CubaBrief: Brigade 2506, the Bay of Pigs at sixty and some historical context. Castro loosens internal blockade: cattle slaughter, beef, dairy sales permitted after 58 yrs

Sixty years ago Brigade 2506 members invaded Cuba seeking to end the communist dictatorship then being consolidated by Fidel Castro. Before the world knew what was going on in Cuba, these Cubans tried to prevent these 62 years and counting of horror under the communist dictatorship of the Castro brothers. Outnumbered and outgunned they fought between April 17-19, 1961 and one hundred and four Brigade 2506 members died fighting to liberate Cuba, and eight were executed by firing squad. Most Brigade members were captured and spent 22 months in prison before a ransom was paid for their release. Pedro Roig, a member of the Brigade 2506, in 2012 at the Institute of Cuban – Cuban American Studies at the University of Miami gave a first hand presentation of what happened.

Cuba’s last legitimately elected president, Carlos Prio Socarras, was voted in by Cubans in free and fair elections on July 1, 1948 and assumed office on October 10, 1948. He was a democrat, who respected civil liberties, and presided over years of prosperity and freedom for Cubans. President Prio Socarras belonged to the Autentico Party and succeeded Ramon Grau San Martin, another member of the same political party in the Cuban presidency. On his watch Cuban diplomats played an important role in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. President Carlos Prío Socarras and his wife Mary Tarrero de Prío went into exile in Miami, but his struggle for a democratic Cuba did not end there. He would be arrested on more than one occasion accused of smuggling arms to rebels in Cuba seeking to overthrow Fulgencio Batista.

Cuba’s last constitutional president announced his plan to return to the island as early as 1955 and did so during a brief “amnesty” in 1956 only to be expelled at gunpoint a short time later. Prío Socarras would return again in January 1959 when Fulgencio Batista fled power. The Castro brothers and their guerillas promised to restore democracy obtaining the support of the United States. Behind the scenes, despite their public claims, the revolutionaries began immediately consolidating power and marginalizing or disappearing anti-communists from their ranks such as Huber Matos. Publicly, beginning in January 1959 they began broadcasting the public execution of regime opponents by firing squads.

In March 1960 radio stations were seized by the revolutionary government in Cuba, this was followed by the taking of newspapers in May 1960. In July 1960 all U.S. businesses and commercial property in Cuba were nationalized at the direction of the Cuban government. In September 1960 the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDRs) were established throughout Cuba and the close surveillance of all Cubans began. In October 1960 Cuban-owned large and middle sized private enterprises nationalized and all rental properties seized, along with commercial bank accounts. What remained were small and micro enterprises.

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President Carlos Prío Socarras departed for exile again in December 1960 as the Castro government turned into a communist military dictatorship. Cuba in the span of two years had transitioned from an authoritarian regime to a totalitarian communist one. It was in this context that Cuban exiles joined Brigade 2506 to overthrow the communist dictatorship in Havana.

Barbara Gutierrez of UNEWS at the University of Miami interviewed Eduardo Zayas Bazán and on April 14th published the article “Cuban exile reminisces about the Bay of Pigs invasion” that described the stakes confronted by these young Cuban exiles in 1961: “When he was 25 years old, Cuban exile Eduardo Zayas Bazán, fearful that his homeland would forever remain under communist rule, made a fateful decision. Leaving behind his young wife and 2-month-old son, he enlisted in a CIA-led mission to secretly invade Cuba and defeat the Castro regime.”

They risked life and limb to liberate their homeland, and over a hundred died in the venture, and hundreds more suffered imprisonment as prisoners of war between April 1961 and December 1962.

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Following the Bay of Pigs the Kennedy brothers initiated Operation Mongoose in November 1961. President Kennedy’s brother and Attorney General of the United States, Robert Kennedy, headed up the sustained effort to topple the Castro regime and this included the assassination of Fidel Castro. The Kennedy Administration remained committed to regime change in Cuba by whatever means necessary short of a U.S. military intervention that would arouse a response from the Soviets.

