On Sunday, July 11, thousands of Cubans took to the streets in the largest and most widespread demonstrations challenging the government since the Cuban Revolution triumphed in 1959. The demonstrators, mainly young people, mobilized through social media, were protesting the harsh economic conditions that the island is living through in the context of the near-collapse of the tourism industry brought on over the last year by the COVID-19 pandemic and tightened U.S. sanctions.
Not surprisingly the mainstream news media in the United States seized on the events and President Biden declared that Cuba was a “failed state” that had abandoned its people. Hardline elements in the Cuban American community called for military intervention to bring down the Cuban government.
Ten days after the demonstrations it is possible to get a better perspective on the Cuban reality. Cuba is undergoing a serious economic crisis and is suffering through a significant rise in COVID-19 cases, but it is far from a failed state. On Saturday, July 17, tens of thousands of Cubans took to the streets to defend the government and its response to the economic crisis and the pandemic, far greater numbers than had mobilized the previous weekend.
Rather than failing its people in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing economic crisis Cuban, scientists have developed and their biotech industry has manufactured two highly effective vaccines that are now being administered to the populace in a systematic way that the country will likely be fully vaccinated by the end of the year. This will allow Cuba to re-open for the 2021-2022 tourist season and begin to work its way out of the economic crisis ahead of many other countries in the Global South, including Latin America.
The Biden administration has continued to punish Cuba with harsh new sanctions imposed by the Trump administration in spite of campaign promises to lift them. It is time for all supporters of the Cuban people to speak with one voice to demand that the United States immediately restore the means for U.S. citizens to send life-saving remittances to the island and for Washington to fully re-open the US Embassy in Havana allowing for Cubans who wish to emigrate to the United States to do so and for others to visit their relatives.
This message will be presented to the Biden administration on Sunday, July 25. In Washington, there will be a rally in Lafayette Park where Cuban Americans led by Carlos Lazo will present a petition calling for the end of the blockade. The rally comes at the end of a 1500 mile walk from Miami by Lazo and his supporters that was designed to call attention to the current suffering of the Cuban people under the long-standing blockade. Minnesotans will rally on Sunday at 3 PM at Walker Community Church, 3104 16th Avenue South in Minneapolis to show support for the rally in Washington and many other U.S. cities and to promote the 2021 Pastors for Peace caravan to Cuba in November.
Submitted by Gary Prevost and August Nimtz
Minnesota Cuba Committee