CubaBrief: The World Must Not Turn Its Back on Cuba. Main Cuban oxygen plant fails amid COVID-19 surge. MLB strikes out in Cuba by trying to go into business with Fidel Castro’s son Antonio

Havana Times has published an essay by Ronal Quiñones today titled “The World Must Not Turn Its Back on Cuba” that is a call to action for Cubans in the diaspora, and friends of freedom around the world. It challenges those outside of Cuba who ” want more glorious days like that Sunday (July 11, 2021)” to help put a stop to the brutal repression by the regime carried out against Cubans who stood up and expressed themselves that day.

Quiñones asks those living abroad who want more mass protests in Cuba “to concentrate their efforts on trying to ensure that we can repeat these protests without violence.”

Protests across Cuba on July 11-13, 2021

The author gives a simple answer of how to do it, but it is not an easy answer. “By applying international pressure, like the world did to overthrow the Apartheid government in South Africa, or to force Pinochet to hold a plebiscite. It was a colossal task that took years, but it’s the only way. Leaders in this country need to feel alone, censored even by their allies, so that Cubans are granted the freedoms they have by Law. There’s no other way because they won’t leave power voluntarily, and the military option will never come, because nobody would dare.”

Part of this requires international solidarity and communication reflected by information emerging from Cuba, and the diaspora agitating for change around the world. This is why the internet is an important component to getting timely information.

VICE News published a video short titled “Why Cuba Doesn’t Want Its Citizens Online” that explains how the regime shut down the internet during the protests last month, and the efforts of young Cubans abroad to bring attention to what is happening in Cuba.

The situation in Cuba is dire with the dictatorship’s public health minister claiming on August 15th that “efforts were underway to restart the country’s main oxygen factory which had broken down even as the death toll from COVID-19 on Saturday reached 98, equal to the pandemic record.” Reuters is reporting from Cuba and is the source for the quote. The numbers provided by Havana are not reliable, but the reality that there is a crisis unfolding is self-evident.

However, to achieve international pressure on the regime, the Cuban diaspora and friends of freedom will have to place pressure with those who have embraced and legitimized the dictatorship. Major League Baseball should not be collaborating with the Castro regime.

Author Paul Kengor in a August 15, 2021 column “MLB strikes out in Cuba” wrote about the silence of Major League Baseball “on the Cuban people’s freedom struggles, despite the game’s close ties with Cuban players.” Kengor points out that “the last reliable numbers we had (early 2000s) revealed that the entire payroll for the Cuban national team was $2,400 — yes, for the entire team. Each man on the roster of 20 players was paid a paltry $120 per year, just like everyone else in Cuba, from doctors to teachers to maintenance workers. That is what absolute equal redistribution of wealth of wealth looks like.” He went on to report how Forbes Magazine had estimated the late Fidel Castro’s net worth at $900 million.

Left out was the information that would explain MLB’s silence that is found in Mary Anastasia O’Grady’s “Baseball Says Cuba ‘Sí,’ Georgia ‘No,’ ” (Americas, April 12, 2021): Antonio Castro, a son of the late dictator Fidel Castro, is the vice president of the Cuban Baseball Federation. Major League baseball was directly involved with him in the negotiations to “garnish [Cuban ballplayers’] salaries and send the dollars back to the dictatorship,” wrote Ms. O’Grady.

If the negotiations had prospered under a more friendly Administration in the White House, Major League Baseball (MLB) would be trafficking Cuban players, who are predominantly black, to enrich a dictatorship whose nomenklatura is predominantly white, and has a dismal track record on race. MLB owners need to be called out on this, make amends, and demonstrate with actions their solidarity with the Cuban people not their oppressors.

Now is the time for choosing and accountability.

Havana Times, August 16, 2021

The World Must Not Turn Its Back on Cuba

Untitled photo by Juan Suarez

Untitled photo by Juan Suarez

By Ronal Quiñones

HAVANA TIMES – It’s been more than a month now since the mass protests that took place in Cuba, on July 11th. Some people are wondering what has changed in the country since then, and the answer is not very much. What’s more, the things that have changed are only to cover up the tense sense of calm that Cubans have been living with for over a year.

