Cuba continues to rise up against the Castro regime demanding democracy and freedom

Hospital pressure and mismanagement of the pandemic, coupled with food and resource shortages, have led to the uprising of the Cuban people against their government

AFP/YAMIL LAGE  -   A man is arrested during a demonstration against the government of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana, July 11, 2021.

The Cuban people continue to take to the streets to demand the democratisation of the system. Food, health and resource shortages have forced the population to take to the streets demanding an end to the Castro regime. The mass demonstrations have already become historic protests, the largest since the 1990s when electricity blackouts and resource shortages forced Cubans to demonstrate in what is known as the "Maleconazo" days.

Just as Castro did, President Miguel Díaz-Canel has appealed to the Cuban people from San Antonio de los Baños for his followers to "confront" the "counter-revolutions". The protests have been followed by a heavy police deployment on the streets; it is not yet known whether there will be any verifiable demonstrations on this new day. Meanwhile, Cubans continue to search for their detained relatives and try to inform the rest of the world about what is happening in their country, circumventing the information and social media blockade. 

AFP/ADALBERTO ROQUE - A man is grabbed by the neck during a demonstration against the government of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana on July 11, 2021.

However, in his latest statement, Díaz-Canel has adopted a more reconciliatory tone, stating that "we must learn lessons from these speeches", while allowing imports of some basic necessities to enter from next week. Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero has announced that "the entry of items without payment of customs duties" will be allowed for private imports of food and medicine in an attempt to defuse the situation. According to Marrero, "this government is alive" and "is looking for solutions for the people".

In the same vein, the Ministry of Economy put an end to the limitations on wage increases in state enterprises. On the other hand, the internet is still not working and the security forces are still circumventing the streets.

AFP/ADALBERTO ROQUE - AP photographer Ramon Espinosa of Spain is detained by police while covering a demonstration against Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana, July 11, 2021.

These latest movements show that the people in the streets have spread hope among the population that the regime will come to an end, while fear has gripped the rulers who see their hold on power in jeopardy. 

Cuba has been living in a situation of resource poverty since the regime's inception, but it has been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has highlighted the lack of health and medical resources and the queues of people waiting for treatment are growing. What was expected to be a political change that would bring a new air inspired by the European communist systems ended up becoming a dictatorial system, as was also the case in Europe. Fidel Castro took up the banner of freedom in Sierra Maestra three years before he became prime minister of Cuba. In 1976, 17 years after his appointment, Castro became president of the Council of State and Council of Ministers of the Republic of Cuba, forgetting by then his promise of freedom. 

AP/ELIANA APONTE - Special forces policemen patrol outside the Riviera hotel in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, July 14, 2021, days after protests over food shortages, high prices and other grievances against the government amid the coronavirus crisis.

In this context, the United States, in the midst of the Cold War, could not afford to keep the revolutionary idea of communism in a neighbouring country. The Kennedy doctrine and his "pay any price, bear any burden" speech foreshadowed his policy of "the need to contain communism at all costs". First came the conquest of the Bay of Pigs in 1961, when a group of exiled Cubans supported by the United States attempted to conquer the beach in order to form a provisional government to replace Fidel Castro and seek international recognition. However, the invasion was a profound failure that further empowered the socialist character of the Cuban Revolution and generated enormous political support for Castro. In this sense, the attempted conquest was undermined in less than 72 hours under his own leadership. Che Guevara himself claimed that the US failure had "strengthened as never before" the Cuban people's support for the government.

Then came the moment when the world came to a standstill: the missile crisis that came within a hair's breadth of triggering a third world war. After Kennedy's failure, the former president decided to implement a more direct invasion plan, "Operation Mongoose", which was quickly detected by the former Soviet Union and immediately notified to Cuba. From the former union, former leader Nikita Khrushchev proposed to Cuba to install medium-range missiles aimed at the United States in a pre-emptive manner, a move that led both countries to deploy their entire arsenal on a provisional basis. 