On December 24, 1962, captured prisoners of war of the Brigade 2506 were released from Castro’s prison and flew to Miami. Five days later on December 29, 1962, President John Kennedy and First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy met with the Bay of Pigs veterans, and over 40,000 Cuban exiles at the Orange Bowl. On that day the returning soldiers gave President Kennedy the flag of the Brigade and the President pledged that the Brigade flag was to “fly again in a free Havana.” Less than a year later on November 22, 1963 President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas by pro-Castro activist Lee Harvey Oswald.

President Kennedy receives the Brigade 2506 flag from Manuel Artimes and Erneido Oliva at the Orange Bowl stadium in Dec. 29, 1962

President Kennedy receives the Brigade 2506 flag from Manuel Artimes and Erneido Oliva at the Orange Bowl stadium in Dec. 29, 1962

The Castro regime would go on to complete the imposition of communist central planning, the rationing of food became official on March 12, 1962. According to Reuters, “in 1963 the government made it illegal for Cubans to slaughter their cows or sell beef and byproducts without state permission after Hurricane Flora killed 20% of the country’s herd.” According to academics Ted A. Henken and Gabriel Vignoli, in their 2015 paper “ENTERPRISING CUBA:CITIZEN EMPOWERMENT,STATE ABANDONMENT,OR U.S.BUSINESS OPPORTUNITY?” that “in 1968, the “Revolutionary Offensive” wiped out virtually the entire [remaining] private sector (then comprised of some 58,000 small and microenterprises).” According to Samuel Barber in his article “Cuba in 1968” published in Jacobin magazine on April 29, 2018:

“Castro initiated what he called the Revolutionary Offensive, a project aimed at totally nationalizing the island’s economy. The state had already taken over large and middle-sized businesses in 1960, but family-owned operations remained in private hands. Within sixteen days of the announcement, the official press reported that 55,636 small businesses had been nationalized, including bodegas, barber shops, and thousands of timbiriches (“hole-in-the-wall” establishments). The Revolutionary Offensive gave Cuba the world’s highest proportion of nationalized property. According to Cuban economist Carmelo Mesa-Lago, some 31 percent of these small businesses were retail food outlets, and another 26 percent provided consumer services, like shoe and auto repair. Restaurant and snack shops represented another 21 percent; 17 percent sold clothing and shoes. The rest (5 percent) were small handicraft establishments that manufactured leather, wood products, and textiles. Half of these small businesses were exclusively owner- and family-operated and had no employees.”

This is the internal blockade in Cuba that is imposed by the Castro regime on the Cuban populace. Average Cuban citizens living on the island are not allowed to make large investments into Cuban businesses, but foreigners are, including Cuban exiles. The Patmos Institute, a Cuban civil society network created to exercise and promote inter-religious dialogue; political influence; monitor and defend religious freedoms; and the general education on the issue of human rights; with a presence on the island, where it was founded Feb. 2 2013 endorses the petition “End the Internal Blockade in Cuba” with over 23,000 signers calling for an end to the internal blockade.

“Cuba has a permanent systemic crisis reflected in daily shortages of all types. That crisis will grow worse, to unimaginable levels, during and after the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic … We believe that this time of global reflection, of solidarity and of putting into practice the highest values of humanity, might touch the hearts of Raul Castro, Miguel Diaz Canel and all the leaders of the Communist Party to make them lift the internal blockade against the people of Cuba that has taken so many lives and caused so many material calamities for more than 60 years. We also believe that the people themselves should come to understand their situation and demand the respect and freedom we all deserve. This would facilitate, in large measure, the direct cooperation of the Cuban family that lives abroad with the reconstruction of the nation and the immediate easing of the problems in every Cuban neighborhood. As well as boosting the creative capacity and entrepreneurship of all Cubans who live on the island.”

