Seduction is a powerful force in our world. It has always been this way. The cunning, the beautiful, but especially the strong, when ill-intentioned, lure their prey into submission through it and then use a threatening show of force and lies to keep their prey subservient and subjugated.
Bienvenidos to the world of Cuba, land of the romantic getaway, “worker’s paradise” and a country where everyone is “educated,” but among the poorest of the poor, and where misinformation is common currency.
Do Canadians know the real Cuba? Savvy as Canadians are in worldly affairs, and notwithstanding the halo around your international humanitarian aid record, it pains me to break it to you — most Canadians are careless when it comes to Cuba. Your tourism dollars, and too many of your corporations, are supporting tyranny, injustice, and human rights abuses on our island. And things are getting worse.
For more than 60 long years, Cuba has been ruled by an abusive, undemocratic, and fearful military government regime. The vast majority of Cubans have been waiting patiently for free elections, their rights to be restored, and a more effective decentralized economy that encourages entrepreneurship, creation of wealth, and innovation.
Instead, they’ve endured continual abuse and repression at the hands of the one-party socialist system that sucks away wealth, stifles innovation, and only succeeds at making everyone equally poor — with the exception of the military ruling class.
To make things worse, Cubans must endure the endless barrage of tourists who unwittingly fall into the trap set for them by the Communist Party of Cuba — the only party allowed to think and act on the island. The travellers come with cash, romanticized images of revolutionary fighters, and occasional goody bags for my people. Unbeknownst to them, the main beneficiary of their travels and good intentions is the illegitimate, criminal government that rules with an iron fist.
In Cuba, more than 70 per cent of the hotels and all of the economy are controlled by the government. Research reveals that, for every dollar expended into the Cuban economy, 80 cents find its way directly into the coffers of the military. This is the same group that sentenced more than 400 demonstrators last July with an average jail term of 30 years after a largely peaceful protest involving tens of thousands of ordinary Cubans who called for greater freedoms.
In fact, over the past three years, under the cover of COVID and, more recently, war on Ukraine, the Cuban government has ratcheted up its repression. Though painful, it has galvanized groups around the world to slowly awake from their slumber to express solidarity toward the Cuban people.
In Argentina, for example, two NGOs recently set up stands with books by banned Cuban authors at the 2022 Book Fair to encourage their citizens to consider human rights issues on the island. In Spain, several political parties linked arms in public marches to call for an end to Cuban repression. Yet still many Canadians remain oblivious to the realities of life in Cuba.
In 2022, the World Bank established that the threshold for poverty in Latin America is a salary of approximately $2.15 per day or less. After decades of full socialism imposed by force and supported by ignorance or indifference from other nations, the average income of a worker in Cuba is between $20 and $25 per month. Is this a country worth supporting with your travel dollars? More apropos: is this not a situation worth denouncing and resisting?
At first glance, Canadians seem committed to human rights and freedoms, democracy, and peacekeeping. Over the years, while focusing our efforts on the United States, we’ve forgotten that Canadians play one of the biggest roles in supporting our oppressors.
I’m happy you care. Now let’s do something that can actually help our people for real and for good.