Cuban citizens took to the streets on Sunday in protest. Depending on where you get your news, you may have a different idea of the driving forces that triggered what is being called the 'largest protest in decades' in the country according to various outlets. Protesters were filmed carrying, waving, and wearing American flags. Cuba was captured by communism 62 years ago, and the island played a huge roll during the height of the Cold War. Since it's revolution, more than a million citizens (out of about 11 million) have since defected to the US and many other countries.
For the last few years many Cuban government officials have deserted from the Castro regime and have come to reside in the United States where they have received asylum. Former Cuban navy commander Armelio Pavon, who has lived in Tampa since he deserted in 1994, he had lived out of the Miami area. The 2010 census showed the Tampa Bay area had 65,000 residents who called themselves Cuban. Tampa has avenues named Habana and Republica de Cuba, but no neighborhood so densely packed with Cubans that it’s known as Little Havana in Miami.
A lot of the corporate outlets are quick to point out that this latest protest erupted as a result of food and medical shortages brought on by the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and embargoes put in place by Trump. There appears to be evidence that these may have been the most immediate stress the population has had to endure, but the idea that it stops there and isn't deeper rooted suggests a lack of awareness. In an interview with Latino Rebels, a representative of one of the protest organizations confirms that this is actually a long running issue that has been exacerbated by the pandemic.
Latino Rebels: What has been happening since Sunday?
Claudia Genlui: Well, to understand a little bit of what is happening in Cuba, we have to understand the context. First of all, there is a worsening of the economic crisis caused by this pandemic and secondly, by bad management on the part of the government to satisfy the basic needs of the people in Cuba, something that has been happening for a long time. It has reached its peak because of everything with this pandemic that we are living.
When asked why the people are standing up now when this is not their first crisis, Claudia responded "We must also understand what happened in November 2020 in the protests of the San Isidro Movement in front of the Ministry of Culture. There were almost 600 people". She confirms in the interview that this is a grass roots movement that even her rather public organization was not aware was happening until it had already started in the interview.
The government has responded to these protests with force. President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who took office in 2018 asked "revolutionaries" to take to the streets to crush the protest. His "call to combat" has led to protesters and media members being arrested, beaten, attacked by canines, and even shot. According to Breitbart News, hundreds of protesters are missing across the country, and many more are being cared for in hospitals.
There are still those who believe in the socialist dream of communism in Cuba like Leonardo Romero Negrín who was photographed with a sign that said “yes to socialism, no to repression,” in a protest a few months ago. Unfortunately even his protests have been met with persecution as he was detained along with several artist organizations on Sunday. Where he is now is not known according to Human Rights Watch. The author also points out that San Isidro movement members were among those detained on Sunday.
Access to communications networks has been tightened up on the island since Sunday, so new information is a little slower moving. Photos and video evidence is hard to come by because it seems platforms are removing it. As of yesterday, Florida's Governor Ron DeSantis said he was going to look into getting internet access to the island. He said "One of the things I think we should be able to do with our private companies or with the United States is to provide some of that internet service via satellite," according to Newsweek. No information on whether or not that is a possibility has been made available yet.
What we do know is there is considerable unrest in Cuba, and a kind of partisan divide exists here in the States on support for the people of Cuba. There is a lot of discussion on both sides about whether we Americans should concern ourselves with Cuba at all. Glenn Greenwald made some salient points on Twitter today.
On the left: one of the smarter leftists on this platform, on Cuba.
On the right: one of the smarter and more consistent MAGA advocates, on Cuba.
If you don't see or value the opportunity to build on these commonalities, then it means you value posturing more than outcomes.
He pointed out that that there seems to be a lot of interest in this issue from the #MAGA crowd. The argument in defense of at least paying attention would be that communism is an ideology that has global aspirations, and anywhere it gains or loses a foot is at least newsworthy, even if we don't plan to intervene in any way. I hope the best for the people of Cuba. This is a story that will continue to develop as information comes in. I will do my best to keep up.