CubaBrief: Anti-government protests continue to break out in Cuba demanding ‘Freedom!’ Mary O’Grady in the WSJ calls flirting with dictators in Cuba and Venezuela foreign-policy malpractice

Chloe Mayer in the October 11, 2022 article “Protests Break Out Against Cuba’s Communist Party—’Freedom! Freedom!‘” published today in Newsweek reported that “protests have intensified in Cuba as fury grows over power and internet blackouts across the Caribbean island, two weeks after it was hit by Hurricane Ian.” She added that “the demonstrations follow civil unrest earlier this month and large-scale protests that broke out last summer as frustration grows with the ruling Communist Party. Residents assembled in the streets on Monday night, according to reports, to chant their demands, crying out: ‘Freedom! Freedom!'”

Below is a video shared by journalist Mario J. Penton on the evening of October 10, 2022 where protesters in Cuba are chanting “Freedom!” in anti-government protests.

Despite massive repression across the island, protests continue to erupt in Cuba. There are many reasons why Cubans are upset with the Castro regime. One of them is highlighted in the Wall Street Journal.

Journalist Mary Anastasia O’Grady in her October 9, 2022 column “Biden Flirts With Tropical Tyrants Doing business with dictators in Cuba and Venezuela is foreign-policy malpractice” published in The Wall Street Journal explained that it is the Cuban government blocking aid from going directly to Cubans impacted by Hurricane Ian.

“There are no restrictions on the military dictatorship’s purchases of food or medicine from the U.S. But the notorious deadbeat borrower can’t get credit from U.S. institutions. As for construction materials necessary to rebuild, they may easily be purchased in Mexico, Canada and Europe—to name a few markets. The regime must know this since a building boom in luxury hotels has been under way since at least 2016. Plenty of Americans want to help their Cuban brethren. But Havana won’t allow private aid organizations or the U.S. government to send donations directly to Cubans. Shipments must go through the corrupt regime.”

Now is not the time for the Biden Administration to enrich the coffers of the Castro regime’s military oligarchy. Now is the time to leverage the Cuban government to allow direct assistance to Cubans impacted by the storm.

President Joe Biden was right when he said of Cuba on July 15, 2021 that is a failed state, and that assistance sent to Cuba would be confiscated by the dictatorship and not reach the Cuban people.

“Cuba is unfortunately a failed state and repressing their citizens. There are a number of things that we would consider doing to help the people of Cuba, but it would require a different circumstance or a guarantee that they would not be taken advantage of by the government. For example, the ability to send remittances back to Cuba. We would not do that now because the fact is it’s highly likely the regime would confiscate those remittances or big chunks of it.”

Hurricane Ian, and the Cuban government response, has demonstrated that the assessment made by President Biden about Cuba remains accurate.


Newsweek, October 11, 2022

News

Protests Break Out Against Cuba’s Communist Party—’Freedom! Freedom!’

By Chloe Mayer On 10/11/22 at 12:35 PM EDT

Protests have intensified in Cuba as fury grows over power and internet blackouts across the Caribbean island, two weeks after it was hit by Hurricane Ian.

The demonstrations follow civil unrest earlier this month and large-scale protests that broke out last summer as frustration grows with the ruling Communist Party. Residents assembled in the streets on Monday night, according to reports, to chant their demands, crying out: “Freedom! Freedom!”

The entire country was plunged into darkness for days after it was battered by Hurricane Ian on September 27, with residents blaming the government for the infrastructure’s collapse and accusing officials of responding too slowly to fix it.

Some areas are still without power two weeks on, with a press release posted on the Cuban government’s own website on Monday revealing that in the province of Pinar del Rio just “38.5% of the electricity service has been restored” while the water supply situation remains “complex.” More than 10,000 homes in the province were “total collapses,” an account of an official meeting noted.

Some analysts noted a drop in internet use after the storm, before it was cut almost entirely two days later on September 30. Before the connection went down, some news had filtered out about protests. Last week, internet monitor NetBlocks.org posted a chart showing the sudden outage, with director Alp Toker saying: “We can confirm the near-total internet blackout in Cuba. We believe the incident is likely to significantly impact the free flow of information amid protests.”

