CubaBrief: The Revolt in Cuba is against Communism, dictatorship and for Freedom. Cubans need the solidarity of the free world.

Rolando Remedios Sanchez arbitrarily detained since July 11, 2021. Source: CubaLex

Rolando Remedios Sanchez arbitrarily detained since July 11, 2021. Source: CubaLex

Summary political show trials continue in Cuba. The Castro regime does not release information on how many have been arrested, but other sources provide estimates along with concrete data. 14ymedio, the press outfit founded by independent journalist Yoani Sanchez, estimates more than 5,000 detained. The human rights group Cubalex has identified 757 detained or missing Cubans, related to the protests that began on July 11th, in their database as of 5:42pm on August 2, 2021, but the list will continue to grow.

The number of dead remains unknown, but video images of gunshot victims, in a country where only the police and military have firearms, tells us that the regime was using deadly force against nonviolent protesters.

A new generation is subjected to the political terror of Castroism that previous generations have endured, but this time is different. Fidel Castro is five years dead, Raul Castro just turned 90, and the first generation of communist rulers is being forced off the stage by the biological clock. The experts in building a totalitarian police state are on their way out, but as was the case with Mao Zedong in China, it can also be when they are at their most murderous.

Cubans never asked for communism. It was imposed on them by the Castro regime first by lies then by terror, and with this mixture, ruled Cuba and garnered international support for over six decades. The truth was spoken aloud across Cuba on July 11, 2021 and in the days that followed, and those who spoke it are paying a terrible price. We owe it to them to listen, and not misrepresent them. Michael Huling writing in The American Conservative, writes on the nature of the protests:

A viral video released on Sunday shows a large group of Cubans shouting “Cuba isn’t yours” in front of the Communist Party headquarters. Protesters also yelled “down with communism” and “down with Díaz-Canel,” in reference to Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who also serves as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, having succeeded Raúl Castro (the younger brother of Fidel Castro). The obvious takeaway from the protests is that a significant portion of the Cuban population has had enough of communist rule, expressing their opposition to the regime. But according to Twitter’s description, the protests were due to “shortages of COVID-19 vaccines and basic necessities.” The New York Times offered a similarly disturbing evaluation, arguing that the Cuban protesters “shouting ‘freedom’ and other anti-government slogans” were simply upset about “food and medicine shortages.”

Jay Nordlinger writing in National Review asks the key question with the proper comparative historical context on what is unfolding in Cuba:

Can the Cuban dictatorship survive the Castros? That is a big question, asked for decades — asked by friend and foe alike. The Soviet dictatorship survived Lenin. It lasted 74 years. The Chinese dictatorship survived Mao. It has lasted for 72 years. In North Korea, three Kims — father, son, and grandson — have ruled for 73 years. Two Assads have been on the throne in Syria for 51 years. The Castro regime — we can still call it that, given the hovering presence of Raúl –has lasted for 62 years. How? Especially given the hostile superpower next door? This is the subject of books, rather than brief articles. The Castros had a Soviet sponsor. Then they had a flood of European and other “investment,” meaning hard currency for the regime. Then they stayed afloat on a sea of Venezuelan “petro-dollars.”

“Engagement” with the Castro regime, and not the Cuban people, may lead to the same outcome that engagement with the Chinese communist regime did. It strengthened and modernized a totalitarian dictatorship that does great harm at home and abroad. Before Hugo Chavez and Maduro, European and Latin American investors helped fund Castroism, and legitimized it internationally. It was complicity with a dictatorship oppressing the Cuban people, and in the case of Latin America led to the destabilization and destruction of democracy in Venezuela.