AFP/AFP - Chart comparing key figures on Internet connectivity in Cuba and other countries

It was then that by the end of 1962 Khrushchev proposed to Castro that he would sit down with Kennedy to order the dismantling of the Soviet missile bases in exchange for US assurances not to invade Cuban territory, a negotiation that Kennedy accepted and which remains in force to this day.

Madrid with Cuba

Official figures indicate that there has been one death in the protests in Cuba as a result of police repression. However, the information blackout that the country is experiencing under Miguel Díaz-Canel indicates that the figures for both the dead and the injured may be much higher. This is what Cuban demonstrators outside Cuba say, forced into exile due to the impossibility of living a life of freedom in their country.

PHOTO/DANIEL A.VARELA(MIAMI HERALD via AP - Protest in solidarity with thousands of Cubans who took to the streets in various parts of Cuba, in one of the largest protests ever held on the island, at the Cuban restaurant Versailles, Sunday, July 11, 2021.

From exile, Cubans ask Biden not to "repeat Kennedy's mistake". In a statement, Biden distanced himself from Obama's paralysing policy with Cuba and affirmed that the Cuban people are "courageously claiming their fundamental and universal rights", and affirmed that "the United States calls on the Cuban regime to listen to its people". Similarly, he expressed that "we stand with the Cuban people and their loud and clear call for freedom and relief".

In a document entitled "Points for the Liberation of Cuba", the Cuban Resistance Assembly states that "the end of the regime is non-negotiable" and calls for "international intervention led by the United States to avoid a bloodbath", as reported by EFE. 

REUTERS/JAVIER BARBANCHO - A man holds a Cuban flag during a demonstration, called by Cuban dissident group Defensores de los Presos, in support of anti-government protests in Cuba, outside the Spanish congress in Madrid, on July 12, 2021

From Madrid, a Cuban demonstrator stated that "I would not want an intervention by the United States. For me it would be the last option, in the event that the people need help then let them get involved, the pretext that the United States interfered in Cuba would not be valid, we need Cubans fighting against the regime, not foreign people fighting against a regime that is also foreign to them". This protester left Cuba at the age of 23, five years ago when he says it was his only alternative, as "he knew he was going to end up in prison or dead".

"What can't be is that the people are defending themselves with stones and sticks against police repression. In Cuba right now there are no leaders because they are in prison, there is no internal organisation, it is impossible to organise", he lamented. "This is not a question of left or right, it is a question of freedom. 

AP/ELIANA APONTE - Special forces policemen patrol outside the Riviera hotel in Havana, Cuba, Wednesday, July 14, 2021, days after protests over food shortages, high prices and other grievances against the government amid the coronavirus crisis.

In the last few days, Madrid's City Hall has been lit up with the Cuban flag, while emblematic streets such as Paseo de la Habana and Puerta de Sol were lined with hundreds of Cuban demonstrators who wanted to express their support for their people. In this week of protests and uprisings against the regime, the demonstrators affirm that "they can bring about a real change" as "the people are fed up, they are dying of hunger, the regime is unsustainable".

Along the same lines, another demonstrator exclaimed that thanks to the role played by the international press "now they believe us, what seems new to you, we have been living it for years, we need Spain to be on our side and believe us because Cuba is a dictatorship". 

REUTERS/JAVIER BARBANCHO - A person holds a Cuban flag as the colours of the Cuban flag are projected on the facade of the Madrid regional government headquarters in support of anti-government protests in Cuba, in Madrid, Spain, July 14, 2021.

Historical consequences are to be expected from these demonstrations. On the one hand, Cuba no longer has the leaders who overthrew the Batista regime during the Cuban Revolution, which makes these ideas look old and outdated. On the other hand, the young population is increasingly distancing itself from the generation born in the 1950s and is demanding changes in the system in order to "be able to build a country with an independent political and democratic system, a free country". Everything will depend on how the next few days unfold, but in the meantime a new hope has illuminated a Cuban population that knows that its regime's days are numbered.

Latin America Coordinator: José Antonio Sierra.