I have been chewing on this for a week now. Like most people, I  was stunned to see large numbers of the Cuban people rising up in the streets of Havana, and throughout the country as well. Watching the actions in Cuba that weekend, and the weekend after, it seemed to me that the Cuban government was striking several wrong notes. But this is Cuba, and so I waited to see what happened next.

But the street protests are still there, and the government reaction hasn’t appreciably changed. And while I’m not a political social specialist, I’ve seen a few governments come and go in my time, including the Soviet Union, and the signs are still there.

The Authoritarian Cuban government has bungled its response to this crisis from start to the current moment. The Castro regime has had a nice long run, but like many governments and civilizations before them, they have grown fat, arrogant, lazy, and complacent. And it might just cost them their regime.

Let’s go back to last weekend. The Cuban people took to the streets in mass, with a plethora of legitimate complaints about their government. The government seemed to be caught flat footed by the size and intensity of the riots. Their initial response was to just wait it out and let them get tired and go home. When that didn’t happen, and things got a little feisty, the police response was tear gas and batons.

No, no, NO! It is never permissible for the peasants to protest against the government! Sweet Jesus! Donald Trump, then the sitting President of the United States, wanted the US military to actually shoot BLM protesters in the streets of Washington DC and other cities. In an authoritarian government like Cuba, mass arrests should have taken place, with a little judicious live round fire sprinkled in to let the miscreants know that the government meant business.

And then they made it worse. On Monday, the government went on state television and made the stunning admission that well, yeah, maybe, they had kind of fucked up and contributed to the problem. Again, no, no NO! An authoritarian government can never be wrong! Stalinist Russia had a national song titled, The Motherland sees, the Motherland knows. The government is omnipotent. And they made it worse by making a couple of cheese dick concessions, like allowing Cuban citizens with permission to travel to bring in two suitcases of food and medicine, as long as they won’t sell them for a profit.

And so the protests continue. And why wouldn’t they? After all, once the government makes one concession to the protesters, why wouldn’t they make more concessions under continued pressure? The protesters have the wind in their sails. And worse yet, by their tolerance and concessions to the protesters, they have humanized them, making it harder for the government to turn loose the police and army on people they now see as citizens. They not enemies of the state anymore.

Look, I don’t know what is going to happen next in Cuba, and neither do you. But so far in this crisis, the Cuban government has refrained from the kind of heavy handed crowd control techniques that are required to suppress a popular rebellion. That can only mean one of two things. Either the government will drop the hammer and viciously suppress the street protests, or they will continue to make concessions, and find themselves negotiating with the people. I don’t see any other way it can go. Whatever you do, don’t touch that dial.

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  1. Granted, it’s Castro’s brother Raul that’s been holding the reins of power down there for a while now. Fidel made it clear that’s the way it should be. Perhaps that’s why his (Fidel’s) bullshit has remained in the heads of so many Cubans. The blaming of every problem in that land on us “Yanquees”, or bitching about the USSR folding due to THEIR lack of commitment to Communism/the “Revolutionary” spirit. Fidel still holds sway, long after he’s been dead and buried. Cuba has remained in a trance of believing everything good in their lives is due to Fidel and everything bad is the fault of anyone BUT Fidel. However I think you’re on to something. That Fidel Fever might finally be breaking.

    I’m reminded of a joke I read long ago. An old man from pre Castro days and his nephew worked a small piece of land in view of the ocean. One day, they are up early and at work as the sun rises. The old man says “Look at this beautiful sunrise God has given us this morning. We should give thanks to God for the beauty of this sunrise.” The young man says “I would prefer to thank Fidel.” They have a glorious sunset and again the old man comments on it and thanks God for providing this nature’s miracle of a spectacle. Again the young man responds “I would prefer to thank Fidel. Later that week a terrible storm is predicted but when it passes it turns out to be not as bad as feared and there is little damage to their home and crops. The old man says they should give thanks to God for the miracle of being spared their home and crops being wiped out. And, yet again the young man says “I would prefer to thank Fidel.” The old man gets irritated enough to do something dangerous, sound critical of Fidel by asking “All these miracles from God yet you choose to thank Fidel instead. Who will you thank when Fidel is dead? Without a beat the young man replies “God!”