Now it appears that the demonstrations are not over, with reports they have flared up again this week in Spanish online newspaper CiberCuba. The site was set up by Cuban expats in 2014 to report on the island—whose own press is heavily censored, according to Amnesty International.

CiberCuba reports that citizens have taken to the streets to bang pots and pans, honk their car horns, and chant slogans. Protests have taken place in the capital Havana, as well as Bejucal, Güines, Jaruco and San José de las Lajas, the site added.

CiberCuba quoted an unnamed Cuban woman, now living outside the country but in touch with people there, as saying Cubans “no longer want more promises or empty words; they want freedom… they’ve already taken away the internet; I’ve lost contact with everyone there.” The protest in Bejucal was particularly busy, CiberCuba said, reporting that a large crowd marched through the streets crying: “Freedom! Freedom!”

Newsweek has reached out to the Cuban government for comment.

An article on the independent blog Havana Times on Sunday claims most of the country’s crops have been decimated by the hurricane, with frustration increasingly turning towards officials. One farmer was quoted as saying: “We’ve spent years trying to get paid for our products. The state doesn’t pay well and it doesn’t pay on time. We had to wait until a hurricane passed through this area and destroyed everything for senior officials to meet with the guajiros [farm workers].”

It is unclear whether Cuba’s President, Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, or Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz have addressed the issue. But Humberto López, a presenter on Cuban state television, warned citizens of the consequences of “anarchy” in Cuba, adding: “There are laws here, there is a criminal code that is very clear.”

Back in July 2021, Cuba saw its biggest anti-government protests in decades. Thousands took to the streets to demand change as they demonstrated against food shortages, power failures, and U.S. sanctions.

The U.S. sanctioned the island nation in 1962 when President John F. Kennedy introduced a trade embargo in a bid to stop the spread of Communism. The sanctions remain one of the world’s longest-running boycotts of one country by another.

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken met with activists from Cuba, as well as from Nicaragua and Venezuela, calling them “human rights defenders, [who are] making sure, to the best of their ability, that people in their countries have a voice despite the governments and regimes that are trying to silence them.”

Newsweek has reached out to the State Department for comment on reports of the latest Cuban protests.

https://www.newsweek.com/cuba-protests-demonstrations-internet-blackouts-1750828

The Wall Street Journal, October 9, 2022

Biden Flirts With Tropical Tyrants

Doing business with dictators in Cuba and Venezuela is foreign-policy malpractice.

By Mary Anastasia O’Grady

Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro at a meeting in Caracas, Venezuela, Oct. 4.Photo: Getty Images/Getty Images

At first glance Vladimir Putin and Hurricane Ian would seem to have little in common. But the American left is using both as excuses to push for a U.S. return to the Obama-era policy of treating governments in Venezuela and Cuba more normally. The Biden administration is signaling that it may go along with these mental gymnastics—no matter how nonsensical.

[…]

The Biden Cuba policy isn’t much better. The administration demonstrated its tolerance for Havana’s brutality against its own people in May by easing travel and remittance restrictions, despite the nasty July 11, 2021, crackdown on dissidents. Hundreds of political prisoners rounded up at that time languish in Cuban dungeons. Mr. Biden looks the other way.

Now comes Hurricane Ian, which apologists for the failed revolution view as a glorious opportunity to pounce on the U.S. embargo and try, yet again, to wring money out of the gringos.

[…]

There are no restrictions on the military dictatorship’s purchases of food or medicine from the U.S. But the notorious deadbeat borrower can’t get credit from U.S. institutions. As for construction materials necessary to rebuild, they may easily be purchased in Mexico, Canada and Europe—to name a few markets. The regime must know this since a building boom in luxury hotels has been under way since at least 2016.

Plenty of Americans want to help their Cuban brethren. But Havana won’t allow private aid organizations or the U.S. government to send donations directly to Cubans. Shipments must go through the corrupt regime.

[…]

https://www.wsj.com/articles/biden-flirts-with-tropical-tyrants-venezuela-maduro-cuba-oil-sanctions-hurricane-ian-democracy-aid-11665327545