About the Protests in Cuba

◼︎CUBAN REVOLUTION
◼︎WORKING-CLASS POLITICS
◼︎GUEST AUTHOR:
◻︎SOCIALIST WORKERS PARTY

No doubt most of you have seen the reports coming out of Cuba this week of “widespread uprisings” against the government and against the revolution itself. President Biden and U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken have made hypocritical and cynical statements criticizing Cuba for “failing to meet people’s most basic needs, including food and medicine.”

This concern rings hollow, or worse, given that the United States has maintained a blockade and embargo against Cuba for over 60 years. The U.S. has been actively seeking to starve and cripple the Cuban Revolution ever since the Cuban people had the audacity to overthrow the murderous dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista. The U.S. has never been able to accept the Cuban people taking control of their own country and their own lives.

Many people reading this probably weren’t even born yet when the embargo began. The U.S. wags its finger cynically at the Cuban government claiming socialism is a failure, but the tremendous domestic and international accomplishments of the Cuban Revolution prove otherwise. Still it’s true that the embargo has had a negative impact. Can you imagine what it would be like here in the U.S. if we were blockaded for 60 years? The disruptions from just a single year under the pandemic have caused us all kinds of problems here in the United States.

We’re told that protests in Cuba are demanding access to medical supplies, vaccines and the needles needed to administer them. Cuba has a vaccine that it developed, but it suffers from a shortage of 20 million syringes — because of the embargo.

Every president since Kennedy, Democratic and Republican, has maintained the embargo. But the U.S. is very much alone in the world. Last month 184 countries voted in the United Nations to condemn the embargo — as they have every year since 1992. Only the U.S. and Israel voted against this UN resolution.

The following article was posted online today by The Militant, a socialist newsweekly published since 1928.


Cuba Protests US Intervention as it
Tackles Challenges from the Embargo

By Seth Galinsky, Socialist Workers Party
Originally Published in The Militant, July 26, 2021

Posted Online Saturday, July 17, 2021

If you follow the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, Fox News, or virtually any of the U.S. capitalist media, you saw front-page reports that Cuba was convulsed July 11 by a massive, spontaneous anti-government “uprising.” That the Cuban government has “mismanaged” the COVID-19 pandemic. And that police and thugs unleashed unprovoked attacks on peaceful demonstrators.

The New York Times ran [an] article in Spanish and English on protests in Cuba with this image, which the paper claimed was of an anti-government protest. In fact, it is a march in Havana in support of the revolution! In the baseball cap behind the Cuban flag is Gerardo Hernández, a well-known leader of the Committees in Defense of the Revolution and one of the Cuban 5, who spent 16 years in prison in the U.S., framed up for his work helping to stop terrorist attacks on Cuba. [Photo and caption from the Militant.]

But these are gross exaggerations and outright lies. It’s true there were marches — some involving hundreds of people — in more than a dozen cities, including Havana, far from an “uprising.” And their composition was mixed, as Cuban leaders publicly explained.

President Miguel Díaz-Canel addressed the Cuban people in a public speech later that day. He said the revolutionary government has been open about the challenges they face. “In the middle of 2019,” he said, “we had to explain that we were heading toward a difficult conjuncture” as a result of Washington’s intensification of its punishing embargo, “whose objective is to asphyxiate the economy of our country.”

There has been a shortage of food, the worst since the Special Period in the early 1990s after the implosion of the Soviet Union, formerly Cuba’s main trading partner; a worldwide downturn in capitalist production and trade that affected Cuba; and a stubborn COVID pandemic with a recent uptick in cases in Cuba.

For lack of supplies and equipment, Cuban workers and farmers have faced a recent series of electrical blackouts and other shortages.

President Joseph Biden has continued the embargo, like every president since 1960 has. The suffering imposed on the Cuban people is a direct result of U.S. government policy, which seeks to use economic pressure to bring Cuba’s socialist revolution down. Biden hailed the protests in Cuba.

Díaz-Canel explained in his address that among those who joined the anti-government actions were people “who are experiencing some of these scarcities; it includes revolutionary people who are confused or who don’t have answers or who are also expressing discontent.”

But “in the leadership” of the protests “was a nucleus of manipulators” who collaborate with U.S. anti-Cuba campaigns, he said, and they had been preparing for disruption for days.

As part of the provocation, opponents of the revolution vandalized stores that sell products in dollars, overturned a police car, and chanted slogans calling for U.S. “humanitarian” intervention or “We want vaccines.” The chant around vaccines was particularly insulting to many Cubans, given the fact that Cuba is the only country in Latin America to develop its own vaccines, rated as over 90% effective, and has begun massive distribution. However, as a result of the embargo, they have a critical shortage of hypodermic needles for vaccination.

Groups in the U.S. and worldwide have been raising money to donate syringes. The most recent was the International Longshore and Warehouse Union, which voted to contribute $10,000 to the effort at its convention in June.

Díaz-Canel called on supporters of the revolution to go out into the streets and to take the discussion on the embargo and the efforts of the government to bring relief to every doorstep.

In response, thousands of working people and youth who support the revolution took to the streets and have continued to do so.

On July 12, in the province of Cienfuegos alone, the Central Organization of Cuban Trade Unions held 171 meetings involving nearly 3,000 workers to show their support for the revolution.

