CubaBrief: Castro regime blames US embargo for domestic troubles, but the henchmen of the dictatorship need to look in the mirror. Forget the pressure cooker, embrace solidarity and nonviolence

The Center for a Free Cuba (CFC) does not subscribe to the “pressure cooker theory” of ending the Castro regime, but to the solidarity approach that is based in strategic nonviolence. CFC seeks out policies and opportunities to help Cubans on the island. This also means seeking out ways to isolate, sanction, and defund the dictatorship that represses the Cuban people. Therefore the Center has asked the international community “for the opening of a humanitarian channel, independent of the Cuban state, which will allow the arrival of food and medicine directly to Cubans, understanding that on previous occasions Havana has blocked and confiscated the aid collected and sent.”

Pro-Freedom Cuba activists address Members of Congress, and Florida's Governor and Lt. Governor

Pro-Freedom Cuba activists address Members of Congress, and Florida’s Governor and Lt. Governor

At the same time CFC has repeatedly called “for the expansion of Magnitsky sanctions on functionaries of Cuba’s political-military junta, Cuban Communist Party members, all the members of organizations and institutions (and their relatives), that participate in repressive acts against Cubans. The U.S. Economic embargo on Cuba, especially the elements that target restrictions on the Castro regime’s military involvement in the economy must be fully enforced, and defended at international venues.”

We also argue that a fully funded Radio Marti with programming expanded and improved would help Cubans by providing them with uncensored information.

CFC would like to see “uncensored internet in Cuba and actively encourage democratic governments, civil society, and the private sector to facilitate the free flow of information into Cuba”, but are concerned with those engaged in joint ventures with the Castro regime that may result in complicity with the dictatorship, long prison sentences for Cubans, and not engagement with the Cuban people.

The Center is focusing on the Castro regime’s internal blockade, and calling for the dictatorship to dismantle it immediately. Prior to 1959, the Cuban people produced enough food to feed themselves. Today they import over 80% of their food. Nora Gamez Torres writing in the Miami Herald cited the Center for a Free Cuba’s “Let Cubans fish” campaign.

“After six decades of socialist centralization, the country still does not produce enough to feed its population. Farmers can not freely cultivate and sell their crops. Its fishing fleets —and individual fishermen — are not allowed to sell fish, as the Center for a Free Cuba recently reminded readers in its response to a paid advertisement that appeared in the New York Times with the title ‘Let Cuba Live!’ The Center titled its retort: ‘Let Cubans fish!'”

Members of the international community too often have confused solidarity with the Cuban people with complicity with the Castro dictatorship that oppresses them. Before Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro bailed out Havana, European, Canadian and Latin American investors helped fund Castroism and keep it afloat in the 1990s when the regime could have nonviolently collapsed. It was complicity with a dictatorship oppressing Cubans that in the case of Latin America led to the destabilization and destruction of Venezuela’s democracy.

This confusion between solidarity and complicity has continued to the present. The Spanish government in 2020 sold $1.4 million in weapons to the Castro regime. These included “revolvers and automatic pistols, automatic weapons with a caliber of 12.7mm” that included “rifles, revolvers, pistols, machine guns, silencers, chargers for these weapons, and optical sights.”  These kinds of weapons were used against protesters in the July 11th protests.

This is why the Center for a Free Cuba is joining with voices from the island to call for an international embargo on weapons and repressive equipment being sent or sold to Cuba. July 11, 2021 marked a before and after for Cuba and the international community. Now you have to choose: are you with the Cubans or the 62 year old dictatorship repressing them? Juliana Geran Pilon wrote an essay titled in Law&Liberty titled “What Does the Left Think About Cuba Now?” that provides clarity for this moment as expressed by Mr. Arcos below.

Sebastian Arcos Cazabon, of FIU’s Cuba Research Institute “underscored the importance of this moment: ‘What we saw in the streets of Cuba and in the streets of Miami is that there has been a generational shift. Younger people have taken the cause of freedom and have made it theirs. They have demonstrated that they have the passion, and they have the interest.’ The leaders of this new movement are ‘a cross-section of Cuba and they are younger, darker and female. Young people and women especially have played an incredible role’ in these demonstrations.”

Now is the time for the international community to side with Cubans, not their oppressors.

New generation of pro-democracy activists take to the street in Cuba demanding freedom.

New generation of pro-democracy activists take to the street in Cuba demanding freedom.

