Cuba Government Protests: Thousands of Cubans flooded the streets of Havana to protest food shortages and skyrocketing prices amid the coronavirus crisis. Here’s what both sides are saying. To have stories like this and more delivered directly to your inbox, be sure to sign up for our newsletter.
Top Story: Cuba Government Protests
On Sunday, thousands of Cubans flooded the streets of Havana to protest food shortages and skyrocketing prices amid the coronavirus crisis. “Police initially trailed behind as protesters chanted ‘Freedom,’ ‘Enough’ and ‘Unite,'” the Associated Press notes. “One motorcyclist pulled out a US flag, but it was snatched from him by others.” These marches continued on the island Monday and Tuesday, prolonging one of the biggest anti-government demonstrations in recent memory. The remarkable public display of discontent hasn’t happened in the police state “since the 1994 Maleconazo, when Cubans rose up to complain about shortages after Soviet subsidies dried up following the collapse of the USSR,” Carlos Santamaria writes for GZERO. “Back then, all it took was a riveting speech by the charismatic Fidel Castro to end the demonstrations. But Fidel died in 2016, and last April his younger brother Raúl stepped down as head of the ruling Communist Party.” In a four-hour-long televised address President Miguel Díaz-Canel labeled protestors as “counter-revolutionaries”. The government also appears to be imposing an internet blackout and restricting access to communication apps like WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and Telegram. Here’s what both sides are saying about the crisis in Cuba.
On The Right
Right-leaning outlets and commentators call for the US to support the Cuban people. They point to the protests as proof that socialism and communism don’t work. This is something, they say, Democrats and the left need to recognize.
“An Uprising of Despair in Cuba” The Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal: “President Biden hit the right note on Monday by expressing American support for the protesters, and let’s hope he follows through by increasing pressure on the regime. … Step one is not to return to the failed appeasement of Barack Obama that expanded US travel and commerce with the island but achieved nothing in political or economic reform. The regime is more vulnerable since Donald Trump restored some US sanctions, and its allies in Venezuela can no longer provide much oil to keep the lights on and the military well-fed. The US can tighten the financial squeeze and impose Magnitsky sanctions on Cuba’s human-rights violators. Helping protesters foil Cuba’s internet shutdown would be invaluable, and a warning to Russia and China not to meddle by propping up the regime is warranted. The odds on a freedom revolution may be long, but the Cuban people need to hear loud and clear that America is on their side, and not on the Communist regime’s.”
“The Left’s Favorite Dictatorship Is under Siege” Rich Lowry, National Review: “If the protests continue in Cuba, there will be an existential struggle between people in the streets displaying American flags and chanting for freedom and an organized-crime syndicate that rules by force and has long held the affection of American Left. … The government’s failures are always blamed on the US embargo, without which, supposedly, Cuba would be the one Marxist economy in the history of the world able to deliver plenty to its people. Actually, shortages are endemic because of the inefficiencies inherent to command-and-control economies. The US embargo is unilateral, and the Cuban government has long been expert at evading it. … All of this has always been plain enough, but now even more so. There is a revolutionary movement afoot in Cuba, one that is courageous, inspiring, and — one hopes — truly democratic. It is the ordinary people of Cuba attempting to vindicate their rights against the Left’s favorite dictatorship.”
“Biden White House stumbles as Cubans stand” Editorial Board, Washington Examiner: “It is time, as it was in East Germany decades ago, for the socialists to be discarded and their collaborators and domestic spies exposed. Unfortunately and shamefully, President Joe Biden’s administration stumbled when the time came to help our island neighbors obtain their freedom. … Acting Assistant Secretary of State Julie Chung, for example, claimed the demonstrations were about COVID. … It is amusing to imagine Cubans rising up to protest the failings of their nation’s healthcare system, which is unjustifiably praised by leftists the world over. … Before this era of all-out leftism among Democrats, their party’s politicians used to show proud anti-communist colors. Today, it takes more courage for Biden to do the right thing than it did for JFK. He must tell his party’s radicals, people who still romanticize mass murderers such as Castro and Che Guevara, to pound sand. Liberty demands no less.”
On The Left
Left-leaning outlets and commentators also urge the US, led by the Biden administration to stand with the Cuban people. They admire their courage to speak out against a “government that does not work” for most people, as one author notes. They also highlight how “this time is different.”
