Friday, December 3

Democracy is what Cuba needs | Opinion

Police arrest protesters in front of the Cuban Capitol in Havana.
Police arrest protesters in front of the Cuban Capitol in Havana.Ernesto Mastrascusa / EFE

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The Cuban regime has once again missed, as is customary, a historic opportunity. The staging last April of the arrival of a new time with the departure of Raúl Castro from the general secretary of the Cuban Communist Party could not have been more frustrating. In these months nothing has changed and everything has gotten worse. This is evidenced by the protests that this Sunday shook the Caribbean island and whose extension and spontaneity, no matter how much Castroism now looks for foreign enemies, reveals the depth of the exhaustion.

It all started in the small Havana town of San Antonio de Baños. The lack of electricity and vaccines against the covid led a few hundred citizens to take to the streets and demand improvements in their terrible living conditions. That manifestation quickly turned into something else. The cries of “freedom” and “down with the dictatorship” spread like wildfire through social networks and lit a fuse of hope in thousands of Cubans. In Santiago de Cuba, in Old Havana and in many other corners of the country protests multiplied in a historic wave of discontent.

The regime’s response, led by President Miguel Díaz-Canel, was not less threatening because it was foreseeable. After blaming (again) the United States for the worsening of the situation, he called on his forces to take back the streets and proceeded to arrest hundreds of people. Under the slogan “provocations will not be allowed,” the head of state acted like an automaton and turned his back on Cuban reality.

The Cuban government may fool itself, but not its citizens or the international community. The protests that took place on July 11 are the largest since 1994 and may mark a point of no return. The pandemic has cruelly exposed the shortcomings of Castroism and exacerbated the island’s hardships. Responding with the usual ideological bunkerization is useless. Neither will repression help. The ills of Cuba are excessive to maintain the farce. And it is not by filling dungeons with opponents, dissidents and artists that they will be solved.

The everlasting shortage of supplies, the queues and the ravages of the covid are part of a gloomy horizon where the failed political replacement operation heralds another era of hardships to the population. It’s too many decades of self-deception. The shift towards full democracy is a moral imperative. And this is a challenge that demands height and cohesion from the international community. Spain and the EU must act without delay in the face of the immobile strategy of the United States, the great regional actor. It is not by increasing the suffering of the citizenry that the path to freedom will be opened. But neither is he closing his eyes to the excesses of the regime in the vain hope that everything will change by itself. It is necessary to mobilize to accompany the democratization that Cubans have to develop; to form a common front that, beyond geostrategic and economic interests, places a people devastated by poverty and lack of freedom at the center of the action. It is only by thinking about Cuba and democracy that the problem is solved.

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