuban scientists were developing home-grown vaccines for use.

    In spite of the suffocating effects of the US economic war against Cuba, everything must be done to alleviate the suffering of the people from these long queues, that also act as vectors of Covid infection, with creative solutions. The authorities could encourage those citizens who can to use the Cuban intranet to order food and only go to the stores to pick-up (curbside pick-up, as in the US). Soldiers and civilian volunteers could be drafted to help in food distribution.
    The MLC stores should be abolished! What the Cuban people need at this time is subsidized food and free food for the most needy, not extreme profit-making policies. It is understandable that the government is desperate for foreign currency to pay for needed imports of medicine and food but should this need be addressed with squeezing the last drop of blood from the citizen?

    With regard to the vaccine policy, fine Cuban scientists have scored a brilliant coup again despite the devastating effects of the intensified blockade with the making of 5 vaccine candidates, 2 of which have been approved for emergency use. However, it was highly unethical for the Diaz-Canel government to simply decide in its infinite wisdom not to use any vaccines from friendly countries (Russia and China) while these vaccines were being developed. The result has been the increasing infection and mortality statistics!

    Progressives here at home should mobilize and agitate against the blockade. The fraudulent and cynical propaganda of the Biden administration should not be left unanswered. Imagine that at this time, when there is no mail delivery to Cuba whatsoever by the USPS, Julie Chung, the Acting Assistant Secretary for U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs, tweeted “We commend the numerous efforts of the Cuban people mobilizing donations to help neighbors in need.” How, Julie? I went to the post office wishing to mail vitamins to a friend in Cuba and was told there was no delivery to Cuba! It is utterly shameful that Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, a Jew who should know about the most sinister use of starvation by the Nazis against Jewish prisoners at Auswitz and other death camps should believe in and support the use of this weapon of mass murder against Cuba! And it must be pointed out to President Biden that he does not stand with the Cuban people but rather STANDING ON THEM like the police murderer, Derek Chauvin! Mr President, let Cuba breathe!!!

  • Most of the protesters who belong to groups financed by USAID were the ones asking for freedom, while others were protesting the shortage of food, electrical blackouts, and the slow response to the Covid crisis. The embargo is a big cause of the dire conditions, but even the Cuban government says they share some of the blame for the protests.

  • I would say that this article is pretty balanced.
    Maybe too balanced for some.

    If anyone thinks that all the protesters are on the US payroll, that’s clearly ridiculous.

    If anyone thinks that none of the protesters are on the US payroll, that’s clearly also ridiculous.

  • I’m not as super intelligent as Mr. Padura, but I will attempt to translate for us less intelligent individuals:

    I receive things that other Cubans do not. A car, a nice house, food, medicine.. so I will say anything possible to preserve what I have. I cannot change what is, I can only do my best to survive with what I am given.

    ~Leonardo Padura

    Mr. Padura, I am so disappointed in you.

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