Miami Herald, August 6, 2021

Analysis: Once again, Cuba blames the US embargo for its domestic problems. It’s not that simple

Nora Gamez Torres, Miami Herald

After the July 11 demonstrations, pro-government activists and leftist organizations like Black Lives Matter have amplified the Cuban government’s claim that the U.S. embargo is the sole or primary cause of the street demonstrations. Latin American leftist governments like Mexico and Bolivia joined the denunciations and sent humanitarian aid to the island.

But the reality is that while the embargo does have some effect on the island’s economy and the population, it is not the principal reason the country’s economy is in tatters nor the reason Cubans took to the streets. They were, by their own accounts, fed up with the lack of food, the electrical blackouts and “the misery” in general, and they called for “a change of system.” It was the failure of Cuba’s centralized socialist economy, decades of government mismanagement and the lack of civil and political liberties that pushed thousands across the island to call for “the end of the dictatorship” and “freedom.”

[ Full Article ]

Law&Liberty, August 6, 2021

Cubans protesters in Miami show their support for the people in Cuba. July 13, 2021 (Fernando Medina/Shuttlestock).

Cubans protesters in Miami show their support for the people in Cuba. July 13, 2021 (Fernando Medina/Shuttlestock).

What Does the Left Think About Cuba Now?

By Juliana Geran Pilon

Six decades ago, America tried to save Cuba from the totalitarianism that would decimate that nation’s treasure and crush its soul. But the administration catastrophically bungled the effort; over a hundred heroes died, the rest were captured. Democracy would have to wait. We’ve now come full circle: it is now the Cuban people who are sending the world—and especially the U.S. (as many demonstrators held American flags)—that same message of freedom. But if this crashes, it is not the Cuban protestors who would have failed: it is America.

Don’t count on the mainstream media to explain what is happening there. Here is how a New York Times July 28 editorial by Ernesto Londoño skillfully spun the July 11 uprisings: “When Cubans, spurred by a severe economic crisis, erupted in a rare wave of public rallies, government critics on the island and abroad hoped the act of defiance would force the island’s authoritarian rulers to embrace political and economic reforms.” And who were those rabble-rousers? “State-run media outlets denounce demonstrators as vandals and looters.” We have them here too; though admittedly, this does sound excessive: “Police officers have gone door-to-door making detentions, human rights activists and protesters said.” Economic crises can certainly cause lawlessness.

Two days later, Reuters duly echoed the narrative: “Thousands took to the streets, angry over shortages of basic goods, curbs on civil liberties, and the authorities’ handling of the pandemic.” Never mind that one cannot “curb” what doesn’t exist. Nor is simple anger what makes you walk into the firing squad pointed at your people’s heart for six decades. This isn’t journalism; it’s whitewash.

In reality, the Cuban protests were explosive: “Simply unprecedented,” declared  Sebastian Arcos, associate director of the Florida International University’s (FIU) Cuban Research Institute (CRI), at a CRI conference on July 21. “It is without a doubt a watershed moment in the history of Cuba.” For while there is a “deepening economic crisis compounded by a health crisis and, of course, Covid,” the demonstrations were not “grievances for economic issues or local government issues. They were openly, politically radicalized against the regime,’’ declared Arcos. “The chants for freedom, down with [Cuban President] Díaz-Canel, down with Communism. The population doesn’t believe the narrative [of the Cuban government] anymore.”

Just watch one of the countless videos circulating on social media, which captured an 81-year-old woman yelling at a cell phone camera: “For over 60 years, we’ve been lied to and cheated, and this must end. We’re taking off the cloak of silence.

It is the best metaphor to describe what is going on in Cuba today, writes Hilda Landrove in the progressive NACLA Report on July 27. “The significance of these protests cannot be exaggerated; they are the biggest and most radical expression of discontent in a 62-year process that the ruling elite call a revolution, although little remains of the original revolutionary impulse except the name.” The cause of the current disaster is the same as Venezuela’s and every other leftist dictatorship, explains Landrove: “A soviet model of economic control has concentrated wealth in the hands of government-run corporations, exacerbated unstable living conditions for much of the Cuban population, and hindered non-state controlled economic growth, including sustainable popular and community economies.”

A Mesoamerican Studies Doctoral candidate at the Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México and a Cuban culture organizer, Landrove understands and loves her people: “These protests are rooted in an enduring tradition of resistance, dissent, and opposition to the equally long-standing totalitarian Cuban government. Since November 2020, the 27N and Movimiento San Isidro (MSI) movements have changed the island’s political landscape and civil society by insisting on ‘the right to have rights.’ The state responded to those efforts by intensifying repression and criminalizing dissent.”

