Havana’s Fears and Unrealistic Expectations

One of the protests over energy shortages occurred in the town of Los Palacios. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Frank Calzón, Miami, 29 June 2022 — Press reports indicate that the Cuban government is encouraging foreigners to invest in what it calls “private companies” as a means of dealing with the country’s food shortages, blackouts, dengue outbreaks and ongoing protests. It is not yet known when these measures will take effect or if the Biden Administration will agree to them.

If by “investing” the government means foreign companies sending dollars to Cuba, that’s not going to happen. Hotel chains, for example, do sign management and cooperation agreements but the resources for hotel construction are provided by the Cuban government, which it might acquire from money laundering or narco-trafficking.

Some attribute the current crisis in Cuba to the drop in tourism, the decrease in remittances from the exile community, and fewer Cuban-Americans traveling to the island. The decline in tourists has led Havana to sell raffle tickets in Miami.

U.S. airlines that fly to Cuba are being required to act as accomplices in the regime’s discriminatory actions. Cuban citizens and their family members who are not residents of another country, who have their documents in order and their tickets in hand, are not allowed to board return flights to Cuba by order of the regime. Is it the responsibility of U.S. airlines to comply with such abuses against Cuban citizens in violation of Cuban and international law? Are airlines now supposed to treat other people – say gay, black or Jewish people – in the same way to accommodate the demands of foreign governments? Have U.S. senators and representatives raised this issue with Raul Castro?

The Cuban government might find it in its interests to cease this practice before the U.S. decides to stop airlines involved in this practice from flying to Cuba. If Cuban citizens have violated Cuban laws, the matter should not be dealt with in Florida’s airports but in Cuban courts.

The real causes go much deeper, beginning with more than sixty years of communist dogma, including an internal embargo and the imprisonment of peasant farmers for bypassing the state food production monopoly by selling produce, chicken and milk directly to other Cubans.

If Joe Biden had be able to fulfill his desire that remittances go to their beneficiaries and not to those he calls “the oppressors,” the situation would be different. But the president’s good intentions, along with Obama’s reforms, have not succeeded.

Blackouts have nothing to do with remittances or tourism. On the contrary, they are the result of power plants not being properly maintained for more than fifty years; reductions in petroleum shipments, first from the Soviet Union, then from Venezuela; and the use of Cuban petroleum, with its high level of impurities. This is reminiscent of the destruction of the sugar industry, which used to be the nation’s economic engine.

The regime has reasons to be frightened. Cubans are taking to the streets, screaming “We are not afraid” at the police. A few weeks ago a group of priests shared a video in which they urged Cubans “not to a raise a hand against another Cuban.” Recently, Dionisio Garcia, archbishop of Santiago de Cuba, the country’s second largest city, publicly called for the lengthy prison sentences handed down to participants in last summer’s peaceful protests to be “rectified.”

Amidst all this, Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the European Union, the United States and other nations continue to call for the release of political prisoners and an end to repression.

The country’s officials fear another eruption of mass protests. Recently, crowds took to darkened streets during power blackouts to shout anti-government slogans and bang metal pots. Though it has acknowledged there is a dengue fever epidemic, the government announced it would only fumigate homes where cases of the disease had been confirmed. Last summer’s protests were not directed at shortages or the U.S. embargo. Instead, demonstrators chanted, “Down with communism. Freedom, Freedom.” Fidel is dead. Raul promised every Cuban a glass of milk, a promise that, so far, remains unfulfilled.

The month of August, with its oppressive heat, is just around the corner.

Frank Calzón is a political scientist and human rights activist. His articles have been published in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Chicago Tribune, The Washington Post and others.


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