Cubans Are Protesting for Freedom from Communism, Not against U.S. Embargo

(p. 10) The Black Lives Matter movement issued a statement on July 14, saying that the unrest resulted from the “U.S. federal government’s inhumane treatments of Cubans.” In an advertisement that ran in The New York Times on July 23, [2021] paid for by the People’s Forum, a nonprofit organization, the signatories, some of whom are American citizens and advocacy groups, framed Cuba’s numerous troubles as reducible to the U.S. trade embargo.

But for anyone following the demonstrations closely, it’s easy to see what the protesters are really calling for. Through the intrepid efforts of independent journalists who labor under constant threat, we have been given an unfiltered glimpse of these calls for freedom — the last thing that the country’s leadership wants anyone to see — as well as the state’s predictably harsh reaction. The government promptly cut off the internet to prevent Cubans from communicating. Authorities detained several hundred Cubans, including minors, while others have been beaten by the police and civilians armed with sticks. The accused have been barred from the right to a lawyer and subjected to summary trials.

Some progressive groups argue that Cubans are protesting food and medicine shortages caused by the U.S. trade embargo. This interpretation falsely claims that the embargo makes it impossible to obtain food and medicine, even though the United States created an exception to its trade embargo of Cuba in 2000 to allow food and medicine sales and sells millions of dollars’ worth of food to the country, including grain and protein consumed by Cuban households.

. . .

Both the Cuban government and progressives are complicit in their disregard for Cubans’ right to their own opinions and aspirations. We Cubans are used to misguided perceptions of what life in Cuba is really like. Fidel Castro promised a more prosperous country, a nation where all Cubans could live in dignity and true equality. But his bait-and-switch revolution delivered an educated people that in 60 years have been able to elect only three presidents. A cultivated people that have no access to public debate and participation.

The Cuban people are tired of Communism and broken promises. For the first time, in more than 50 cities and towns throughout the island, they took to the streets to demand change. They have been told that it is unchangeable, but they are asking for the right to alter the conditions of their lives. They want more than an end to the embargo.

They should have the right to create a society by and for themselves. Even if their specific aspirations disappoint the utopian views of some foreign progressives.

For the full commentary, see:

Armando Chaguaceda and Coco Fusco. “Cubans Want Much More Than an End to the Embargo.” The New York Times, SundayReview Section (Sunday, August 8, 2021): 10.

(Note: ellipsis, and bracketed year, added.)

(Note: the online version of the commentary has the date Aug. 7, 2021, and has the title “Cubans Want Much More Than an End to the U.S. Embargo.”)

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