There is a prudent path for U.S. policy makers to pursue on Cuba, and the Center for a Free Cuba has made some suggestions, and signed on to petitions delivered to the Biden Administration. Elliott Abrams, a long time National Security expert serving in Republican administration wrote in The Bulwark on July 13, 2021 the following policy suggestions for the White House:

“First, keep up the rhetorical and political support for Cubans. Denounce the repression. Take the issue to any international organization where we can make a fuss. Second, assess all our democracy-support programs—in USAID, the State Department, the National Endowment for Democracy, and everywhere else—and see how they can be strengthened to support Cubans right now. Better internet access? Support for opposition groups? Training in third countries? Third, offer all sorts of support for Cuba, such as allowing Cuban Americans to send more money there or making tourism easier, if the regime makes serious moves toward political freedom. Make it clear that what stands in the way of a better life is still the Castro regime—just as it has since 1959. In other words, say and do everything we sensibly can to stay on the side of the Cuban people.”

Now is the time for President Joe Biden, and other leaders of the free world to stand with the Cuban people, not the dictatorship that has been terrorizing and killing them for 62 years, and with international solidarity and recognition help to empower Cubans to free themselves.

The American Conservative, July 15, 2021

The Protests in Cuba are Against Communism

Contrary to Twitter and media depictions, Cubans are protesting against the regime rather than a simple vaccine shortage.

People gather in front of the Cuban Embassy to stage a protest against The Communist Party of Cuba, which is the ruling political party in the Republic of Cuba, in Buenos Aires, Argentina on July 14, 2021. (Photo by Muhammed Emin Canik/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

People gather in front of the Cuban Embassy to stage a protest against The Communist Party of Cuba, which is the ruling political party in the Republic of Cuba, in Buenos Aires, Argentina on July 14, 2021. (Photo by Muhammed Emin Canik/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

July 15, 2021 | 1:45 pm

By Michael Huling

Over the past week, the protests in Cuba have earned widespread coverage across the globe. The motivation for the protests is clear to the participants and most onlookers, yet media outlets have insisted on an alternative explanation.

A viral video released on Sunday shows a large group of Cubans shouting “Cuba isn’t yours” in front of the Communist Party headquarters. Protesters also yelled “down with communism” and “down with Díaz-Canel,” in reference to Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who also serves as the First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba, having succeeded Raúl Castro (the younger brother of Fidel Castro).

The obvious takeaway from the protests is that a significant portion of the Cuban population has had enough of communist rule, expressing their opposition to the regime. But according to Twitter’s description, the protests were due to “shortages of COVID-19 vaccines and basic necessities.” The New York Times offered a similarly disturbing evaluation, arguing that the Cuban protesters “shouting ‘freedom’ and other anti-government slogans” were simply upset about “food and medicine shortages.”

White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked this week if the administration acknowledges that the protests are against communism, but her dismissive response placed the blame on government mismanagement without any recognition of the regime at fault. Obviously, the lack of essentials has played a role in the public frustration, but to suggest that the proximate cause of the protests is simply mismanagement and a supply shortage is, to quote President Biden, malarkey.

Others, including Black Lives Matter, have blamed the U.S. embargo on Cuba as the cause of the poverty and misery suffered by Cubans. The embargo is a convenient scapegoat for those who insist that every injustice in the world is attributable to the United States, but it’s difficult to reconcile with reality on the ground. After all, it is not the embargo that has restricted internet access to the public, detained critical journalists, prevented hungry families from fishing, and arrested protesters en masse. No, the endless cycle of oppression begins and ends with the communist dictatorship.

Misdirecting to vaccine shortages and embargos not only distorts the facts, but excuses the barbaric regime. It misleads Americans and humiliates Cuban dissidents, who are relying on the international community for support. None of this necessarily means that the U.S. or any other country should intervene directly in Cuban affairs, but at the very least, we should be telling the truth about the dire situation. And the truth is that the Cuban people have endured decades of communist oppression, resulting in the shortages and desperation now on display for the world to see.