Yep, because what happened that Sunday was the result of previous events, ever since residents in Havana’s San Isidro neighborhood rose up, or since a group of artists went to protest outside the Ministry of Culture. The historic July 11th protests were a popular uprising, which wasn’t called by anyone in particular, just a handful of gunpowder scattered across pretty much the whole island, in a surprising and shocking way. We’ve been sitting on top of a volcano for months now, and it was going to erupt at any moment.

Outside Cuba, some people want more glorious days like that Sunday, but the brutal repression many protestors fell victim to, especially those who became temporary leaders, has most people sitting in their homes.

So, to the people outside calling for Cubans like me, ordinary Cubans, to take action, I’m asking them to concentrate their efforts on trying to ensure that we can repeat these protests without violence.

How exactly? By applying international pressure, like the world did to overthrow the Apartheid government in South Africa, or to force Pinochet to hold a plebiscite. It was a colossal task that took years, but it’s the only way.

Leaders in this country need to feel alone, censored even by their allies, so that Cubans are granted the freedoms they have by Law. There’s no other way because they won’t leave power voluntarily, and the military option will never come, because nobody would dare.

So, efforts need to be doubled down in diplomatic circles. The international Cuban community’s pressure, which is strong and decisive – both in quantitative and qualitative terms – cannot stop. Just don’t wait for more protests that will only bring further beatings and add more martyrs.

The blockade is finally playing its part and hitting the dictators where it hurts them the most, but it’s not enough. Now is the time we have to continue to close in around them, when they have less and less allies, and get to the UN. The UN Commission on Human Rights has to take action and enter Cuba with an inquiry commission, to make sure that every Cuban can express themselves freely.

Havana photo by Juan Suarez

Havana photo by Juan Suarez

Of course, the people living off these people’s sweat and backs will try to prevent this at all costs, but international pressure needs to be turned up, just like it has been successful in other parts of the world in the past, and it will be here too if the struggle continues.

Measures adopted by the Biden Administration to sanction Cuban police force members will do no good. These adults, to be polite, have no interest in visiting the US or have foreign bank accounts in their names, they are a lot smarter than that. If you’re going to try and punish them like this, you have to get to their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews and anyone who has a blood tie to them. They’d be hurt if they weren’t allowed to travel.

Those of us here will continue to fight with peaceful resistance, and will take to the streets now and again, but this can’t be the means that action abroad moves for. Now is the time for the dictatorship to pay once and for all for pushing them to live in exile, and they will regret having done so sooner or later, because they will be the ones to enforce change.

It’s practically impossible for this change to come from within national borders when it is a matter of unarmed civilians against a totalitarian state that is willing to do anything, like its leader always says.

Trying (because I don’t believe they will manage to do this) to make sure that every Cuban has access to the Internet won’t solve the problem either. Of course, it’s a help, and a great help at that, especially because it will help to open up many people’s eyes, and can also open the world’s eyes thanks to the only weapon the Cuban people have right now: cellphones.

Here, we will continue to document every clash, every disappearance, kidnapping and beating, even though the inept of the hour on the TV News will say that it’s enough to ask for somebody at a Police station or to present a Habeas Corpus petition to know where someone is.

Thanks to the Internet, every one of these lies will be exposed because every mother, sister or wife won’t be afraid of denouncing what has happened to their loved ones, but in order to be heard, everybody needs to feel like they aren’t being threatened, and this will only happen when third parties look out for them and make sure the Law is being upheld.

It’s not gratuitous that this Government has refused time and time again to sign the Human Rights treaties promoted by the UN. By not recognizing its organizations, it does not have the obligation to allow them to enter the country, but the world is applying pressure for this to happen.

International organizations have to mediate, without a single gun, so that Cuban society is able to express itself freely. We live on an island, and this country can’t be self-sufficient, it needs foreign aid. If this aid is eliminated, or the condition of free elections is placed, for example, we could win the battle.

