The first large scale protests in Cuba in years reveal the progressive left’s odd fascination with a murderous regime complete with BLM praising Castro for protecting a convicted cop killer and, of course, blaming former President Trump. Fortunately, the Biden Administration itself hasn’t fallen prey to this phenomenon, at least not yet.
Cuba is a communist dictatorship, and has been for decades. Fidel Alejandro Castro Ruz took power in 1959 and held absolute authority until 2008, when his brother, Raul, took over. The Cuban people under their and the subsequent regime, now headed by “President” Miguel Diaz-Canel, have no rights. There is no freedom of speech, the press, religion, association, or protest. There is no protection against unlawful search and seizure. There are no property rights, almost every industry in the country is nationalized, the plaything of the government. The people themselves are playthings as well, in matters of life and death, from the petty to outright atrocities, and everything in between.
For example, Danilo Maldonado is a Cuban dissident and graffiti artist. He was stopped by traffic cops on Christmas Day 2014, when the police heard odd sounds coming from his trunk. They insisted he open it and discovered two pigs with names scrawled on their back, Fidel and Raul. For this “crime,” he was immediately arrested and charged with “disrespect of the leaders of the revolution.” Mr. Maldonado languished in prison for 10 months without trial. He was finally released after Amnesty International got involved.
In the horrific scope of communist Cuba, however, 10 months in jail is nothing compared to what others have suffered. As the Miami Herald describes, “It is a price that defies accounting.” “The price? I couldn’t begin to give you the numbers,” says Carlos Ponce, a director at the human-rights group Freedom House. “I can tell you that 2 million Cubans live outside Cuba, I can tell you that in the last 10 years, there have been nearly 18,000 political detainees. How many in jail since 1959? How many executed? How many lost at sea? I can’t even guess.”
There are organizations that track tragic numbers like these, but even they admit they have no idea. Castro intentionally didn’t keep track and the best we can do is estimate. University of Hawaii historian, R.J. Rummel puts the figure at between 35,000 and 141,000 as of 1987. “I think that’s a good range,” Marion Smith, executive director of the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation, confirmed. “It’s compatible with what we’re comfortable using, which is ‘tens of thousands.’” Considering Cuba has a population of around 11.3 million as of 2019, these are pretty staggering figures, as much as 1.2% of the population killed by the regime in power. The death toll is just the beginning, however. Cubans live in poverty. According to the Brookings Institution, the average Cuban makes $20 per month. The actual poverty rate is impossible to calculate, but some organizations put it as high as 26%. Less than 5% of Cubans have access to the internet.
Over the past couple of weeks, protests have broken out across Cuba as a result of the oppressive regime, poor living conditions, and the government’s inability to produce a vaccine to address the coronavirus pandemic, despite years of being lauded for their healthcare system. The Cuban people have taken to the streets in over two dozen cities and towns demanding an overthrow of the current dictator, Mr. Diaz-Canel. These demonstrations were complete with chants of “freedom” (a term the increasingly anti-freedom New York Times lumped in with “other antigovernment slogans” by the way) and American flags. According to the Associated Press, “The demonstrations in several cities and towns were some of the biggest displays of antigovernment sentiment seen in years in tightly controlled Cuba, which is facing a surge of coronavirus cases as it struggles with its worst economic crisis in decades as a consequence of U.S. sanctions imposed by President Donald Trump’s administration. Many young people took part in Sunday’s demonstrations in Havana. Protests were also held elsewhere on the island, including in the small town of San Antonio de los Baños, where people objected to power outages and were visited by President Miguel Díaz-Canel.”
Note the blame Trump canard, more on that in a moment. In the meantime, the Cuban government has responded by crushing the protests and jailing the dissidents, as they always do. Since this past Sunday, at least a hundred protestors, activists, and journalists have been imprisoned. These arrests include opposition leaders such as Jose Daniel of the Patriotic Union of Cuba; his current whereabouts are unknown. Amaury Pacheco, a member of an artists collective, was also arrested and his whereabouts are unknown. Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara is a member of the same collective and is currently in jail. Amnesty International received alarming reports of “internet blackouts, arbitrary arrests, [and] excessive use of force — including police firing on demonstrators.” Kentik, a network monitoring company, claims the entire country went dark for 30 minutes at around 4 PM on Sunday and, since then, rolling outages have continued. “Until very recently, large internet outages were very rare,” said Doug Madory, Kentik’s director of Internet analysis. “Internet shutdowns are new to Cuba in 2021.”
The protests have even spilled over to the United States. A large gathering in Miami expressing solidarity with the Cuban dissidents shut down a freeway this past Tuesday. ABC News reports, “The large group gathered at a busy Miami intersection chanting support for the Cubans, who had taken to the streets in the communist nation Sunday to air grievances about poor economic conditions and other complaints. A few miles (kilometers) away, hundreds of supporters gathered for hours Tuesday evening at a park. The peaceful crowd waved flags and cheered on the efforts of island protesters.