The Castro regime has not lifted its internal blockade during the pandemic. Officials seized a shipment of tons of humanitarian assistance for 15,000 Cuban families in August 2020 that never arrived to those many in need. Twenty four Cuban human rights defenders carried out a 21 day hunger strike in Cuba that ended on April 9, 2021. Led by Jose Daniel Ferrer, they went on hunger strike on March 20, 2021 to protest Castro regime agents preventing hungry Cubans from getting desperately needed food at the headquarters of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) in Santiago de Cuba.

In the short term the failure of the Bay of Pigs invasion led to Soviets, perceiving American weakness, deploying dozens of medium-range nuclear missiles within striking range of the entire United States, and the subsequent Cuban Missile Crisis that brought the world to the brink of nuclear holocaust egged on by Fidel Castro in October 1962. Over the long term the Castro dictatorship has been in power for 62 years and has successfully exported its “model” to Nicaragua and Venezuela spreading misery and terror to millions more while sponsoring revolutionary terror around the globe.

Reuters quoted the Castro regime’s official press outlet yesterday that after 58 years, ranchers in Cuba “will be allowed to do as they wish with their livestock ‘after meeting state quotas and always with a guarantee it will not result in a reduction of the herd,’ the Communist Party daily, Granma, said late on Tuesday.” Other claims made in the Reuters article run into conflict with the 2000 paper by James E. Ross, “Market Potential for U.S. Livestock Genetics in a Free Market Cuban Economy,” presented at the Association for the Study of the Cuban Economy:

“In 1968 the cattle population reached 6.9 million head, but in the following years the number of cattle started to decline. By 1989, the number of cattle had fallen to 5.7 million. Currently, the number of cattle is estimated at 4.65 million, nearly a half-million less than at the time of the revolution, over two million less than 30 years ago and a million less than 10 years ago.”

Domestic cattle and milk production under the Castro regime did not improve, but worsened due to its communist economic policies, despite massive Soviet subsidies. This is a feature of communist regimes not a defect. Havana blames U.S. economic sanctions on the lack of food in Cuba, but in Russia the imposition of sanctions by both the United States and the European Union, in 2014 following the invasion of Ukraine, coincided with an increase in food production in Russia.

United States economic sanctions on Cuba are pressuring the Castro dictatorship to bring an end to this internal blockade. Lifting them would remove that pressure to lift the internal blockade: freeing Cubans to farm the land on their own terms, and like their Russian comrades today, once again produce enough to feed their own people and have a surplus to become net exporters of food. The qualified announcement that ranchers in Cuba “will be allowed to do as they wish with their livestock” is a step in the right direction, but one that the communist regime is doing out of necessity that runs against their ideological convictions.

Sixty years after the Bay of Pigs, and the courageous sacrifice of the Brigade 2506 members, and the haunting question remains: “How much better would Cuba and the wider region be today if Castro had been overthrown in 1961?”

UNEWS@TheU, April 14, 2021

Cuban exile reminisces about the Bay of Pigs invasion


Dozens of manuscripts, objects, and books on the Bay of Pigs invasion are among the items held by the Cuban Heritage Collection. Photo: TJ Lievonen/University of Miami

By Barbara Gutierrez

Eduardo Zayas Bazán, a member of the Amigos board of the University’s Cuban Heritage Collection, recalls the unsuccessful incursion as its 60th anniversary approaches on April 17.

When he was 25 years old, Cuban exile Eduardo Zayas Bazán, fearful that his homeland would forever remain under communist rule, made a fateful decision.

Leaving behind his young wife and 2-month-old son, he enlisted in a CIA-led mission to secretly invade Cuba and defeat the Castro regime.

Zayas Bazán was one of 1,400 American-trained Cubans who took part in the Bay of Pigs invasion of the island on April 17, 1961. It was in the middle of the Cold War and the United States government wanted to topple the Castro regime, a communist government supported by the Soviet Union.

President John F. Kennedy followed through with the invasion plans. Ultimately, the invasion failed because the U.S. did not include air support, according to Zayas Bazán.

