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Cubans in the streets push back the police of the dictatorship

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Cuba One Year After the Protests

A year ago, on July 11, massive protests by Cubans in a San Antonio de los Baños anti-dictatorship demonstrations throughout the country. In dozens of cities and towns, thousands marched to protest calling for freedom and an end to the dictatorship. Most of the demonstrations were peaceful, but in some neighborhoods, the demonstrators defended themselves from the police who violently attacked them, the people overturned patrols of the dictatorship.

The unprecedented protests were a symptom of deep political discontent. They shocked Cuban leaders, emboldened the opposition and revived exiles calling for regime change in never-before-seen protests in Miami and Washington. The United States government, as it always does, refuses. Twelve months later, Cubans are still fighting repression without precedents, a struggling economy, has caused an increase in migration.

When the protests broke out, puppet Miguel Díaz-Canel denounced them as counterrevolutionary and called for a civil war pitting Cubans against Cubans. The police arrested more than 1,300 people. However, a few days later, Díaz-Canel softened his tone, but the damage had already been done and the country remained more divided than ever. The subsequent state policy has included repressive measures against opponents and activated a new criminal code that cuts off all freedoms of the Cuban people. Protesters accused of violent crimes have received various prison sentences, ranging from five to 30 years, and leading dissidents have faced further harassment or imprisonment. Meanwhile, the dictatorship continues to ignore the demands that provoked July 11.

Hoping to erase July 11 last September, a group of acolytes to the regime inserted in the opposition, with the name of Archipiélago, joined traditional dissidents to call a “Civic March for Change” on November 15. For the regime and its traitors, sadly, what was planned did not work out and on November 15, no one showed up to march or beat empty pots as the organizers had installed.

The failure of the march to the fact that the demands did not address the most urgent problem for the majority of Cubans: the deterioration of their standard of living and the lack of freedoms. The failure of the November protest left the organized opposition demoralized and disorganized. Many of the young artists involved went into exile.

The Biden administration had been inching toward lifting some of Donald Trump’s sanctions on humanitarian grounds, but the scale of the protests reignited hopes of regime change, so the sanctions remained in place. “After July 11, we hit the pause button,” explained Juan Gonzalez, Joe Biden’s senior director of national security for the Western Hemisphere. Biden’s Cuba policy might have remained on hold indefinitely had the White House not been spurred into action by a wave of Cuban immigrants at the US southern border and the prospect of embarrassment at the Summit of the Americas.

From October 2021 to May 2022, more than 140,000 Cubans arrived at the border, more than triple the number in the entire previous year, and more than arrived during the 1980 Mariel raising or the 1994 rafter crisis. The humanitarian case for sanctions relief was bolstered by the argument that easing economic pressure on Cuba could reduce the surge in migration.

Biden’s measures once again gave the dictatorship a break. Once again betraying the Cuban people as is customary in the United States. The limits on remittances were eliminated, and the front men of the dictatorship saw the doors open to finance the repression. Person-to-person group travel has been reinstated, and all that money from travelers goes into the coffers of the communist party. The Cuban Family Reunification Program summed up, potentially allowing safe and legal immigration, but most Cubans do not have access to the Embassy. Only children and relatives of the communist leadership obtain visas. Once again the people were left unarmed to confront the bloodthirsty dictatorship.

Cuba is facing another long, hot summer of shortages, power blackouts and lack of freedom. Inflation grows more every day, with the informal exchange rate of the Cuban peso per US dollar four times higher than the official one, real incomes have stagnated. Although the tourism industry has reopened, no one wants to visit Cuba and fill the coffers of the Castro family. The number of foreign visitors in the first quarter of this year was down 77 percent from 2019. Cuba is also suffering collateral damage from the war in Ukraine, yet is a staunch Russian ally.

The current economic crisis is the main driver of the migration surge, but Cubans are also exhausted from years of unrelenting hardship. The people leaving are disproportionately young adults who see a bleak future for themselves on the island. Eleven years after Raúl Castro announced his plans to build a “prosperous and sustainable” socialism, the reforms are still incomplete, the economy is no more prosperous, and living standards have not improved. Díaz-Canel’s slogan, “We are continuity,” meant to convey stability in the post-Castro era, rings hollow, especially to younger generations impatient for change.

The Cuban dictatorship and the current economic crisis are the main drivers of the increase in migration, Cubans are exhausted after years of communism. The people leaving are disproportionately young adults who see a bleak future for themselves on the island. Eleven years after Raúl Castro announced his plans to build a “prosperous and sustainable” socialism, it was shown that it was yet another lie from the Castro family, the economy is not prosperous and living standards are worse every day. Diaz-Canel’s slogan, “We are continuity,” intended to convey stability in the post-Castro era, rings hollow, especially to younger generations impatient for the end of communism.

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José Martí
José Martí
Nacionalista cubano, poeta, filósofo, ensayista, periodista, traductor, profesor y editor.

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