Michael Huling is a graduate student at the Pepperdine University School of Public Policy and an editorial intern for The American Conservative.

https://www.theamericanconservative.com/state-of-the-union/the-protests-in-cuba-are-against-communism/

National Review, August 2, 2021

A Revolt in Cuba

By Jay Nordlinger
August 2, 2021

Protesters in Havana, July 11, 2021 (Alexandre Meneghini / Reuters)

Protesters in Havana, July 11, 2021 (Alexandre Meneghini / Reuters)

Last month, thousands of Cubans poured into the streets, putting the government on notice

Editor’s Note: Today, we publish an expanded version of a piece that appears in the current issue of National Review.

July 11 was an extraordinary day in Cuba. Thousands of people poured into the streets, to protest the dictatorship that rules them. Mass protests are very rare in Cuba. Any kind of protest is dangerous.

In August 1994, there was a significant protest, known as the “Maleconazo uprising.” (The name comes from the Malecón, the seaside thoroughfare in Havana.) In the end, some 35,000 Cubans left on rafts or anything else that might float. They were known as the balseros, or “boat people” (a name we applied to Vietnamese refugees, too).

The U.S. government implemented its “wet foot, dry foot” policy: If you made it to land — to American soil — you could stay and apply for residency; if you were intercepted by U.S. authorities at sea, you were sent back. This policy ended in 2017 — after which, all Cubans, with dry or wet feet, were sent back.

In any event, Cuba had never seen protests on the scale of those that occurred this July 11. Question: Why now? Why then?

Cuba is in miserable condition. There is little food, little medicine, and little hope. Since June, the pandemic has surged in Cuba. Death and despair is all around.

Yes, but it has long been. Cuba has been a Communist dictatorship since 1959. The economy in 1994 — during the “special period,” following the collapse of the Soviet Union — was even worse. As José de Córdoba, a Cuban-American reporter for the Wall Street Journaltold me, the cats disappeared in Cuba during this period. So, what is different about today? Cubans recently gained greater access to the Internet. And they were able to spread information around. People quickly learned of protests in one town, and started them in another.

“Freedom!” “Enough!” “Unity!” They chanted those words in the streets. Frances Robles opened a report in the New York Times in apt fashion: “Shouting ‘Freedom’ and other anti-government slogans, . . .” — “Freedom” is indeed an anti-government slogan, as it always is under dictatorship.

People also chanted, “We are not afraid!” When people lose their fear, it is their dictatorship that, in turn, has to fear.

There was another chant: “Patria y Vida,” i.e., “Homeland and Life.” This comes from a wildly popular hip-hop song, created by Maykel Castillo and Luis Manuel Otero. (Needless to say, they are in prison.) The words are a play on an old Communist slogan: “Patria o Muerte,” “Homeland or Death.”

When the protests began on July 11, Miguel Díaz-Canel, the head of government, issued commands: “Revolutionaries, to the streets! The order for combat has been given.” Díaz-Canel referred to the protesters as “sellouts to the Empire” (meaning, the Americans). “They will have to go over our dead body if they want to overturn the revolution,” said Díaz-Canel.

The government organized counter-protests, where people chanted, “These streets belong to Fidel!” But the original protesters? As José de Córdoba reported in the Journal, some gathered in front of Communist Party buildings chanting “Cuba isn’t yours!”

In 2011, I interviewed Óscar Biscet, who had just been released from prison, after twelve years’ confinement. He spoke of two prisons: “the little prison,” Combinado del Este, the infamous place where he and many other dissidents have been locked up and tortured, and “the big prison,” which is Cuba at large. “We who live under this dictatorship look to the sea and know that the sea is our prison bars,” Biscet said. “This great, beautiful island of Cuba has been converted by the Castro brothers into their own personal estate.”

After the July 11 protests, Miguel Díaz-Canel shut down the Internet, and phone service, for good measure. State agents arrested unknown hundreds. And the protests were quelled, for the time being.

Fidel Castro died in 2016. His brother Raúl is 90. In 2018, he relinquished what the Cuban Communists call the country’s “presidency” to Díaz-Canel. This past April, Castro stepped down as the first secretary of the Communist Party. Díaz-Canel acquired that title, too.