Her target audience? Look at the title: “With Cubans Speaking Out, How Will the Left Respond?” It is her progressive colleagues whom she accuses of rank hypocrisy. Even as life on the island worsens, “the image of Cuba, as the lighthouse of the Americas and a model for many anti-capitalist and anti-imperialist movements, has remained intact.” Accusing  them of an “ongoing voluntary blindness” and double standards, she lashes out furiously: “Time and again, we Cubans that live in Latin America have felt compelled to explain, usually to deaf ears, the systemic crisis of education and health, the collapsed social security system, and the unstable living conditions that most of the population suffers.” Focusing on the North American embargo may be useful as “an ideological marker but few really understand from a legal standpoint has affected the Cuban economy.” Far from being caused by the embargo, “the island’s economic downfall is a result of the powerful elite’s iron grip and stockpiling.”

American economic sanctions—which, incidentally, exempt food and medicine—were explained by John Suarez, executive director of Center for a Free Cuba, on July 31: “American companies, due to the Castro dictatorship’s monopoly over the economy, can only sell to the regime. The dictatorship is the one exploiting Cubans. For example, American companies sell chicken to Cuba for $1 per kilo and the Castro regime turns around and sells it to Cubans in government stores at $7 per kilo pocketing the difference for the Castros.” No wonder that, as Landrove points out, “[d]aily life in Cuba has become unbearable for a majority who don’t have dollars and are unable to shop at stores that accept this currency. Stores operating in local currency are often unable to stock essential products.”

“What we saw in the streets of Cuba and in the streets of Miami is that there has been a generational shift. Younger people have taken the cause of freedom and have made it theirs. They have demonstrated that they have the passion, and they have the interest.”

But most to blame are “[t]hose who call themselves the Latin American Left today [who] will have to decide what to do with their words, which conceal the spectacular fall of the narrative of a submissive people and a benign government. Will they continue to empty their words of meaning or uphold their principles?” But what exactly are those “principles”? Their roots were sewn in the 1960s—the heady days when radicals conspicuously genuflected before the communist model. Writes former leftist Bryan Burrough in his seminal Days of Rage: “Apocalyptic revolutionaries represented a strident new voice in the [radical] movement . . . [whose] favorite blueprint was the Cuban Revolution, their icon Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara, Castro’s swashbuckling right-hand man.”

These included members of the Weather Underground, Black Panther Party (BPB), and May 19th. Some became terrorists—notably Joanne Chesimard, a.k.a. Assata Shakur, former member of the Black Liberation Army (BLA, an offshoot of the BPB) that was devoted to armed struggle. Until her escape from a New Jersey state prison in 1979, Shakur had been serving a life sentence for the 1973 murder of a U.S. state trooper.

This brings us to today. Shakur eventually reached Cuba, which granted her asylum in 1984. She is still there, and on the FBI’s most wanted list. So too is Charlie Hill, former member of a militant group called the Republic of New Afrika (RNA), which sought to create an independent black nation in the American South. Hill, along with two other men, stands accused of killing a policeman in New Mexico in 1971. Another is fellow RNA member Cheri Dalton, alias Nehanda Abiodun, sought for her involvement in the armed robbery of an armored truck in New York in 1981, in which two policemen and a security guard were killed. Is it any wonder that their former colleagues, fellow radicals variously pardoned and hired to teach in universities, activists in organizations such as Black Lives Matter, would be reluctant to antagonize the Cuban government?

”Fair enough,” concedes University of Texas professor Jorge Felipe-Gonzales. But he thinks there is more to it: “the organization [BLM] is using the Cuban movement to criticize the U.S. government and its foreign policy,” he argues in the July 17 issue of The Atlantic. It praised former President Barack Obama for lifting sanctions against Cuba, which his successor later reversed, and which the Biden administration has been slow to amend. Cubans—and particularly Black Cubans—are suffering. The Cuban judicial system is prosecuting the protesters with sentences of up to 20 years.” Laments Felipe-Gonzales, “BLM, of all organizations, should be aware that Cubans can’t breathe either.”

Perhaps it is; but whom does BLM hold responsible? Its website “condemns the US federal government’s inhumane treatment of Cubans.” Read on: “Since 1962, the US has forced pain and suffering on the people of Cuba by cutting off food, medicine and supplies, costing the tiny island an estimated $130 billion. Without that money, it is harder for Cuba to acquire medical equipment need to develop its own COVID-19 vaccines and equipment for food production.  This comes in spite of the country’s strong medical care and history of lending doctors and nurses to disasters around the world.”

