Dr. Duggaraju Srinivasa Rao
Cuba, the Caribbean country, is currently witnessing a revolution of different kind. Revolution is the term which for long was an exclusive for the communistic movements and Cuba had one such revolution in late 1950s. Now the same country which under the leadership of Fidel Castro coined the slogan ‘patria o muerte’ meaning Home Land or death and established single party rule is witnessing a different kind of revolution now with an aim to overthrow the totalitarian regime nurtured by Castro.
Left groups across the world used to project Cuba as a great model of socialistic achievements unheard anywhere in the world. Castro packaged it as an example for anti- capitalism promising to care of the needs of the people by the benevolent ruling Communist party. Despite the collapse of socialistic USSR, role model for Cuban revolution, this island nation is seen as the oasis in the collapsing communist world. So they had huge hope on the Cuban model. Even during the Covid19 time the Cuban health model is projected as the best one for the world. But what is happening in that ‘communist heaven’ Cuba is totally different. Despite all the media controls the real picture is coming out in bits and pieces. Currently there is a ban on social media, internet access is restricted, and newspaper censorship is in place. People are forced to hear and accept the official version and no second or opposite views or opinions are allowed.
More the communistic rulers suppress the reality bigger the resentment in the minds of the people. That resentment on the lack of freedom was there even in Federal Castro’s time but then the dissidence was hammered to silence. It took some time, post- Castro death, for the people to gather the courage to move out into the street. Now the Cubans are protesting with all their might and they have coined the slogan ‘patria y vida’ which means Home Land and Life. If homeland and death was the slogan in revolution lead by Castro, it is Life with minimum comforts which the Cubans want now.
Cuba is no more a ‘heaven’ to live but it is a ‘hell’ as per current crop of revolutionary people suffering because of huge shortage of food, medicine and electricity in the country. People initially skeptical of their demonstrations as they are aware of the fate of dissidents in a communist countries. But slowly the numbers grew, gatherings got louder, anti-Communist sentiment is extended to the country side. This is all because of the pathetic economic and living conditions faced by them. The courage to question has grown up despite the baton wielding police force and occasional firings and it seems the ‘revolutionaries’ are determined to throw away the name sake socialistic set up in position for over six decades. Their slogans “we are not afraid”, “we want liberty” and “down with dictatorship” are reverberating in Cuban capital Havana and more and more are lending their voices to those determination.
What hit Cuba is Covid19 plus other factors compounded the damage. Covid19 is a factor which hit every other nation and Cuba couldn’t escape. It is reported that Cuba got shaved of 11% of its GDP through Covid. The arrival of foreign tourists, which used to contribute largely to the economy, fell by 94%. Thus major source of Dollars gone for Cuba. The collapse of Venezuela’s economy effected Cuba, as that country was the main source of supply of subsidized oil. It resulted in severe shortage of power, prices have gone up as there was huge shortage of supplies. Vexed with the deteriorating economy and unresponsive regime rule the protesters turned violent, police patrol cars burnt, shops looted, windows of the official buildings broken in stone throwing resulting injuries to many officials as well as protestors. The President who took a delayed decision to meet the protestors met with insults from the current revolution leaders.
The Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel is not ready to accept the change in political model of the country. His suggestion that any workable solution should be foundout within the existing one party socialistic ideology is not acceptable for the protestors. The President on other hand seems to be preparing for the eventual crackdown with all his military might. His categorization of protestors into four groups is indicative of his mind set. He identified one dangerous group who are pro-American demanding US intervention in Cuban affairs. The other three groups which the country President identified as not so serious protesters. As per him some of them are real sufferers, some of them are habitual law breakers who are taking advantage of the current crisis and the other group of youth who have no idea of what Cuba stands for. To play the national sentiments and expose the pro-US leaders the President has chosen a loud campaign against the Americans.
It is no secret that America dislikes the Cuban communist regime since 1960 and it made innumerable unsuccessful attempts to de-throw Federal Castro. Cuba survived despite the CIA plans because of the huge respect Castro commanded from the people. Castro in his last days made the regime as a family centric and that was not liked by many in power and outside. His brother succeeded him and now a new nominated President rules. Cuba survived on the anti US sentiment and the present President wish to carry on that legacy by stoking the same when he choose to blame US economic embargos against their nation which were tightened further during Trump era as the cause for the current unrest. But there are other serious self-inflicted issues for Cuba. Despite its tall claims of success Cuba is not self-sufficient in food production. 70% of food is imported which is a drain on the economy. This was further compounded by the wrong timing of dismantling 30 year old dual currency system.
Can Cuba survive the current revolution without blood bath and not opting for a regime change? If toppling happens, as expected, what would be the repercussions for US foreign policy? Either way interesting revolutionary days lies ahead.
(Author is retired professor and occasional contributor for dailies and magazines on politics and environmental issues. The views expressed are personal opinion of the author. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)