Violence is my enemy, but I won’t shy away from it if need be. The thing is that in a situation like the one we have here, I don’t think it’s advisable, because we can’t compete on a level playing field. No country will intervene with military force in Cuba, let everyone know that, because it’s never happened before in places where thousands of people were being killed, and it won’t happen here.

As a result, we have to win the war with lobbying, diplomacy, but with a firm hand. They have to understand, for better or worse, that the Cuban people want radical change, not just four decrees to give the self-employed some freedoms or more lenient Customs regulations.

We have to continue with our peaceful resistance here, and abroad, people need to be knocking on every door and showing the truth so that nobody is left unaffected. Only international pressure will force change.

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times.

https://havanatimes.org/opinion/the-world-must-not-turn-its-back-on-cuba/

Reuters, August 15, 2021

Main Cuban oxygen plant fails amid COVID-19 surge

By Marc Frank

HAVANA: Cuba’s public health minister said on Sunday efforts were underway to restart the country’s main oxygen factory which had broken down even as the death toll from COVID-19 on Saturday reached 98, equal to the pandemic record.

Minister Jose Angel Portal’s appearance on the state’s mid-day news broadcast came as a Delta-driven surge in coronavirus cases and deaths swamped some provincial health services.

Daily cases are averaging between 8,000 and 9,000 and fatalities at nearly 1% of cases, low by international standards but high for Cuba which last year had a death rate of 0.67%.

As of Saturday Cuba had reported 577,668 cases and 4,023 deaths.

The health crisis, on top of an economic one that saw the economy fall 10.9% last year, and an additional 2% through June compared with the same period last year, has resulted in a scarcity of consumer goods and frayed nerves in the Communist-run country. Last month tens of thousands took to the streets in protest, the most serious unrest since the early days of the 1959 Revolution.

Residents and some medical staff have taken to social media complaining of treatment in a land that prides itself for the quality of its free health system.

The country of 11.2 million residents has fully vaccinated three million with homegrown vaccines, with another two million expected to get a final shot before September.

Last week, official comments seemingly blaming health workers for collapsing health services provoked an unusual push back on social media with doctors blaming the government for a lack of supplies and poor management.

Portal took pains on Sunday to praise “the work of our health professionals on the front lines” while admitting there were shortages of some medicines used to treat COVID patients, 80% of which are produced locally.

Cuba’s Health Minister said a high-level commission was doing everything possible to make up for the oxygen shortage without indicating when the main plant would come back online.

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https://health.economictimes.indiatimes.com/news/industry/main-cuban-oxygen-plant-fails-amid-covid-19-surge/85362261

The Coastland Times, August 15, 2021

Paul Kengor: MLB strikes out in Cuba

“MLB remained absent-mindedly and cowardly mute on the Cuban people’s freedom struggles, despite the game’s close ties with Cuban players.”

So writes David, a Pittsburgh native and reader of my columns.

David continues: “The league has no excuse now for dodging the political issues of the day as they arise. Aroldis Chapman represented the New York Yankees at the All-Star Game in Denver — and he certainly to his credit didn’t shy away from the hot-button issue of the week: the ongoing protests and demonstrations against Communism in Cuba, about which social and sporting institutions have remained silent.”

As David noted, Chapman was quite vocal in his solidarity with his people, writing “SOS Cuba” and “Patria Y Vida” on his game hat. His commendable gesture was joined by Texas Rangers outfielder Adolis Garcia. Both players are defectors from Cuba.

Has Major League Baseball joined them in their protest of communist Cuba’s abuses? Not at all.

And this isn’t the first time that MLB’s silence in the face of Cuban oppression has been pointed out. Back in April, before the current uprising in the Cuban streets, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., called out the “hypocrisy” of MLB and commissioner Rob Manfred for relocating the All-Star Game from Atlanta to Denver in protest over Georgia’s new election laws while mum on abuses in nations like Cuba and China. “Will Major League Baseball now end its engagement with nations that do not hold elections at all like China and Cuba?” Rubio asked.

In a number of columns here the last few months, I wrote about the outrageousness of MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred politicizing America’s national pastime by yanking the All-Star Game out of Atlanta as a result of his partisan interpretation of Georgia’s new election-integrity laws. That game, in case you missed it (I did—recall that I’m boycotting baseball for the entirety of the 2021 season), was played last week in Denver rather than Atlanta.