Can the Cuban dictatorship survive the Castros? That is a big question, asked for decades — asked by friend and foe alike. The Soviet dictatorship survived Lenin. It lasted 74 years. The Chinese dictatorship survived Mao. It has lasted for 72 years. In North Korea, three Kims — father, son, and grandson — have ruled for 73 years. Two Assads have been on the throne in Syria for 51 years.

The Castro regime — we can still call it that, given the hovering presence of Raúl –has lasted for 62 years. How? Especially given the hostile superpower next door? This is the subject of books, rather than brief articles. The Castros had a Soviet sponsor. Then they had a flood of European and other “investment,” meaning hard currency for the regime. Then they stayed afloat on a sea of Venezuelan “petro-dollars.”

But consider another aspect, apart from money: exile. Venezuela is now broke, and starving. But one reason Maduro and the chavistas have survived is that 6 million Venezuelans are in exile. This relieves pressure on the regime. Vladimir Putin is happy for the talented, energetic, and chafing to leave Russia. And the Cuban regime has benefited from emigration, too.

In 2014, I met one of the great dissidents, Juan Carlos González Leiva, in Washington, D.C. He was there on a visit, staying in the home of supporters. González Leiva is a blind lawyer, beaten and imprisoned many times. “Juan Carlos,” I said, “what are you doing here? Why did they let you out?” He said, in effect, “Are you kidding? If I stayed out permanently, they would declare a national day of celebration.”

Dissidents and critics are more trouble on the inside.

In 2019, it looked like Venezuela might tip. Protesters massed in the streets, and Juan Guaidó, the opposition leader, was recognized as the legitimate president of the country by many foreign governments, including that of the United States. But Maduro & Co. did the necessary: put down the rebellion ruthlessly.

So had the Chinese regime in 1989. Gorbachev was performing differently, in the Soviet Union and its bloc. Which approach will the Cuban regime take? Anyone needing a clue can listen to Miguel Díaz-Canel, again: “They will have to go over our dead body if they want to overturn the revolution.”

From the beginning, there have been dissidents, heroes, in Cuba: starting with the plantados, the planted ones, who refused to cooperate with the regime in order to gain release from prison. Think of Pedro Luis Boitel, the poet, who died during a hunger strike in 1972. Think of his close friend Armando Valladares, another poet, who survived the Cuban gulag — 22 years — and wrote a memoir, Against All Hope.

In the past 25 years, I have interviewed many Cuban dissidents, and I have asked a standard question: “Why do you do what you do? Why do you take the risks and suffer the consequences?” They tend to be at a loss for words. “I can do no other,” they say, in essence. Many bring up religion or faith.

“I can’t just do nothing,” Maritz Lugo said. “I am a Christian. I have a conscience.” González Leiva said, “I have a commitment to my country and to Jesus Christ.” Biscet mentioned the three Hebrew boys, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. “When a king tried to force them to bow down before an idol,” he said, “they refused. They knew that God would help them — and even if He did not, they would never bow down to an idol.”

Berta Soler is the leader of the Ladies in White, one of the most prominent opposition groups in Cuba. Why does she walk into danger, rather than out of it? “For love of life, my family, and my country. And for Christ, who allows us to remain standing.”

By the way, Soler is an Afro-Cuban, as are many of the opposition leaders: Guillermo Fariñas, Jorge Luis García Pérez, and Biscet, to name three more. (Plus Maykel Castillo and Luis Manuel Otero, of “Patria y Vida,” the protest anthem.) I point this out because one of the myths of the Castro dictatorship is that it has been good for Afro-Cubans. I have heard dissidents laugh — literally laugh, as Berta Soler did — at the mention of this myth.

I believe I first wrote about this issue, at article length, in 2000. (“In Castro’s Corner: A story of black and red.”) On July 19 of this year — about a week after the protests — the Washington Post published a report headed “‘A powder keg about to explode’: Long marginalized Afro-Cubans at forefront of island’s unrest.” Also in the Post, Charles Lane had an opinion column headed “A Black uprising is shaking Cuba’s Communist regime.”

