The demonstrations in Cuba

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By LUIZ BERNARDO PERICAS*

We must fight for Cuba and the ideals of the revolution

The protests in different Cuban cities, which began in San Antonio de los Baños on July 11, have been widely reported by the mainstream press as a sign that the people of the country are apparently tired of their government and are seeking to change the model socialist for another supposedly more “liberal” and “democratic”. According to this narrative, economic problems, aggravated by the new coronavirus pandemic, would have been fundamental to trigger the demonstrations. It is necessary, however, to be careful at this point not to be influenced by foreign media vehicles or by information coming from shady “alternative” media, in general, from local internet groups, with intense support from the United States.

The new coronavirus pandemic has certainly affected Cuba. But there are many countries that saw the economy deteriorate with the advance of Covid-19. In Brazil, it is possible to verify enormous unemployment rates and an accelerated process of precariousness and “uberization” of work, with an increase in poverty and inequality, within a framework of unprecedented health calamity in our history, with alarming levels of cases and deaths from the disease throughout our territory. No nation on the planet is experiencing a similar tragedy. Not to mention a growing political crisis, which is wearing down the government of Jair Bolsonaro every day, which has constantly threatened institutions and the very holding of elections next year.

In Cuba – unlike here – President Miguel Díaz-Canel enjoys unrestricted confidence among workers on the island. The vast majority of the population supports his continued administration, contrary to what the news agencies try to show. Undoubtedly, the country is going through difficulties. GDP shrank by 11% in 2020, medicine and food shortages are a reality, there is a lack of spare parts, electrical blackouts have occurred and there has been a clear decline in tourism (an extremely important sector for foreign exchange inflows), with a reduction of flights from abroad. Not to mention the sugar production, affected by a bad harvest in 2021, motivated by a severe drought.

Perhaps the most serious issue in this panel, however, is the ongoing economic blockade imposed by the White House. If it wasn't enough to experience the hardships of the pandemic (like the rest of the world), Cuba has been experiencing difficulties in obtaining medical supplies and food because of the embargo against the island. In other words, if there is anyone truly to blame for the state the country is in, it is certainly not the Cuban government, but Washington.

While Díaz-Canel constantly presents, in a transparent manner, all the issues that afflict the population in audiences and public and televised conferences, he seeks, at the same time, to balance a realistic and austere policy (based on an extremely delicate situation) with the daily struggle to preserve the social achievements of the revolution, built over decades. It's not an easy task. We cannot help but remember that Cuba is developing at least five vaccines against the coronavirus, an admirable feat for the Caribbean nation. And that despite the increase in the number of cases of Covid-19, there is a huge commitment by the authorities to mitigate the problem, with the dispatch of doctors to the most affected regions and the adaptation of hotels into field hospitals. Around US$ 184 million were spent, in 2020 and 2021, to try to deal with this serious health problem. In any case, Cuba has one of the lowest rates of contagion and loss of life from the coronavirus in the world.

Even so, in a dramatic moment like the current one, some local groups, supported and financed by foreign powers, take advantage of the situation to sow chaos and discord. It is worth remembering that the mobilizations of July 11 were not spontaneous or as large as reported and that many elements that participated in them were not representative of the majority of the Cuban people.

While the demonstrations were taking place (in large part, orchestrated), they received the declared support of Joe Biden, the leader of the greatest imperialist power on the planet, and Jair Bolsonaro, the main representative of the extreme right in Latin America. It is naive to think that Washington is not behind these protests. For decades, the White House carried out attempts to assassinate Cuban leaders, tightened the blockade and threatened to “Mayor of the Antilles” anyway.

Many dissidents and well-known NGOs (such as Rosa María Payá's organization, the “Foundation for Pan-American Democracy”, which is headquartered in Miami and which promoted its slogan “Cuba decides”) continue to receive moral and material support from the US to destabilize the country (remember that Payá has met, in recent years, with nefarious characters such as Luís Almagro, Marco Rubio, Donald Trump, Leopoldo López Gil and Jeanine Áñez). On the 11th, “coincidentally”, there were, at the same time, small protests in some locations in Florida…

Díaz-Canel, for his part, called on the masses in favor of the government. Workers responded to the call and took to the streets shouting “I am Fidel”. In the coming days, the authorities in Havana will be in a position to show the other side of the situation and put the facts in their proper place.

It never hurts to remember the case of Bolivia, when Evo Morales, after being re-elected in 2019, suffered a coup d'état, was forced to resign from the presidency and had to leave the country: the right wing authoritatively governed the Andean nation for months with the support of the most reactionary sectors of the Western Hemisphere. In 2020, however, Luis Arce, candidate of the MAS, won the elections overwhelmingly and Morales returned, explaining how the entire narrative about “democracy” proposed by the Bolivian right was fabricated. Or Juan Guaidó, the self-proclaimed interim “president” of Venezuela, who received the support of local, North American and European businessmen, as well as government authorities from several countries. In the end, nothing happened. And Maduro remained in power. This time, they try to destabilize the Caribbean island…

This is an ideological struggle that is now taking on dramatic contours. Some intend to destroy the revolutionary legacy and promote neoliberalism in Cuba. Others, inspired by Che Guevara and Fidel Castro, strive to preserve and deepen socialism. Cuba is too important for the Latin American and world left. We must fight for Cuba and the ideals of the revolution.

* Luiz Bernardo Pericas He is a professor in the Department of History at USP. Author, among other books, of Caio Prado Júnior: a political biography (Boitempo).

 

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