    Well, here’s hoping that Cuba has seen the light at the end of the tunnel and is able to move all the way to it. And enjoy wonders they didn’t dare dream of during Castro’s rein. (or his brother’s)

    • Well, just bear in mind that pre-Castro Cuba wasn’t exactly all smiles, hearts and giggles for the vast majority of the people since Fulgencio Batista was just as much a corrupt, authoritarian dictator out to enrich himself and his immediate circle. And when it became clear that Castro and his revolutionaries were going to triumph, Batista fled to the Dominican Republic (with his acquired wealth) and later to Portugal (both countries were ruled by right-wing dictators who were old friends of Batista’s; Rafael Trujillo in the DR who was assassinated in 1961 and Oliveira Salazar in Portugal who was overthrown in 1974). Batista’s first run as Cuba’s leader was a fairly genuine democratic government but his run in the 50s was outright dictator. He revoked the country’s constitution and suspended most personal liberties (including the right to strike). He aligned with the landowners and helped put nearly 3/4 of the country’s agricultural land in the hands of foreigners (some individuals, but mostly corporations) and the economy stagnated with the usual refrain of “the rich got richer as the poor got poorer” playing louder and louder. As Castro’s influence was growing, Batista’s wealthy friends started worrying and began planning to flee the country (some managed to get out before 1959 and kept most of their fortunes but the ones who waited ended up losing the majority of their fortunes and managed to escape to the US, courtesy of the new US policy of “welcoming political refugees”).

      And because Castro refused to (pardon the phrase) take the knee to the US and let American companies continue their general pillaging of the country–most notably, nationalizing the sugar industry which threatened America’s then incredibly cheap sugar habit–the US turned around and threatened sanctions against Castro’s new regime, hoping the sanctions would force Castro to either accept American hegemony or face being toppled by “restless” and “disaffected” Cubans. Unfortunately for the incoming Kennedy administration, Castro chose the third option: Getting help from the Soviet Union. (Castro had been a Communist before then but he wasn’t an ardent Communist until the US forced his hand. If you look at the Cuban flag, it didn’t change following the Revolution. Unlike virtually every other Communist state to that point, Cuba made absolutely NO change to its flag to reflect the new “Communist” ideology. About the only other countries I can think of that didn’t make any post-Communist changes were Czechoslovakia and Poland–most other countries in Europe added hammer-and-sickles or red stars or something else to symbolize the “workers” to their coats of arms and put the coats of arms on the flag.) The Soviets had been pushing Castro into their orbit but he’d been fairly resistant until the US cut off virtually all its trade and economic assistance to the island. Since Castro couldn’t get the Americans to resume trade without being forced to kowtow to American corporate whims and demands, he welcomed the Soviets with open arms (and gave the USSR a major psychological victory–a Communist state in America’s proverbial backyard).

      If Castro hadn’t toppled Batista, it’s almost certain that Batista would’ve still been ruling the island until his death in the early 70s and been replaced by some other military strongman, backed by the wealthy while the poor would continue struggling just as badly as they’ve done under the Castro regime. No matter what kind of BS about how horrible life is for the majority of Cubans might come from the anti-Castro factions (both in Cuba and in South Florida), they damned well know the majority of Cubans would be living under equally deplorable conditions in a “free” and capitalist Cuba. (For what it’s worth, also, look at the faces of the Cuban “exiles” in South Florida and then compare them to a broad cross-section of Cuban faces living in the countryside or even in the current protests such as the image at the top of this article. The “exiles” are a whole lot lighter in skin tone. Old-time Afro-Cuban residents have spoken about the racial discrimination they faced from the “white” Cubans in the Batista era. They held down menial jobs in the nightclubs and hotels–most of which they couldn’t enter unless they were working there.)

      • I never meant to (and don’t believe I did) imply that things were good for the average Cuban prior to Castro. There’s a reason he became popular enough to lead a revolution that toppled the Batista regime. Sadly, that support for Castro was misplaced as the Cuban people traded one dictator for another. And the one they got (Castro) was the USSR’s bitch.

        I was very, very young in October, 1962 and certainly not able to comprehend what was wrong, what had virtually every adult I encountered seeming to be so scared day after day. I would of course learn what was behind all that visible fear and understand why things seemed so…I don’t know how to describe it.

        As for the Cuban community in south FL, as I reached adulthood I came to regard them and their “cause” with skepticism. Cuban refugees got a special status from our government, but the group that established that enclave in south FL was riddled with former Batista folks providing the “leadership” and money to fuel the anti-Castro sentiment that flourished there and around the country.

        The United States, like other powerful and democratically oriented countries made deals/did business with various thugs and outright dictators in the 20th century. That’s still the case. Batista was a bad guy for sure. But did Castro turn out to be better for the Cuban people? What’s for sure is that he turned out to be a serious threat to this country for a while. And there was a time when he facilitated the world coming closer to full on nuclear warfare on a vast scale that people want to think about.

        Leaving that aside, while some might disagree I remain of the belief that the elites of the anti-Castro element in FL would, had they gotten their way and with our help toppled Castro have been any better for the Cuban people that either Castro or Batista before him.