Revolution’s supporters take action

Cuba’s president went to San Antonio de los Baños in Artemisa province, where the first of the protests broke out. He joined a march in defense of the revolution there July 11 and spoke directly with working people in the streets about the challenges they face.

In Ciego de Ávila, three leaders of the Union of Young Communists, Ángel Alberto Álvarez, Elizabeth López Caballero and outgoing UJC Secretary Yulianky Godínez García headed to the anti-government action there, Juventud Rebeldereported, to engage participants in discussions.

They joined a march of defenders of the revolution that blocked the way of the counterrevolutionary action. “Despite that today they opposed the revolution, we have to reach out to them, because truly revolutionary positions have always been firm, but also humane,” Godínez said.

The next day Díaz-Canel and other government leaders held an over four-hour televised press conference where they went over in detail what the government is doing to face the challenges from shortages in importing oil, spare parts, food, fertilizer and more because of the U.S.-imposed restrictions.

The Cuban president denounced the cynicism of U.S. officials who claim they support the Cuban people and present themselves as “the big savior” while they have the country blockaded. Cuba gladly accepts all kinds of aid, Díaz-Canel said, but not aid that is aimed at violating the country’s sovereignty and interfering in its affairs.

He noted Washington claims it’s the Cuban Revolution, not the U.S. embargo, that has created the problems Cuban workers and farmers face today. He challenged Washington to prove it.

“Lift the blockade,” Díaz-Canel said, “and then we will see how we do, how this people will advance.”


Resources

  • For articles on Cuba and other information of interest to working people in the United States and around the world: The Militant
  • For news about efforts to end the embargo and travel ban, to normalize relations, and to recognize Cuba’s accomplishments: National Network on Cuba
  • For news direct from Cuba: Granma
  • For news direct from Cuba: Radio Havana Cuba (English Service)
  • For books about Cuba: Pathfinder Press

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2 comments

  1. Why does Cuba charge an excise tax for food and medicine entering the country?

    https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/7/15/cuba-lifts-food-medicine-restrictions-amid-protests

    Food and medicine are not affected by the US embargo.

    https://www.wsj.com/articles/behind-cubas-covid-uprising-11626042703

    The Cuban people are not chanting for food or vaccines, they are chanting for Liberty.

    https://www.theblaze.com/news/cubans-american-flag-freedom-protests

    The Cuban people, and the world have been fooled by the Communist propaganda long enough. Literacy programs and doctor sharing are not enough to bring prosperity no a small island nation. Only by acting in the best interest of the People, not the government, will Cuba see prosperity. But Communist/Socialist countries do not have a good good track record of doing what’s best for the people. Maybe a new, different type of Revolution is called for.

    1. Customs duties owed by travelers is an international norm, hardly a scandal that exposes Cuban injustice. With respect to the effect these items have on easing the impact of the embargo, it’s like trying to fill a bathtub with an eyedropper. We’ll move on…

      Your primary point seems to be that the masses of Cubans not only want the shortages to end but also oppose the socialist system itself. I have no doubt that there are people in Cuba who feel this way. In countries everywhere there are citizens with grievances against their leaders or policies. Sometimes these lead to protests. We’ve seen it here and it appears Cuba is not immune. I also have no doubt that the Cuban government may have to adjust some policies. We’ve already seen this in the past, for instance when Cuba eased restrictions on the use of U.S. dollars and small enterprises — both measures required because of the embargo and international economic conditions at the time. (Cuba is an island, but it still exists in the broader world and is impacted by international economic conditions just as we are.)

      But to your primary point: Do the masses of Cubans oppose their system? Do they want U.S.-style capitalism? The answer is a resounding no. If this were true, the United States would have invaded Cuba long ago and replaced the government with the expectation that millions would flood the streets in celebration. It’s not an outrageous suggestion. The U.S. has a long history of invading countries and replacing or killing leaders it doesn’t like. To name a few: Afghanistan, Albania, Angola, Bolivia, Cambodia, Grenada, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Liberia, Niger, Saudi Arabia, Somalia, Syria, Vietnam, Yugoslavia and Zaire. So why not Cuba, which is just a small, poor island? Cuba has nothing remotely close to the military hardware the U.S. could employ. (Florida Governor Ron DeSantis suggested this week that the U.S. bomb Cuba.)

      The answer is that the U.S. knows, despite its claims otherwise, that the Cuban Revolution is supported overwhelmingly by its people. It knows that an invasion of Cuba would have to be fought house by house through the cities and countryside. Even if it succeeded in killing off the leadership, the U.S. knows the people would continue to fight. So, while it’s true not everyone in Cuba is happy, it’s clear those who protested this past week do not speak for the millions of Cubans who stand firm.

      Finally, for your benefit, Brad, and others reading this, it’s not possible to truly understand Cuba based solely on reports from the U.S. media or from anti-Cuban exiles in the U.S. One needs to examine all sides to reach an enlightened position, whatever that position might be. There are many resources I could recommend, but I think the best broad overall explanation of the revolution and life today in Cuba can found in a very readable and thorough book, ‘Our History is Still Being Written: The Story of Three Chinese-Cuban Generals in the Cuban Revolution.’ Check your library or you can find it on Amazon.

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