Zayas Bazán

Zayas Bazán

On the upcoming 60th anniversary of the invasion, Zayas Bazán, professor emeritus of foreign languages at East Tennessee State University, who sits on the board of the Amigos of the University of Miami Cuban Heritage Collection, firmly believes that if the U.S. had followed through with its promise, Cuba would be free, prosperous, and a tourist paradise. 

“We had no doubt whatsoever that the invasion would succeed. The Americans were financing us in all kinds of ways and the CIA was training us. We were convinced that even though some of us may die, the invasion would still succeed,” he said. “It never crossed my mind that the invasion would fail.”

Because of his background as a swimming instructor in Cuba, Zayas Bazán had volunteered as a frogman, or underwater demolition diver for the incursion. He and  four other frogmen landed on Girón Beach along the east bank of the Bay of Pigs, and the rest of the troops followed. During the three-day battle that ensued, he was wounded in his right knee and captured, along with the rest of his colleagues. About 114 Cuban exiles were killed during the attempted invasion.

The rest of the men were imprisoned, brought to trial, and given long sentences. Eventually, they were released to the U.S., traded for food and medicine.  

Zayas Bazán was jailed for almost a year. On his return to Miami, he and his colleagues of the Brigade 2506 were honored during a packed ceremony at the Orange Bowl stadium, where Kennedy spoke. “We were received like heroes,” remembered Zayas Bazán.

Anything that has to do with Cuba is sacred for Zayas Bazán. That is why he donated the original document listing the sentences of all his colleagues and himself to the Cuban Heritage Collection. The instrument, which was given to the men by the Cuban government, is one of the dozens of manuscripts, objects, and books on the Bay of Pigs held by the collection.

Elizabeth Cerejido, director of the Cuban Heritage Collection, said that “the Cuban Heritage Collection’s fundamental mission is to collect, preserve, and provide access to a vast repository of materials related to Cuba, the Cuban exile experience, and Cuba’s global diaspora.” 

According to Cerejido, “this vast repository of resources, which we safeguard in perpetuity, not only support research and the production of innovative scholarship, but they serve the important function of educating present and future scholars about all aspects of Cuban history,” she noted. “Just as important, these are testaments that help connect material culture to lived experiences.” Among the objects in the collection are graphic photos depicting the battle on Girón Beach and its aftermath, a flag with the 2506 logo, and books and papers on the invasion, including some from Cuba.

 “The Flying Fish,” a novel that Zayas Bazán co-wrote with Robert Higgs, a fellow academic, is part of the collection. It chronicles the Bay of Pigs event. Zayas Bazán also plans to donate his recently published autobiography, “My Life.”

Zayas Bazán stated that as he recalls the invasion as its anniversary approaches, he does so with the conviction that if the invaders had been successful, “the world would be different because there would not be a communist government in Cuba causing problems.”

Reuters, April 14, 2021

Cuba loosens ban on cattle slaughter, sales of beef, dairy

By Marc Frank

HAVANA (Reuters) -Cuba announced that it was loosening a decades-old ban on the slaughter of cattle and sale of beef and dairy as part of agricultural reforms as the Communist-run country battles with food shortages.

FILE PHOTO: Cuban farmhand Bienvenido Castillo takes cows to a pasture REUTERS/Desmond Boylan/File Photo

FILE PHOTO: Cuban farmhand Bienvenido Castillo takes cows to a pasture REUTERS/Desmond Boylan/File Photo

Ranchers will be allowed to do as they wish with their livestock “after meeting state quotas and always with a guarantee it will not result in a reduction of the herd,” the Communist Party daily, Granma, said late on Tuesday.

In 1963 the government made it illegal for Cubans to slaughter their cows or sell beef and byproducts without state permission after Hurricane Flora killed 20% of the country’s herd.

The number of cattle and milk production improved through 1989 when the Soviet Union collapsed. Since then, the herd has remained stagnant at around 70% of the 1963 level, and powdered milk imports have increased.

Farmers can be fined for killing their own cows, leading many to have only one for milk, as if another dies by accident, they face an investigation. Others hide calves in the barn. Still others team up with rustlers, though they face up to 15 years behind bars if caught.