That the “strong medical care” shares with “lending doctors and nurses to disasters around the world” top prize for stale mythology appears not to matter. Even the BBC reports the findings of Prisoners Defenders, a Spain-based NGO that campaigns for human rights in Cuba linked to the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) opposition group, indicating that “doctors on average receive between 10% and 25% of the salary paid by the host countries, with the rest being kept by Cuba’s authorities.” What is more, starting in 2020, Human Rights Watch has denounced Cuba’s treatment of its health workers as virtual slaves. Health workers who “abandon” the missions to which they have been assigned, for example, are subject to a de facto entry ban to Cuba of eight years. In November 2019, the UN special rapporteurs on contemporary forms of slavery declared that the working conditions reported to them, including from first-hand sources, “could amount to forced labor.”

None of this seems to have been noticed by the BLM establishment. But it will be increasingly harder to ignore the truth now that the whole world is watching. As former dissident and former Czech Ambassador to the UN Martin Palous, Director of the Václav Havel Program for Human Rights and Diplomacy, told the hundreds of participants at the July 21 FIU conference: “This is not only about Cuba. It’s about the future of democracy in the world. We have an obligation to help, and we have a chance to help. This is a transatlantic issue and certainly a global issue.”

Arcos underscored the importance of this moment: “What we saw in the streets of Cuba and in the streets of Miami is that there has been a generational shift. Younger people have taken the cause of freedom and have made it theirs. They have demonstrated that they have the passion, and they have the interest.” The leaders of this new movement are “a cross-section of Cuba and they are younger, darker and female. Young people and women especially have played an incredible role” in these demonstrations.

In neighboring Venezuela, opposition leaders have praised the pro-democratic movement in Cuba, added Astrid Arraras, professor in the Department of Politics and International Relations. It was summed up by Carlos Saladrigas, an entrepreneur and president of the Cuba Study Group: “This is not the beginning of the end,’’ he added. “We are seeing a vindication of openness and communication. None of this is going to be resolved in a day. We need to think of this as a process.”

This process, however, must start with facing the truth. That is why Landrove’s message, addressed to her friends on the left whatever they may call themselves—socialists, Marxists, progressives, liberals, whatever—is particularly powerful. They will have to decide where they stand, “how they define revolution, people, sovereignty, freedom, and what type of world they want to build when they use these words.” Absolutely. Words with respectable pedigrees have been repurposed with Gramscian-Leninist cynicism into their precise opposite, while progressives do not flinch as history marches backward to slavery.

The Castro dictatorship and most of the American media call the U.S. economic embargo a “blockade,” flying in the face of U.S.-Cuba trade statistics over the past 20 years. What does exist, reports the Center for a Free Cuba, is an “internal blockade” on Cubans imposed by the regime. Its website provides ample details. Also, do pay attention also to Cuba’s cozy relationship with Iran, which was re-established in 1979. On June 18, for example, the president of the Assembly’s International Relations Committee, Yolanda Ferrer, gushed on Twitter about welcoming Seyed Mohammad Hadi Sobhani, from the Islamic Republic, to discuss their “solid bilateral relations.”

To ignore reality and use words disingenuously is bad enough. But Landrove has one more request: “And they will also have to decide when to stay silent, because silence in the face of injustice is complicity.”

While examining their conscience, they would be well advised to read Against All Hope, the 1986 prison memoir of Armando Valladares, the nation’s Solzhenitsyn. The book ends by describing an orgy of blood, when suddenly a man emerged, “raising his arms to the invisible heaven and pleading for mercy for his executioners.” He was summarily gunned down. But his image stays indelibly etched in the reader’s mind. Let us not forsake him and his brave people.

Juliana Geran Pilon is a senior fellow at the Alexander Hamilton Institute for the Study of Western Civilization. She is the author of several books, including The Art of Peace: Engaging a Complex World (2016), and her latest, The Utopian Conceit and the War on Freedom, was published in September of 2019.

https://lawliberty.org/what-does-the-left-think-about-cuba-now/

Center for a Free Cuba, August 5, 2021

Statement made by CFC executive director John Suarez at hearing with Republican Leader Kevin McCarth, Governor Ron DeSantis, Lt. Governor Jeannette Nuñez, Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart and the Leader’s Advisory Team on Cuba:

Screen Shot 2021-08-06 at 4.15.50 PM.png

Source: ADNCuba

Thank you for the opportunity to take part in this roundtable discussion on the ongoing situation in Cuba. 