“There’s no telling whether the Cuban protesters will prevail, but their courage is undeniable” Lizette Alvarez, Washington Post: “After 62 years of oppression, repression, dysfunction and indoctrination, thousands of Cubans unshackled themselves, not by leaving the island, but by staying and speaking truth to power en masse. … This is no small act for a people who for generations policed their own actions and words out of fear — of being detained or imprisoned, losing their jobs or homes, getting harassed. … Cuba’s problems are baked into a system of government that does not work for most people — and Cubans took to the streets on Sunday to hold their government accountable. The knee-jerk government response to any problem — blame the US economic embargo for Cuba’s distress — has lost its hold. … Where this eruption of anger, desperation and passion will lead, I don’t know. The Cuban government has mastered the art of snuffing out protest. But it’s hard not to hope this marks the start of a long-overdue revolution. The thousands who took to the streets, knowing what they were up against, delivered a loud, clear message to the regime and to the world.
“Will brute force work in Cuba — this time?” Frida Ghitis, CNN: “As practically anyone who has reported from Cuba can tell you, the government’s approach is a familiar and well-worn one. It is a three-step maneuver that has worked in the past, allowing the regime to stay in power while not responding to the people’s demands. This time, there’s no guarantee that it will work. … The iconic Castro is long gone and gone with him the charisma and stature that persuaded many Cubans to endure chronic — and ongoing — shortages of basic necessities, including freedom. … Back in Fidel’s day, social media barely existed in Cuba. But this time, thanks to uploaded and shared videos, it’s not just a small group of brave opposition activists protesting. Thousands of Cubans marched in the streets Sunday… Biden’s words have so far been carefully crafted not to give Havana fuel to stoke the claim that the US is to blame for the unrest. … Meanwhile, the Kremlin, a supporter of the Cuban regime, has issued a warning of its own against foreign intervention, a reminder of Cuba’s enduring geopolitical resonance.”
“What do Cubans who were shot at for staging unprecedented protests want? The right to be” Fabiola Santiago, Miami Herald: “After a day of silence, in which Cuban diplomats took to Twitter echoing Diaz-Canel in blaming the unrest on the United States, President Joe Biden released a statement early Monday morning making it clear he stood with the Cuban people. But he didn’t go any further. … Will this be enough? Not by a long shot, but it’s a pointed departure for a new Biden policy toward Cuba that avoids the shortcomings of the last two administrations. Discontent in Cuba has been brewing for years since President Barack Obama’s detente effort fell apart after the still unresolved attacks on American and Canadian diplomatic personnel. It was evident, with the ascent of Diaz-Canel, that the country’s far left-wing hard-line had won the power struggle to succeed the reformist (although a cosmetic one) Raúl Castro. What Biden will do about Cuba remains to be seen.”
Flag This: Cuba Government Protests
When it comes to Cuba, the debate tends to steer towards the question: capitalism or communism? Which one is better? According to a new poll from Axios and Momentive, 57% of Americans say they have a positive view of capitalism whereas 36% view the economic model in a negative light. For context the split was 61-36 in favor of capitalism in January 2019. What’s notable, however, is young America’s perception of capitalism. “Today, 18-34 year-olds are almost evenly split between those who view capitalism positively and those who view it negatively (49% vs. 46%). Two years ago, that margin was a gaping 20 points (58% vs. 38%),” Laura Wronski notes. “Among adults in Gen Z (ages 18-24), perceptions of capitalism are truly underwater: 42% have a positive view and 54% have a negative view.”
In the streets of Havana, Cubans are “voicing their outrage through a song called Patria y Vida — homeland and life … a spin on the communist regime’s decades-old slogan of ‘patria o muerte’ — homeland or death,” Bill Chappell of NPR reports. “In strong terms, the song accuses the government of destroying the quality of life in Cuba, a message that quickly found traction with protesters who are demanding change. ‘No more lies. My people demand freedom. No more doctrines!’ the song says. It calls for people to shout ‘patria y vida … and start building what we dreamed of/ what they destroyed with their hands.'” Take a listen.
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Besides issuing a statement, how do you think the Biden administration should respond to the protests in Cuba? Comment below to share your thoughts.