In those columns, I noted that Manfred opened up himself and MLB to all sorts of charges of hypocrisy in the future, because such is what happens when you politicize baseball. Fans wonder why Manfred punishes say, city X rather than city Z, or state A rather than state B, for this or that alleged political infraction. In one of my articles, I noted that Pennsylvania has certain voter criteria more restrictive than Georgia’s, and I thus asked if MLB would be boycotting Pirates and Phillies games. Once you open this door and go down this road of politics, you’re vulnerable to complaints of double standards. That’s why baseball should stick to baseball and get its big nose out of politics.

In the case of Cuba, the hypocrisy is even worse. Not only does Cuba obviously have far more stringent voting restrictions than Georgia or anywhere in America or the entire Western Hemisphere — being a communist dictatorship — but baseball players in Cuba have no wage and labor rights.

The last reliable numbers we had (early 2000s) revealed that the entire payroll for the Cuban national team was $2,400 — yes, for the entire team. Each man on the roster of 20 players was paid a paltry $120 per year, just like everyone else in Cuba, from doctors to teachers to maintenance workers. That is what absolute equal redistribution of wealth of wealth looks like.

But like every communist country, while everyone is equal, some are more equal than others. No one in Cuba has had a payroll quite like the Castro brothers. Forbes magazine estimated Fidel Castro’s net worth at the time of his death at a cool $900 million. He was regularly ranked one of the top 10 wealthiest rulers in the world.

Of course, Cubans painfully realize their horrible situation. They flee the country when they can.

Today, MLB is the home to a huge number of Cuban nationals who escaped this madness. And many of those freedom seekers no doubt wonder how Rob Manfred can punish the city of Atlanta for alleged injustices that come nowhere near the horrible injustices suffered by Cubans for over 60 years.

MLB strikes out again.

Paul Kengor is a professor of political science and chief academic fellow of the Institute for Faith & Freedom at Grove City College.

https://www.thecoastlandtimes.com/2021/08/15/guest-opinion-mlb-strikes-out-in-cuba/

From the archives

The Wall Street Journal, April 18, 2021

MLB Hypocrisy and the Racist Castro Regime

A special brand of absurdity gives CEOs license to lecture us on Georgia voting rights while doing business with murderous Communist regimes.

Cuban President Raul Castro, right, cheers next to U.S. President Barack Obama, his wife Michelle, and their daughters Sasha and Malia, at the start of a baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national baseball team, in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, March 22, 2016 Photo: AP

Cuban President Raul Castro, right, cheers next to U.S. President Barack Obama, his wife Michelle, and their daughters Sasha and Malia, at the start of a baseball game between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Cuban national baseball team, in Havana, Cuba, Tuesday, March 22, 2016 Photo: AP

Regarding Mary Anastasia O’Grady’s “Baseball Says Cuba ‘Sí,’ Georgia ‘No,’ ” Americas, April 12): Antonio Castro, a son of the late dictator Fidel Castro, is the vice president of the Cuban Baseball Federation. Major League baseball was directly involved with him in the negotiations to “garnish [Cuban ballplayers’] salaries and send the dollars back to the dictatorship,” as Ms. O’Grady writes. If not for the prior U.S. administration, MLB would be trafficking Cuban players, who are predominantly black, to enrich a dictatorship whose nomenklatura is predominantly white.

The MLB was happy to ignore the murder of young black Cubans by Castro’s police and the silencing of Cubans who speak out. A high-profile example was the extrajudicial killing of a black youth this past summer. Hansel E. Hernández, 27, was shot in the back by police on June 24, 2020. Civil society was silenced when questions were raised, and the dictatorship organized a “heroes of the blue” social-media campaign to promote its officers. Does Major League Baseball wish to continue its collaboration with this racist and repressive police state?

John Suarez

Center for a Free Cuba

Falls Church, Va.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/mlb-hypocrisy-and-the-racist-castro-regime-11618756980