Cubans Take to the Streets in Largest Protests Against the Communist Dictatorship in Decades
Do you support the Cuban people's protests against the communist regime?
What’s the story?
- Thousands of pro-democracy Cuban protesters have taken to the streets across the island over the past two days to call for an end to the communist dictatorship that has ruled the Caribbean island for more than six decades. The regime’s socialist policies have resulted in long-term, widespread shortages of food, medicine, and other necessities which have been exacerbated by the economic impact of the coronavirus pandemic.
- Protesters have waved American flags and chanted “libertad” (“liberty” or “freedom”) and “patria y vida” (“homeland and life”) ― the latter phrase being a modification of the phrase “patria o muerte” (“homeland or death”) that was espoused by Fidel Castro during the country’s communist revolution ― and “abajo la dictadura” (“down with the dictatorship”). They have also sent a message to the regime that “no tenemos miedo” (“we are not afraid”).
- In response to the protests, the communist regime has induced nationwide internet outages and blocked access to encrypted messaging apps to prevent protesters from communicating with each other and the rest of the world. It has also mobilized security forces to crack down on protests, with several protesters reportedly killed and dozens arrested or disappeared. The regime’s leaders have called for communists to confront the “counter revolutionaries” who are protesting against its continued rule.
- The Cuban people have experienced decades of repression under communist rule, and protesters can end up in prison or dead for displaying dissent. The most recent comparable protests occurred in Havana in 1994, which ended when the late Fidel Castro opened Cuba’s maritime borders and over 35,000 Cubans took the opportunity to flee the island in makeshift boats and rafts.
What they’re saying
- Several leading politicians from Florida, which has a large Cuban population and has received many of those who’ve fled to the U.S. across 90 miles of ocean over the decades since the Cuban Revolution, released statements to express solidarity with protesters on Sunday, including Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), Lt. Gov. Jeannette Nuñez (R), Agricultural Commissioner Nikki Fried (D), and Miami Mayor Francis Suarez (R).
- Numerous members of Florida’s congressional issued similar statements, including Sens. Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Rick Scott (R-FL). Rubio, who is the son of Cuban immigrants, said in a video on Sunday:
“Today, and still ongoing in over 32 cities and counties across Cuba, something very rare happened, and that is an organic, grassroots movement of people took to the streets to protest. And what are they protesting? They’re protesting tyranny. For 62 years, they have lived under a tyrannical regime. One that is not only incompetent, but that lies to them, that blames everything on America, even today. And these people are bravely taking to the streets to say enough is enough, they want to live in a normal country. They’re tired of living in a country where young people have to get on a raft to flee to other countries to even have a chance at a normal life.”
- A joint statement supporting the protests against the communist regime was released Sunday evening by four Republican lawmakers including Rep. Carlos Giménez (R-FL), who was born in Cuba and immigrated with his family after the Cuban Revolution; Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL), who is the daughter of Cuban exiles; Rep. Mario Díaz-Balart (R-FL), who is the son of Cuban immigrants; and Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), whose mother fled Cuba after the Cuban Revolution. The statement read:
“Now more than ever, the United States and the international community must support the Cuban people in their struggle for freedom. The humanitarian crisis Cuba faces right now is yet another symptom of the incompetence and absolute cruelty of the Cuban tyranny. We know what freedom means for the Cuban people, and now, while the regime uses savage violence against the people peacefully demonstrating in the streets, the world has the obligation to stand with the brave Cuban people.”
- Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ), who is the son of Cuban immigrants, released a statement Sunday evening supporting the protests against the communist regime:
“In an historic day of protests, the world is bearing witness as thousands of Cubans take to the streets to call for an end to dictatorship in their country. Despite ongoing persecution on the island, Cubans are bravely joining to demand nothing more than the ability to live safely and speak their minds, freely, openly, and without fear. For decades, Cuba’s dictatorship has used violence and repression to silence its people, rather than permit the free exercise of democracy and their basic social rights. This must end. The world’s eyes are on Cuba tonight and the dictatorship must understand we will not tolerate the use of brute force to silence the aspirations of the Cuban people.”
- President Joe Biden issued a statement Monday morning which read:
“We stand with the Cuban people and their clarion call for freedom and relief from the tragic grip of the pandemic and from the decades of repression and economic suffering to which they have been subjected by Cuba’s authoritarian regime. The Cuban people are bravely asserting fundamental and universal rights. Those rights, including the right of peaceful protest and the right to freely determine their own future, must be respected. The United States calls on the Cuban regime to hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment rather than enriching themselves.”
- Communist Party of Cuba First Secretary Miguel Díaz-Canel blamed the U.S. and its economic embargo for the protests and alleged that “mercenaries” were instigating the unrest. He warned that if protesters want to confront the communist revolution they will have to “pass over our dead bodies” and said that the regime is “willing to resort to anything” to retain power.
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: iStock.com / molloykeith)
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