This has led to the local joke that you can get more prison time for killing a cow than a human being.

Cuban economists say deregulation of the agricultural sector could help boost production.

The government is expected to announce further agricultural measures in a roundtable discussion on state television as it battles a grave economic crisis that has resulted in food shortages and long lines for even the most basic products such as rice, beans and pork, let alone milk, butter, cheese, yogurt and beef.

The Caribbean island nation imported more than 60% of the food it consumed before new U.S. sanctions on top of the decades-old trade embargo and then the COVID-19 pandemic, which decimated tourism, left it short of cash to import agricultural inputs from fuel and feed to pesticides, let alone food.

Economic growth contracted 11% in 2020 and imports 40%, according to the government.

Agricultural production has stagnated in recent years and declined dramatically in 2020, though the government has yet to publish any data.

Last November, the government said it would allow farmers, private traders and food processors to engage in direct wholesale and retail trade if they met government contracts.

The state owns 80% of the arable land and leases most of that to farmers and cooperatives, and until recently had sold them inputs in exchange for up to 90% of their output plus a set margin.

Reporting by Marc Frank; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Marguerita Choy

The Wall Street Journal, April 9, 2021

The Real Lessons of the Cuban Missile Crisis

Newly uncovered Soviet sources show that the 1962 confrontation could easily have spiraled into nuclear war—a useful warning as we face a new arms race today.

An American naval squadron off the coast of Cuba during the crisis in October 1962. Photo: Schirner/ullstein bild/Getty Images

An American naval squadron off the coast of Cuba during the crisis in October 1962. Photo: Schirner/ullstein bild/Getty Images

By Serhii Plokhy

April 9, 2021 12:26 pm ET

The world is at the start of a new, undeclared nuclear arms race. In August 2019, the U.S. and Russia officially abandoned the Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty signed by Ronald Reagan and Mikhail Gorbachev in 1987, leaving the door open to the development of new missiles. China has 300 nuclear weapons and is expected to double its arsenal in the next decade. Last month, the U.K. raised the cap on its nuclear stockpile by more than 40%, the first projected increase since the end of the Cold War.

With Cold War-era arms control agreements gone, we are facing the first uncontrolled arms race since the 1960s. The nuclear competition of that era culminated in the Cuban missile crisis of 1962, arguably the most dangerous moment not only of the Cold War but in world history. If we want to avoid a repetition of that crisis, it’s high time to relearn its lessons—which look different today than they once did, in the light of newly uncovered Soviet sources.

The Cuban missile crisis was triggered by Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev’s decision to redress the disparity in nuclear arms between the USSR and the U.S. President John F. Kennedy had won election in 1960 by arguing that there was a “missile gap” between the two countries that favored the Soviets, but in fact the situation was the opposite. The Soviets had very few strategic ballistic missiles capable of reaching the American mainland, while by 1962 the Americans had plenty of bombers and missiles that could reach Soviet territory.

When Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who survived a U.S.-backed invasion at the Bay of Pigs in 1961, begged the Soviets for military assistance, Khrushchev seized the opportunity to deploy medium-range nuclear missiles within striking range of the U.S. Dozens of missiles, warheads and tactical nuclear weapons had been placed in Cuba before an American U-2 spy plane detected them in mid-October 1962. The operational range of the missiles was 1,290 miles, enough to reach Washington, D.C.

The U.S. was caught by surprise, and Kennedy spent the week of October 15 brainstorming for a solution with a group of aides that became known as the Executive Committee. After considering several options, including airstrikes and a full-fledged invasion of Cuba, Kennedy decided to establish a naval blockade of the island. Faced with the Americans’ refusal to accept the Soviet nuclear presence in Cuba, Khrushchev backed down and on October 28 he agreed to remove the missiles. In exchange, the U.S. agreed not to invade Cuba. Kennedy also agreed in secret to remove America’s nuclear armed missiles from Turkey.