  2. I had a vacation down in Cuba a couple of years ago. Visited Havana. Cuba was full of tourists, people were making money from that.People were lovely. Why do we still have an embargo? I could go to saudi arabia without an embargo and they chop people up in to bite size portions. Maybe that would make things better.

    • Well, the Saudis are our “allies” in the “War on Terror” (even though most of the 9/11 terrorists were born and raised in “The Kingdom”) and they’ve been staunchly anti-Communist and serve as a “balance” against the evil ayatollahs in Iran (even though the worst thing Iranian religious officials did to women was to demand they were the chador but let them continue serving in the country’s Parliament and drive and go around without a male relative, etc) and, reasons.

      Cuba, on the other hand, had the audacity to run out the criminals (literally–America’s mafia was behind most of Havana’s nightclubs and casinos) and nationalize the sugar industry (which was largely dominated by American companies) and kick out the CIA- and military-backed Batista dictatorship for which they were rewarded with a trade embargo for the past 60 years. To offset that, Castro turned to the Soviet Union.

      • You forgot the part where the CIA bungled several assassination attempts on Fidel throughout the 1960s. Makes the embargo look even more like sour grapes.

  3. I’m sure the US is working behind the scenes to foment these protests..
    I mean, what could possibly go wrong?
    We have had such good results overthrowing governments in the past.

  4. The Cuban Government is jamming parts of the Amateur Radio bands to try to keep Cuban radio operators from contacting friends and relatives here. I also heard, but cannot confirm that social media cites are being blocked in Cuba.

  5. READ YOANI SHE LIVES IT DAILY. TEASER: Count on me to shout for the liberation of your children. I don’t care if you mocked me or didn’t believe it when I was kidnapped and beaten in November 2009;* I don’t care if you lent yourself to watching my little boy on his way to school and yelling at him that his mother was a “mercenary”

    (Link removed)

    14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, 21 July 2021 — A little more than ten days ago, violent repression was for many Cubans an alien experience, a story told by others that they doubted when narrated by government opponents or independent journalists.
    (Link removed)
    So it seemed until July 11th when some confirmed, firsthand, that the arbitrary arrests, the beatings, the strip searches and humiliations in police stations, and the silence on the part of the authorities regarding the whereabouts of a detainee, were not the fantasies or hoaxes of a few.
    Many of those who previously doubted and questioned the victims, saying that they made everything up and that something like this could not happen on this island, now have a son or a niece locked up awaiting a summary judgment just for going out on the streets asking for “libertad!” or trying to record the popular revolts with their cell phone camera. The testimonies are coming to light, including excesses, outrages, lengthy interrogations, overcrowding in the cells and threats, many threats.
    None of this is news for the part of the Cuban population that has spent decades denouncing such events. But, sometimes, you have to feel it to believe, experience it in your own flesh to empathize with another victim, or stick your finger in the wound to convince yourself it exists.
    Personally, it is not worth it to me now to return skepticism with skepticism, deafness with deafness, sarcasm with sarcasm. It is time to lend a hand and support the new victims of direct repression, regardless of whether they once doubted the horrors experienced by others.
    Count on me to shout for the liberation of your children. I don’t care if you mocked me or didn’t believe it when I was kidnapped and beaten in November 2009;* I don’t care if you lent yourself to watching my little boy on his way to school and yelling at him that his mother was a “mercenary”;
    I don’t care if you reported on people visiting me and laughed when I spent long hours in a jail cell. It doesn’t matter if you joined in the execution of my reputation and the attempt to kill me socially.
    For me, it doesn’t matter that you have defamed me without knowing me, attacked me without arguments, or raised a fist in an act of repudiation against me or my loved ones. I am on your side for the release of that family member you love. 
    I do believe you.

    *Translator’s notes:

    See also Blame the Victim

    (Element removed)


    COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

    Moderator’s Note: Yoani Sanchez developed an outstanding reputation, and has been recognized by multiple credible outlets for her work. That being said, the very nature of Cuba’s repressive government has raised a concern. In reading about her it seems she must rely on others to get her stories out. With the Cuban government trying to stop her, the possibility of them inserting code into a long URL, the type that leads to the use of a link shortening service even if an author is trustworthy link shortening services pose a risk to those who click on them. Or websites that publish those links. PZ has experienced considerable disruption from spammers and hackers, and even credible stories from credible authors warrants caution due to the use by those with ill intent to add malware into long links that prompt the use of even popular URL shortening services like tinyurl and bitly. For the foreseeable future this site will err on the side of caution when it comes to certain types of links or web addresses.


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