On Sunday, July 11, the people of Cuba took to the streets to protest the oppressive, communist dictatorship. Those protests continue today. The news reports misstated that they were protesting the government’s mishandling of the COVID-19 crisis. The Cuban government lied pointing the finger at the US embargo. Food and medical supplies have always been exempt from the embargo, and the rest of the world does not have an embargo on Cuba. The protests in Cuba are not because of the government’s mishandling of COVID-19 or the U.S. embargo. The protests stem from 62 years of an oppressive, communist dictatorship. The people were dying at the hands of the government and are now at a point where they are no longer afraid to die.
Many Americans cannot fathom what is going on in Cuba. My grandma left Cuba to come to the US when Batista was still in power. Castro overthrew Batista in 1959 promising the people a better life: free healthcare, free housing, and equality for all. Instead of a better life, he took military and political power implementing communist rule.
Shortly after things got much worse. My grandma, fortunately, was able to get her seven sisters out of Cuba. Her one brother stayed, and I had the opportunity to meet his son 10 years ago in Nevada while he was visiting family. He had to get permission from the Cuban government and U.S. government to travel to the U.S. He told me about how Castro delivered on his promise to make everyone equal — equally poor. The Castro regime took over everything. They eliminated private property. There were no jobs in the private sector because there was no private sector. Everyone was forced to work for the state, the Castro regime.
The state provided free education, but the education was only state-approved propaganda and skill training to fill the occupations the state needed filled. The state-provided free health care, but only to keep people healthy enough to continue to do the work the state needed them to do. Everyone received the same monthly allotment of food and wage which was never enough to last a month. This led to widespread food shortages, long lines for food, and healthcare. The people were suffering long before COVID-19.
Today, Castro is gone, but nothing has changed. The people are fed up. When tourists visit Cuba their money goes straight to the communist government, not the people. If a tourist tries to tip while visiting, they will find that their tip is not accepted. Every neighborhood has an undercover “Revolucionario” (spy) to keep tabs on people and make sure they don’t have anything more than they are supposed to have. If they do, then the state disappears them.
We take for granted the opportunity and freedom we have here in the U.S. The Cuban people are at the point where they are willing to die for freedom. The communist regime cut off the internet and communication so that the people cannot share videos and images of the government brutality with the rest of the world.
Supporting the Cuban people should not be a partisan issue. Secretary Mayorkas of the Department of Homeland Security said: “…if you take to the Sea, you will not come to the United States.” The people of Cuba need to know we are on their side. President Biden can do more than sanction Cuba. The people need internet. We need to spread their message: #SOSCUBA #CUBALIBRE
Jack Cutter is a second-generation Cuban American, a graduate of the University of Colorado, and owner of Cutter Consulting LLC, a digital consulting firm in Colorado.