Ever since, the dominant narrative of the crisis has been that Kennedy won thanks to decisiveness and good judgment, and Khrushchev lost. But American, Soviet and Cuban sources that have become available in the last few decades put that idea in question. From beginning to end, the American response to the crisis was “distorted by misinformation, miscalculation and misperception,” in the words of Kennedy’s defense secretary Robert McNamara. The Soviets’ ability to deliver missiles to Cuba undetected was one of the worst intelligence failures in American history, and Kennedy’s weeklong deliberation about an appropriate response gave the Soviets enough time to make the missiles combat-ready.

The miscalculations did not end there. Only after the end of the Cold War did McNamara learn that the Soviets had deployed tactical nuclear weapons to Cuba as well as ballistic missiles. There were more than 40,000 Soviet troops on the island, not 10,000, as the Americans believed at the time. If Kennedy had ordered an attack on the missile sites from the air, or if Attorney General Robert Kennedy and the Joint Chiefs of Staff had won support for their plan to invade Cuba, nuclear war would have become all but inevitable. McNamara retroactively estimated the probability at 99%.

Even as American leaders were deliberating, the situation on the ground came close to spiraling out of control. The memoirs of Soviet participants in the crisis show that at its height, Soviet commanders were considering the use of tactical nuclear weapons in self-defense. An American U-2 plane was shot down contrary to orders from Moscow, and only sheer luck prevented the firing of a Soviet nuclear-armed torpedo at American ships in the Caribbean: A Soviet signalman got stuck with his equipment in the hatch of a submarine, preventing a senior officer from getting inside and ordering the strike.

Bringing the Soviet and Cuban sides of the story into focus also dramatically changes the chronology of the crisis. Contrary to the widespread belief fostered by Robert Kennedy’s memoir “Thirteen Days,” the crisis did not come to an end on October 28; it lasted another 23 days. In mid-November, the Executive Committee was still holding regular meetings to discuss how to respond if an American plane were shot down over Cuba, since Fidel Castro had renewed his orders to fire at American reconnaissance planes. Even after the Soviets agreed to remove their missiles from Cuba, they refused to remove bombers capable of delivering nuclear weapons until November 20, effectively ending the crisis.

The main lesson to be drawn from this more detailed story is that history cannot be reduced to the agony of decision-making in the White House. A nuclear crisis has many participants, all acting in a fog of mutual suspicions and misunderstandings, to say nothing of the simple lack of timely, reliable information. Political leaders can lose control over troops on the ground, leaving it to chance to decide the outcome of a complex and dangerous situation. If the Cuban missile crisis didn’t turn into a nuclear war it was partly thanks to pure luck.

After the crisis ended, Kennedy and Khrushchev were sufficiently terrified of the possibility of a nuclear exchange to start arms control talks, leading to a partial ban on nuclear testing in 1963—Kennedy’s last contribution to international politics. The arms control process helped to stabilize the Cold War and eventually end it.

We cannot wait for another nuclear confrontation on the same scale as the Cuban missile crisis to renew our commitment to the principles of nuclear arms control. Today’s communication technology makes nuclear command and control systems more reliable than they were in 1962, but advances in cyberwarfare put that security in doubt. And some of today’s nuclear-armed states are much more unpredictable than the Cold War superpowers. No one knows what to expect from North Korea in a nuclear crisis, or from Iran if it manages to become a nuclear power.

The only way to put limitations on the new nuclear arms race is to return to negotiations not only on strategic nuclear weapons but also on tactical, medium- and intermediate-range nuclear weapons of the kind delivered to Cuba in 1962.

—Mr. Plokhy is a professor of history at Harvard University. This essay is adapted from his new book, “Nuclear Folly: A History of the Cuban Missile Crisis,” which will be published this week by W.W. Norton.

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company

Appeared in the April 10, 2021, print edition as ‘The Real Lessons Of the Cuban Missile Crisis.’