What can the United States do? This is a natural question for Americans to ask. The U.S. government is supposed to be able to move mountains. We can alter the flights of sparrows. We determine the fates of nations.

Do we?

Some argue for the lifting of the “embargo,” a name given to various U.S. sanctions on the Cuban regime. Miguel Díaz-Canel, naturally, blames Cuba’s current misery on U.S. sanctions. Yet the embargo is “porous,” as people point out: It does not prohibit food and humanitarian aid. And there is no embargo at all from the rest of the world. Cuban misery is the fault of the party that has ruled Cuba for more than six decades.

Every Cuban dissident or democracy leader I have ever interviewed, I have asked about the embargo. Almost without exception, they have all been for it. They are not the last word, of course — but they are an interesting word.

“According to critics,” I say, “the embargo has done nothing to dislodge the regime, so why don’t we try something new?” They tend to answer, “Yes, you have not dislodged the regime — but at least you have not helped them. At least you have not kept the regime alive with hard currency, unlike the Europeans, the Canadians, and everyone else. So, you can take some pride in that.”

About the embargo, there are various opinions, and respectable ones — good and honest ones. Personally, I will listen to any sincere argument. I know good democrats — haters of the Cuban dictatorship — who are for lifting the embargo.

What else? What else might the United States do, where Cuba policy is concerned? You could undertake a bundle of measures — diplomatic, economic. You can impose Magnitsky sanctions on individual human-rights abusers. You can certainly make statements in support of democratic protesters and in condemnation of the government. You can help with Internet access.

The Biden administration has imposed Magnitsky sanctions and made statements. They are looking into Internet help.

But consider this, a bitter truth: There are sharp limits on the ability of Washington to affect the situation in Cuba. Thirteen presidents have dealt with that dictatorship — Eisenhower through Biden. Six of them have dealt with the dictatorship since the end of the Cold War. We have had hawkish policy and dovish policy. We have offered carrots and sticks, sweets and fists. JFK launched an invasion. The dictatorship perdures.

So a sense of realism is advisable.

Still, the United States can make a fuss — can make Cuba an issue. George W. Bush liked to do this: He awarded Óscar Biscet the Presidential Medal of Freedom (in absentia, for Biscet was in prison at the time). He paid tribute to Juan Carlos González Leiva at a prayer breakfast. The regime was none too happy about this. González Leiva later told me, “They were always furious when Bush talked about any of us Cubans.”

President Reagan went so far as to make Armando Valladares the U.S. ambassador to the U.N. Human Rights Commission in Geneva.

In general, the Cuban dissidents and political prisoners ought to be famous. Their pictures ought to be on T-shirts. There ought to be songs and movies about them. They ought to have, say, half of Mandela’s fame. But they are almost entirely neglected.

Twenty years ago, I raised this problem with Jeane Kirkpatrick, the political scientist and onetime U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. After some reflecting and sighing, she said, “It is both a puzzling and a profoundly painful phenomenon of our times.”

I also talked to Reagan’s other U.N. ambassador, Vernon Walters. “The media would go to the death searching out Franco’s or Pinochet’s prisoners,” he snapped. “But the attitude towards Castro’s is, ‘They probably deserve to be there anyway.’ Anti-Communist prisoners are of no interest to anybody. A prisoner of a left-wing government is highly suspect, probably a fascist.”

Many of us believe that the United States should do whatever it can to aid democratic forces in Cuba (and elsewhere, come to that). Whatever can be reasonably and practically done. But won’t these forces get labeled “CIA stooges”? I think of what Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the former congresswoman from Miami, once told me: “They’re going to get labeled stooges anyway. We might as well help them.”

As the Soviet regime at last fell, so will the Cuban — and so will the Chinese, and the North Korean, and so on. To say when is impossible. And the aftermath in Cuba might be very difficult.

