U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken says that we live in a “moment of reckoning for democracy worldwide” and promises that America will “step forward and bring others” with it. Those are fine words, but for many Cubans they ring hollow. For all its talk of opposing autocracy and supporting imperiled democracies, the Biden administration has done little to address the suppression of democracy’s stirrings in Cuba.
Cuban dissidents are suffering the worst persecution in decades. Yet the Biden administration, the international community at large, and the media have largely ignored this repression.
Last summer, on July 11, 2021 (11J), Cubans took to the streets to protest peacefully the government’s tyrannical practices and chronic economic mismanagement of the country. The regime of Miguel Diaz-Canel has treated this simple and peaceful act of democratic expression like a serpent to be crushed in its shell. He has authorized mass trials for hundreds of innocent protesters, including an estimated 55 minors. Some of the indicted will end up in prison for decades. According to Samantha Power, the administrator of the United States Agency for International Development, “The Cuban government has sentenced 128 people to a total of over 1,900 years in prison for demonstrating and expressing their views.”
This repressive crackdown is broader and harsher than previous ones, as it aims to scare ordinary Cubans away from supporting any such protests in the future. Far from moving past the cruelty of the Castro brothers, Mr. Diaz-Canel is returning to it. Yet how many Americans are even familiar with Mr. Diaz-Canel’s name? The complacent assumption of the press and the international community is that he is a more benign figure than his predecessors. The brutal facts on the ground in Cuba tell a different story.
If democracy is to have any chance in Cuba, the Biden administration will need to do more than just pull the travel visas of a handful of Cuban officials, and the press and international community will need to shine a relentless light on Mr. Diaz-Canel’s misdeeds.