By ERNIE GOTTA
The protests in Cuba on July 11 are the symptom of a government in crisis. In some areas, the government used police to crack down on the protests. Marxist activists like Frank García Hernández and his comrades were arrested; Socialist Resurgence calls on the Cuban government for their immediate release.
[UPDATE: Frank García Hernández and Maykel González Vivero were released from jail on July 13, and are under house arrest.]
In no way does the support for democratic rights undermine support for the gains made by the Cuban Revolution. In fact, extending the gains made by the revolution can only happen by creating a more democratic society. There are real economic and social problems in Cuba that need to be addressed through open and democratic debate.
The demands of the protests are not unfounded. Cubans are calling for an increase in food, relief from COVID, and more political freedom. Decades of a brutal U.S. economic blockade, covert imperialist interventions, and now a growing COVID pandemic are putting tremendous pressure on the revolution. This includes the Biden administration’s unwillingness to repeal the harshest sanctions and “state sponsor of terrorism” label placed on the island during the Trump presidency and to end the blockade established in 1960.
In response, the Cuban government’s reorganization of the economy and devaluation of the Cuban peso has sent prices for basic goods soaring. The rations that used to provide staples for the average Cuban’s diet have been dramatically cut. The forces of international capital from the U.S. to China are negatively influencing the Cuba bureaucracy to open its economy to business and financial interests. The effects are diminishing access to food and health care.
Cuba has been an example for how socialized medicine could support the needs of the population and extend help to countries across the globe. Cuban doctors were heralded at the onset of COVID as they arrived in Italy and China. However, on Saturday, July 10, Cuba set a new daily record of 6422 COVID cases, highlighting problems with deployment of medical personnel and vaccines to reach the majority of the Cuban population.
The frustration and anger of the Cuban people under these conditions is understandable. The majority in Cuba understands that the U.S. economic blockade is the number one enemy. Yet it can also be true that Cubans are angered by their government’s response to these crises.
In the best days of the Cuban revolution the response by the leadership to external and internal pressure was to push for more dialogue with the working class and farmers—while never implementing full workers’ democracy. Today, the Cuban bureaucracy and President Miguel Díaz-Canel are choosing to use repression and rally vigilante action by calling supporters of the government to do “battle in the streets.”
Painting all dissent in Cuba as being “counter-revolutionary” and aided by external enemies does a disservice to the legacy of a revolution that promised to extend democratic rights to workers and farmers who gave it life in the first place. Repression of peaceful protests only serves to entrench the power of the Cuban bureaucracy and at the same time strengthen the intervention of world imperialism, which is seeking to completely smash the gains of the revolution.
Socialist Resurgence stands in solidarity with the Cuban workers and farmers who want to realize the full potential of the 1959 revolution. That’s why we call on the government to release Frank García Hernández, a Marxist and Cuban historian; Luis Romero Negrín, a socialist physics student; Maykel González Vivero, the director of Tremenda Nota; Marcos Antonio Pérez Fernández, a high school student; and others. They are not the enemies of revolution. They are among those who are calling for the revolution to reach its full potential, even in the face of great adversity.
End the U.S. blockade! No U.S. intervention in Cuba! Self-determination for Cuba! Defend the gains of the Cuban Revolution! For the right of workers’ democracy and free speech in Cuba! Free Frank García Hernández and the other Cuban socialist activists!
Top photo: Getty Images