Decade after decade, the population has been throttled. I recall the words of a Cuban-American woman, uttered to me many years ago: “It takes a martyr-level courage to live as a decent human being in Cuba: not to lie, not to steal, not to spy, not to inform, not to cheat, not to sell your body, not to buy somebody else’s. You have no idea.”

Talking with me in 2011, Óscar Biscet described the Cuban people as “enslaved.” But “the slaves will revolt,” he said, as slaves had done elsewhere. He mentioned China, Iran, and Libya, specifically. The great challenge to oppositionists like him, he said, was to shape a democratic transition — without a Tiananmen Square. Without a massacre.

“After the deaths of Fidel and Raúl,” Juan Carlos González Leiva told me, “no one will be able to maintain or save that government. I think there are people in Cuba who are capable of putting together a national salvation front, taking the people to a constitutional convention, and holding free elections.”

That is a wonderful scenario.

Back in 2003, the Latin Americanist Mark Falcoff wrote a whole book about Cuba post-dictatorship: Cuba: The Morning After. It is both a smart, informed book and a sobering book. The morning after could be horrible beyond present imagining. Nevertheless, that morning is pleasant to contemplate — interesting to contemplate — as well as sobering. I reviewed Falcoff’s book and at the end quoted an old spiritual: “In that great gittin’-up morning, fare thee well, fare thee well.”

https://www.nationalreview.com/2021/08/a-revolt-in-cuba/

The Bulwark, July 14, 2021

Foreign Affairs

As Cubans March for Freedom, Democrats Are Split

The courageous demonstrations for liberty and against the communist regime in Cuba have exposed some rifts in the Democratic Party.

by Elliott Abrams

Screen Shot 2021-08-03 at 8.53.55 AM.png

Dozens of people during demonstration i in support of the protests in Cuba, in front of the Cuban embassy in Spain, on July 12, 2021, in Madrid (Spain). fo to support the protests that have been taking place since Sunday against the government of Miguel Diaz-Canel in the main Cuban cities. (Photo by Oscar Gonzalez/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

The demonstrations in Cuba are a welcome reminder that while many officials and politicians in Europe, Latin America, and the United States have given up on freedom in Cuba, millions of Cubans have not.

Cuban-American relations, which had been cold but steady after the end of the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962, saw their first signs of change in 2016, when President Obama began loosening the economic sanctions and took his wife and children with him to Cuba. Later that year, when Obama’s Cuba policy hand, Ben Rhodes, attended the memorial service for Fidel Castro, the message of normalization was clear: The bad old “Cold War” policy toward Cuba had to go and relations between Cuba and the United States had to warm up.

Cubans did not benefit. Instead millions saw the change in U.S. policy as a favor to the regime, a gift springing from an ideology of American apology that did nothing to reduce the oppression Cubans were facing. The Trump administration reversed the Obama policy, and so far, the Biden administration has hewn closer to the Trump approach than to Obama’s. Biden spokespeople have said Cuba was not high on his priority list, perhaps as a way of appeasing those in the Democratic Party who wanted a return to Obama policy by leaving open the possibility of another attempted rapprochement with Havana in the future.

It’s fortunate for Biden that he waited, because he now gets to be a champion of democracy. Cubans clearly loathe the regime, which has ostensibly been led by the apparatchik Miguel Díaz-Canel since earlier this year, when Raúl Castro announced his resignation as head of the Cuban Communist Party. The recent demonstrations are striking because so many Cubans are involved, and because they are truly national. They did not emerge in Havana, and they appear to involve Cubans from many strata and sectors of society. The enthusiastic participation of artists, writers, and poets in the protests appeals to Western and Latin American intellectuals. Díaz-Canel’s trite and tired efforts to blame the demonstrations on the United States demonstrate how unprepared the regime is for the biggest protests in a generation.

