Wednesday September 22, 2021

Protests in Cuba

July 25, 2021

On July 11, thousands of angry Cubans took to the streets to express their anger and frustration as they are facing shortage of food, some basic medicines and electricity. They are demanding an end to such shortages, more rights and a better life.

The main reason for the eruption of these protests, which brought hundreds of people to the streets in San Antonio, a few miles away from Havana was the shortage of food and prolonged and constant power outages. The slogans that could be heard on the streets in San Antonio were “we want vaccines” and the demand for a solution to their immediate problems.

There are two types of people participating in the protests. One, those who have genuine grievances with the regime. They are not satisfied with their economic situation. They are not out on the streets to overthrow the regime but to press the regime to act immediately to end their woes.

But then there are also elements of the political opposition who want to create a crisis and are openly inviting US imperialism to intervene in Cuba. Reactionary forces within Cuba and outside immediately jumped in to cash the anger and discontentment. Although these forces are small in number, still they pose a serious threat to the regime.

These counter-revolutionary forces have launched a campaign against the communist regime. The main aim of this campaign is to create the impression that a popular uprising is taking place in Cuba to overthrow the regime; this is done through the dissemination of exaggerated, biased or directly false information.

Through social media networks based in Florida, they are spreading the propaganda that the communist regime in Cuba has become deeply unpopular and lost the support of the people. The Western media is also helping them with biased reporting and cooked up stories.

The Cuban economy contracted nearly 11 percent in the last one year. The Cuban economy largely depends on tourism for crucial revenues which was hit hard by the Covid-19 pandemic. American sanctions continue to hurt the Cuban economy badly. Trump imposed even harsher sanctions and embargoes which made the situation worse. The economic hardships forced the people to take to the streets to raise their voice.

Some people are also not happy with the government the way it handled the pandemic. Only 15-20 percent of the population has been vaccinated so far. The new more contagious variants of coronavirus have made the situation worse.

These are undoubtedly the biggest anti-government protests since the ‘Maleconazo’ protests in1994. The 1994 protests were also fueled by the economic crisis that was caused by the collapse of the Soviet Bloc. The Cuban economy shrank around 30 percent in that period after Soviet aid was cut off.

The fact though is that pro-government protests in Havana and other cities have outnumbered the anti-government protests. But the Western media continues to focus on the anti-government protests.

However, it would be wrong to dismiss these protests as just an imperialist conspiracy to overthrow the communist government in Cuba. Many people taking part in the protests have genuine grievances and complaints regarding the food shortages, falling incomes and health crisis.

The Cuban government needs to address the grievances of the ordinary working people. Everyone taking part in the protests is not the enemy of revolution and socialism.

On the other hand, there is also no doubt that American imperialism is trying to use these protests to destabilise the communist government. Since the revolution in 1959-60, US imperialism did everything – from economic sanctions to sabotage plans – to overthrow the communist regime in Cuba. So, it is not surprising at all that the US is encouraging and further fueling these protests.

Cuba has faced US wrath since the revolution. Many plans were made to assassinate the revolutionary leadership including Fidel Castro. The iconic revolutionary leader Che Guevara was killed by CIA operatives in Bolivia.

The Cuban people have sacrificed a lot for standing up against the might of American imperialism for nearly 60 years. The Cuban revolutionary leadership was hugely popular and enjoyed mass support. Castro enjoyed huge authority among working people for decades. The revolution in 1959/60 enjoyed mass support amongst the mass of the Cuban population. It swept away the hated puppet Batista dictatorship.

Cuba’s bureaucratic planned economy has been facing many problems since the collapse of the Soviet Union. The Cuban economy needs huge investment to overcome some of these serious problems. Dynamic democratic public planning and investment can help boost the country’s economy.

The other serious issue is the bureaucratic top-down model of economic management. Cuba needs to democratise its economy and society. The participation of working people in the running of the economy and of society is crucial to develop democratic socialism.

The continued isolation of the Cuban economy has become a major problem. Perhaps, Cuba can learn some important lessons from China’s experiences.

The only breathing space the Cubans got in the last thirty years was the period when the left-wing governments of Chavez, Lula and Morales got elected and provided some crucial support to the struggling economy of Cuba.

There is no doubt that Cuba made big progress in the fields of health, education, social security and housing after the revolution. Many people were lifted out of poverty and hunger. The revolution made huge gains in the first 30 years up to 1992.

But in the last 30 years, the economy has declined and many gains were lost. Power cuts, food shortages and a dramatic decline in living standards have taken place in that period.

The Cuban regime needs to fix the economy. Without solving the economic crisis, it will be difficult for the regime to survive in the long run. The threat of a capitalist counter-revolution will become real.

The writer is a freelance journalist.