Fundación para la Democracia Panamericana, August 24, 2020

Humanitarian Aid arrives in Cuba only to be blocked from its rightful owners

MIAMI, Aug. 24, 2020 /PRNewswire/ — The board of directors of the Fundación para la Democracia Panamericana, together with Rosa María Payá and City of Miami Mayor, Francis Suarez, sent a letter, found below, on Friday, August 14, to twenty-seven members of the United States Congress, including Bernie Sanders and Karen Bass. The letter was written to request their support in obtaining the release of humanitarian aid sent to Cuba, specifically following a letter they sent to Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo. The aid has been arbitrarily withheld by the authorities of the Cuban regime on the Island, despite the serious crisis that the country is facing. The letter to the members of Congress is signed by more than 30 citizens, churches and organizations of the United States and Cuba involved in the Solidarity among Brothers effort as organizers or recipients.

Our letter follows:

August 14, 2020

Dear Congress member,

We are U.S. and Cuban citizens who appreciate the interest you have recently expressed in the “health and safety of not only Cubans but Americans and others in the Caribbean region,” in a letter to Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, signed in May 2020 by 27 members of the U.S. Senate and the House, including yourself.

Taking your words into consideration, we urge you to support the demand that all the humanitarian aid we collected in the United States in May 2020, which was later sent to Cuba with the help of Christian churches through regular channels, be delivered immediately and without further governmental intervention to its legitimate recipients in Cuba. This aid has been arbitrarily detained by the Cuban authorities upon its arrival to the Island.

In the hopes of mitigating the impact of the crisis being suffered by the Cuban people, aggravated by COVID-19, we, along with hundreds of other citizens, contributed to the donation drive Solidaridad Entre Hermanos / Solidarity Among Brothers, in Miami, Florida, where thousands of pounds of humanitarian aid were collected in May 2020. This effort was conducted with the intention to provide as many products as possible to our brothers and sisters in Cuba, so that the most vulnerable families can maintain appropriate hygiene, as well as feed themselves substantially, during the current crisis. At least 15,000 Cuban families managed to register to receive this assistance on our website, despite having to bypass the cyber-attacks by Cuban authorities.

Cuba is in crisis. The rule of the single-party communist government, that exerts centralized control upon all aspects of Cuban society, has not only caused a dire humanitarian crisis, but has also increased political repression. Every day, due to the shortages of food and basic needs, the people of Cuba must stand in long lines, which eventually become crowds, in order to buy whatever is offered by the Cuban State, making it impossible to take safety measures against the Coronavirus pandemic. To make matters worse, the Cuban State is now selling several basic-need products in hard currency, making it impossible for the majority of Cuban families to have access to them given that all salaries are paid in national currency.

As Cubans of the diaspora, our ability to directly help our families in Cuba should be without restrictions from any government. In the spirit of your statements in the aforementioned letter, which emphasizes that government interference with humanitarian efforts like ours is “dangerous and contrary to our longstanding tradition of not politicizing the delivery of humanitarian aid,” we hope to have your support in our efforts to deliver these goods to their rightful recipients, since “in such an unprecedented emergency caused by a deadly virus that is so easily transmissible, public health and safety must take precedence.”

This initiative is not of a political nature, but it is a people-to-people humanitarian effort, which was not met with any obstacles from the U.S. State Department. It is in this regard that we call upon you to use your influential platform in order to stay true to your words as government officials, and to please demand that the supplies provided by Solidaridad Entre Hermanos / Solidarity Among Brothers, which have been  detained by the Cuban authorities―despite the fact that we fully complied with the Cuban law―be immediately released and delivered to their rightful recipients.

Specifically, our request is that you support us in demanding the Cuban State to:

  1. Remove all arbitrary barriers that are being imposed to prevent the delivery of the goods;

  2. and allow the members of the church community, the rightful owners of the goods, as well as other people of good will in Cuban civil society, to distribute the humanitarian assistance without interference.

I appreciate your assistance and request that you please send a response if you are able to help us with this critical issue during these trying times.

Thank you very much for your time and consideration of this request.


Dr. Omar Vento, Rosa María Payá and Victor Pujals

Fundación para la Democracia Panamericana   

Francis Suarez,


Miami, Florida