The American far left appears equally unprepared. Two members of the Squad, Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Rashida Tlaib, are members of the Democratic Socialists of America, whose reaction to these cries for “Libertad” was: “DSA stands with the Cuban people and their Revolution in this moment of unrest. End the blockade.” By “Revolution,” they don’t mean the protesters in the streets now—they mean the 1959 revolution that plunged the island nation into decades of totalitarian Communist rule. By “the blockade,” they mean the American trade embargo of Cuba, which successive Cuban leaders (there have only been three since 1959) have blamed for their country’s economic woes, corruption, and anything else that might stick—despite the fact that the United States is the only country in the world to enforce such an embargo against Cuba.

Those with the best knowledge of Cuban life and politics, the Cuban people, seem to have a difference of opinion with the DSA. The whole point of these marches is the rejection of Fidel Castro’s old cry of “Patria o Muerte”—instead, the protesters are chanting “Patria y Libertad,” and more recently, “Patria y Vida.” Cubans want freedom, not the Revolution.

President Biden’s statement on the Cuban protests, while less than forthcoming on what the United States can or should do to help our oppressed neighbors desperate for freedom, did call their protests a “clarion call” and commended their bravery. No member of the Squad has said one word for freedom in Cuba, or backed the Cuban people’s demands. (Rep. Ilhan Omar, a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, would be in a particularly apt position to do so, but I am not holding my breath.)

This is not the first time Cubans have organized to demand freedom of speech and free elections. In 1987, political activist Oswaldo Payá organized the Varela Project calling for democratic reforms, and got more than 25,000 signatures for a petition calling on the government to respect basic human rights. The effort won Payá the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought—and got him killed by the regime in a staged car accident in 2012. The Ladies in White, wives and other female relatives of political prisoners, started walking through the streets of Havana in 2003. Also Sakharov Prize winners, they have been subject to waves of arrests—in 2010, 2012, 2015, and 2016.

The crowds of people in the streets are far more numerous than the Ladies in White ever were—and they’re not limited to the capital.

And this time, Fidel Castro is dead. While his brother and successor, Raúl, is in theory retired, no one can be in any doubt that he calls the shots; it is he, not Díaz-Canel, who retains the ultimate power to send the army into the streets to repress demonstrations. But Raul is 90; change is coming. And while the regime may have expected a rescue—a serious softening of the embargo, to begin with—from Biden, that seems to be politically impossible. The Squad may remain silent, and some incorrigibles (Rhodes is one, calling this week for the end of economic sanctions) may pine for the Obama days, but neither principle nor politics will lead Biden in their direction.

What’s happened has shown that Cuba is neither a Castro family finca nor a left-wing showplace. It is a country with 11 million people who want to be as free as their neighbors (and, in many cases, family) in the Caribbean and the United States.

What then should Biden do? First, keep up the rhetorical and political support for Cubans. Denounce the repression. Take the issue to any international organization where we can make a fuss. Second, assess all our democracy-support programs—in USAID, the State Department, the National Endowment for Democracy, and everywhere else—and see how they can be strengthened to support Cubans right now. Better internet access? Support for opposition groups? Training in third countries? Third, offer all sorts of support for Cuba, such as allowing Cuban Americans to send more money there or making tourism easier, if the regime makes serious moves toward political freedom. Make it clear that what stands in the way of a better life is still the Castro regime—just as it has since 1959.

In other words, say and do everything we sensibly can to stay on the side of the Cuban people. That is the position Biden inherited from Trump. Now he has the chance to strengthen it and show that human rights will indeed be, as Biden and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken have claimed, at the center of U.S. foreign policy.

Elliott Abrams

Elliott Abrams served as the United States special representative for both Iran and Venezuela in the Donald Trump administration, as deputy national security advisor in the George W. Bush administration, and as assistant secretary of state for human rights and humanitarian affairs and for inter-American affairs in the Ronald Reagan administration. He is also a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

https://www.thebulwark.com/as-cubans-march-for-freedom-democrats-are-split/