Meanwhile, back in Cuba, “It’s becoming impossible to live here,” Havana resident Maykel, 21, told Reuters while declining to provide his last name for fear of retaliation. “I don’t know if this can happen again, because at the moment, Havana is militarized. Still, Cubans are losing their fear.” The regime itself remains unapologetic, and like the Associated Press, they too blame former President Donald Trump, plus America at large. “Is it not very hypocritical and cynical that you block me… and you want to present yourself as the big savior?” President Diaz-Canel said, while claiming the government is fighting to keep the economy going “in the face of a policy of economic asphyxiation intended to provoke a social uprising.” Nor did he have kind words for the protestors, “They threw stones at foreign currency shops, they stole items… and at police forces, they turned over cars – a totally vulgar, indecent and delinquent behavior.”
As we saw with the recent resurgence of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the Biden Administration appeared to be caught a little flat footed at first, waiting several days to make a statement. Since then, however, they have spoken in support of the protesters and their right to assemble and also clearly communicated to the Cuban “President” that America is not to blame. “It would be a grievous mistake because it would show that they simply are not hearing the voices and will of the Cuban people,” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a news briefing. “That is what we are hearing and seeing in Cuba, and that is a reflection of the Cuban people, not of the United States or any other outside actor,” he added. President Biden himself said the United States stood with the protestors, describing them as “brave.” In addition, though candidate Biden spoke of softening sanctions on the campaign trail, his administration has yet to do so and said it was not a priority.
At the same time, they appear to be diluting their message by refusing to welcome legitimate refugees. Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said, “Allow me to be clear, if you take to the sea, you will not come to the United States…Again, I repeat, do not risk your life attempting to enter the United States illegally. You will not come to the United States.” Given the tens of thousands of non-refugees streaming through the southern border on a monthly basis, almost nine out of ten who will have their asylum claims rejected, this is a very odd position to take, especially after Biden made clear several times on the campaign trail that his America would be a far more welcoming on than Trump’s. Refugee status is normally granted to political dissidents. Why they are insisting on a hardline remains completely unknown, perhaps someone in the media might have the temerity to ask.
Alas, Biden’s left flank has not been nearly as supportive as his actual administration, once again similar to what we saw with the recent troubles in Israel. Black Lives Matter posted a statement via tweet, blaming the United States. “Black Lives Matter condemns the U.S. federal government’s inhuman treatment of Cubans, and urges it to immediately lift the economic embargo. This cruel and inhumane policy, instituted with the explicit intention of destabilizing the country and undermining Cuban’s right to choose their own government, is at the heart of Cuba’s current crisis.” Incredibly, they continued to laud the Cuban government, “Cuba has historically demonstrated solidarity with oppressed peoples of African descent.” They then cite the granting of asylum to a convicted cop killer, Assata Shukur. Ms. Shukur was convicted of the murder of State Trooper Werner Foerster during a shootout on the New Jersey Turnpike in 1973 and is currently on the FBI’s most wanted list with a $2 million reward for her apprehension. This is a bizarre-to-say-the-least embrace of a murderous, criminal regime that has oppressed its own people for decades for protecting a killer, but unfortunately it’s not surprising: The left has always had a strange fascination with Fidel Castro and communist Cuba.
This fascination manifests in ways big and small, from Michael Moore lauding the (now failed) Cuban healthcare system to Colin Kaepernick wearing a Fidel Castro tee-shirt to a general whitewashing of what would be considered atrocities anywhere in the Western world. This is evident even in Wikipedia articles about Castro and Cuba in general. For example, Castro is described as “Adopting a Marxist–Leninist model of development, Castro converted Cuba into a one-party, socialist state under Communist Party rule, the first in the Western Hemisphere. Policies introducing central economic planning and expanding healthcare and education were accompanied by state control of the press and the suppression of internal dissent.” Practically every article alludes to a healthcare system that is now proven non-functional and education as if Cuba was teaching everyone at an Ivy League level.
The terror he has inflicted on his people, the deaths, the millions of people who’ve left the country, are all barely mentioned. Instead, he’s described as “The longest-serving non-royal head of state in the 20th and 21st centuries, Castro polarized opinion throughout the world. His supporters view him as a champion of socialism and anti-imperialism whose revolutionary regime advanced economic and social justice while securing Cuba’s independence from U.S. hegemony. Critics call him a dictator whose administration oversaw human rights abuses, the exodus of many Cubans, and the impoverishment of the country’s economy. Castro was decorated with various international awards and significantly influenced different individuals and groups across the world.”
Sad to say, they use stronger language about President Trump. Castro and his successors are murderous thugs and no one should have any problem describing them as such. Everyone should be clear: We stand with the free people of Cuba and support their efforts to overthrow a repressive regime. Fortunately, President Biden appears to be standing with them as well, at least for now.