Psychologically, The Cuban Government Has Lost The Nation by Robert Covington Jr.
One month ago, July 11th 2021, thousands of Cubans (predominantly mulatto and Afro/black Cubans) went to the streets to protest against their starvation and daily suffering. The unwanted bravery it took to wake up and decide to chant for change, cry for freedom and scream for recognition of their humanity, knowing that this act of impulsion grounded in desperation could result in arrest, government sponsored brutality and death, reflected the depths of their despair and the courage in their conviction. As the events unfolded on TV, I, along with my half-Cuban family watched with emotion and empathy from afar. We admired their passion, praised their solidarity and feared for their lives.
The protesters knew that their personal stories of food shortages, poor quality of food that is available to everyday Cubans that are not in tourism or receiving money from outside the country(disproportionately sent to white Cubans), is something most Cubans experience everyday. The protesters knew that the difficulties in having their basic needs met, lack of housing, generations of families forced to live in horrible housing and bathroom conditions, the blackouts and the trauma associated with that reality, is all too common for Cubans across the nation.
The largely peaceful protests gave a public voice to conversations that are happening in Cuban households, neighborhoods and communities, but behind closed doors. Millions of Cubans live in abject poverty and know that the long lines, unhealthy and unsafe conditions, and the community based suffering is not what they envisioned for themselves or for their families.
Millions of Cubans know that it is dangerous to speak in public about their issues, worries and concerns. That any harsh criticism caught on camera or told to the neighborhood government representative(Committee for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR)i.e. block presidents in Cuba), may result in losing your job, getting kicked out of the University, arrested or placed under surveillance. This is the reality in Cuba on the ground and everyone knows it. This is the antithesis of a free and open society. Without a doubt, it is the Cuban government that has created widespread fear and repression with its own people, not the US embargo.
The peaceful protesters told their fellow Cubans that you are not alone. Their actions told fellow Cubans that you are not crazy or insane to question your circumstances, to want more than what you have, to believe in hope and possibility, and to have faith in things not seen. And it cost them dearly. The Cuban government shut down the internet so they could begin a major crackdown on protesters by arresting them, beating them, utilizing their version of green and black beret forces to question, interrogate and invade homes to make examples out of their audacity to want a better life. There have been reports of unfair and illegal trials and some families have no idea if their son, daughter, niece or nephew is still alive or dead.
The peaceful protesters sacrificed their bodies, livelihood and future in Cuba so that fellow Cubans do not give up on their dreams and to see the hypocrisy, contradictions, and failures of the Cuban government with laser like clarity. Predictably, the Cuban government achieved their immediate goal of quelling any momentum that the protests might have started with their brutal response. On script for anyone growing up in Cuba, the Cuban government had pro-revolutionary marches, speeches of Fidel Castro can be heard in the streets and a strong police presence can be seen in different parts of the country.
In the short term, psychological manipulation combined with repressive tactics are very difficult to overcome. But this battle to fundamentally change the nation of Cuba must first start with changing the hearts and minds of the Cuban people. The painful truth is in the reality of everyday life of the Cuban people. And the protesters exposed it on a level that hasn’t been seen, arguably since the revolution started. History will show these random, nameless protesters to be heroes of a healthy movement that has just begun. The Cuban government is still in control, but at least psychologically, they have lost the nation.
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