The Castro regime is a communist dictatorship that has killed tens of thousands of Cubans, and created a police state terrorizing millions. Fidel and Raul Castro along with thousands of their soldiers went to Ethiopia to assist  war criminal Mengistu Haile Mariam consolidate power and commit genocide.

The Castro dictatorship undermines and compromises democracies in Latin America, turning Venezuela into a colony where thousands of soldiers, and spies torture, rape, and kill Venezuelan dissidents. Havana for over six decades has sponsored international terrorism on several continents and created terrorist groups still operating today. It is not an overstatement to say they are experts in violence and terror.

Notwithstanding, on July 11th protests began in San Antonio de los Baños, just South of Havana, and spread across Cuba in over 50 cities and towns demanding freedom.

President Miguel Diaz Canel, handpicked by Raul Castro, called for violence in a nationally televised address: “They [protesters] would have to pass over our dead bodies if they want to confront the revolution, and we are willing to resort to anything.”

Protests in Cuba are common. Nationwide mass protests involving tens of thousands are rare due to the lack of communication, regime surveillance and repression that shutdown planning for large-scale protests. 

The July 11, 2021 nationwide revolt and the August 5, 1994 uprising now known as the Maleconazo , succeeded because they were spontaneous and caught secret police off guard. Protests in 1994 were confined to Havana, while in 2021 they spread across Cuba due to social media.

Now as then the regime response was extremely violent with shots fired on unarmed protesters, brutal beatings, violent house to house searches, and mass arrests. 14ymedio reported 5,000 detained and Cubalex identified over 780 missing or detained in the current protests.

Videos of Cuban shock troops firing on unarmed protesters, and regime agents with baseball bats attacking dissidents leaked out over social media shocking the international community.

There is a growing American bipartisan consensus in solidarity with Cubans’ desire to live in a free and democratic Cuba that “condemns the violence ordered by Miguel Dıaz-Canel against peaceful protesters,” and recognizes the Castro regime as oppressing the Cuban people.

These sentiments are in the bipartisan Senate Resolution unanimously approved on August 3rd. It also reflects the Biden administration’s statements on Cuba.  These public statements are important, but sustained actions are also needed.

The Center for a Free Cuba (CFC) has asked for the opening of a humanitarian channel, independent of the Cuban state, which will allow the arrival of food and medicine directly to Cubans, understanding that on previous occasions Havana has blocked and confiscated the aid collected and sent.

CFC is also calling for the expansion of Magnitsky sanctions on functionaries of Cuba’s political-military junta, Cuban Communist Party members, all the members of organizations and institutions (and their relatives), that participate in repressive acts against Cubans. The U.S. Economic embargo on Cuba, especially the elements that target restrictions on the Castro regime’s military involvement in the economy must be fully enforced, and defended at international venues.

Radio Marti must be fully funded, and programming expanded and improved.

CFC has reviewed workable options that would provide uncensored internet in Cuba and actively encourage democratic governments, civil society, and the private sector to facilitate the free flow of information into Cuba. Looking back at the poor record of American tech companies that entered into joint ventures with Beijing, the Center is concerned that Google signed agreements with Havana that may result in complicity with the dictatorship, not engagement with the Cuban people.

Improved relations with Havana must be conditioned to specific reforms.

1.   A general amnesty for all political prisoners like the one Fidel Castro received in 1955 from the Batista government;

2.   That the Castro government withdraw its troops and military leadership from Venezuela;

3.   That Havana eliminate all restrictions and regime profiteering on the distribution of humanitarian aid from international organizations and from Cuban Americans to needy Cubans in the island.

It is also important not to confuse engagement with the Cuban people with collaborating with the dictatorship that oppresses them.

Before Hugo Chavez and Nicolas Maduro bailed out Havana, European, Canadian and Latin American investors helped fund Castroism and keep it afloat. It was complicity with a dictatorship oppressing Cubans, and in the case of Latin America led to the destabilization and destruction of Venezuela’s democracy.

This has continued to the present. The Spanish government in 2020 sold $1.4 million in weapons to the Castro regime. These included “revolvers and automatic pistols, automatic weapons with a caliber of 12.7mm” that included “rifles, revolvers, pistols, machine guns, silencers, chargers for these weapons, and optical sights.”  These kinds of weapons were used against protesters in the July 11th protests.

This is why CFC is joining with voices from the island to call for an international embargo on weapons and repressive equipment being sent or sold to Cuba.

Now is the time for the international community to side with Cubans, not their oppressors.

https://www.cubacenter.org/articles-and-events/2021/8/5/republican-congressional-and-state-of-florida-leaders-meet-with-cuban-pro-democracy-activists