La Joven Cuba
Biden's broken promises
Millions of Cubans suffer an economic and humanitarian crisis comparable to the aftermath of the Soviet collapse in the early 1990s. Despite the high volume of political propaganda, simplistic narratives, and misinformation, the evidence points to a crisis created by three main actors: the global pandemic, the Cuban government, and the Trump-Biden administrations.
This situation of shared responsibilities is seldom analyzed in its complexity in our public sphere, which is increasingly partisan and polarized. Much less is this recognized in the rhetoric of both governments, always happy to blame the other for all the ills on the island.
During the first half of this year, the White House felt comfortable continuing to inflict economic misery on Cubans. With this attitude, it avoided angering the Cuban-Americans who supported Trump's policies and reinstated the confrontational dynamics that President Obama had condemned. The socio-economic consequences of the pandemic were used in their policy of regime change towards the island and there was no unconditional offer of humanitarian aid. It was a missed opportunity and a huge failure of empathy.
The protest of July 11th was the desperate cry of the Cubans due to a national crisis in which the policy of the United States also bears responsibility. Subsequent statements by the State Department and the sanctions they have applied since then make it clear that there is time for Cuba on their priority list, but that they prefer to indulge in hostile rhetoric and apply symbolic sanctions that have zero effect on Cuban rulers in order to indulge the Florida electorate. It is the same manual that Trumpism wrote for Cuba, except that its sanctions were not only symbolic but very real and today they are still in force with the complicity of the Democrats.
Putting on pause the revision of Trump's policies, in practice means contributing to the misery of these people. Joe Biden can prioritize the interests of the radical community of Florida, always eager to sacrifice their countrymen, or show empathy with millions of Cubans on the Island; but he cannot do both at the same time.
Several polls carried out in Cuba reveal a consensus in condemning the US sanctions. Some media and radical actors try to hide this reality through actions of political agitation and propaganda that influence the White House, apparently with success.
La Joven Cuba addressed an open letter to President Biden in February this year that insists on the counterproductive nature of the sanctions. Among the signatories are several opposition leaders. On the eve of the protests announced for November 15, in an interview with Yunior Garcia the leader of the Archipelago group, he stressed that the sanctions "affect the Cuban family, entrepreneurs and the people in general." The US authorities ignored these statements, selecting the claims of their interest and silencing those who are critical of their foreign policy.
There is little evidence to support a real commitment by the United States to democracy in Cuba. In its place, the empowerment of sectors related to Washington's interests on the island has prevailed, the favorite Cubans, as if the rest were not. This selective behavior is similar to that applied by the Cuban government, always making the interests of its followers visible and silencing the rest.
Respect for democracy, the will of the majority and decisions by consensus are constantly undermined by both governments and their policies have a polarizing effect on the island's society. Cuba does not need foreign guardianship and the US would be the least appropriate nation to influence our affairs after a history of interventions of all kinds in our country. If we were looking for democratic models, it would not be the American one either, flawed as the last years of domestic politics have shown. We do not need them to guide our civil society, which is getting more organized every day to, on our terms, achieve democratic change. What we need is for them to stop turning our people into collateral damage in a fight between governments.
This Democratic administration has chosen to prioritize its interests over its values; our people already judge it accordingly. It is not too late to embark on a new path, as Obama did. So far our diagnosis of the first year of Biden's government toward Cuba is simple: a lot of political opportunism, little moral courage and a lack of empathy with millions on the island.
14ymedio, Madrid, 18 November 2021 — “The Cuban problem is not called Yunior García, the Cuban problem is called dictatorship.” This is how forceful the playwright and opponent has been from Madrid, where he has held a press conference to relate the “terror” to which he has been subjected by the Cuban Government and which pushed him to leave the island.
“The revolution devoured their children and their grandchildren,” he denounced before recounting in a chronological way how he came to the opposition militancy.
García Aguilera has criticized the government from the left, calling it a “conservative caste” that exploits the workers and uses the wildest capitalism, building hotels in the harshest moments of the pandemic. “The regime became a Goliath that crushes the people, David,” he said at one point, turning on its head the image frequently used by the ruling party — David against Goliath — to refer to its relationship with the United States.
The creator of Archipiélago has compared the Cuban regime with the regime in Chile of Augusto Pinochet and has insisted that the leadership of power lives in a “bourgeois” way while he is a “true revolutionary.”
“It is a macho government that is cruel especially to women, like Carolina Barrero, and Yoani Sánchez, and has made life impossible for continue reading
a long time,” he also
pointed out, advancing a metaphor that he used minutes later: “The regime has
become an abusive husband who beats his wife. ”
“What exists in Cuba is fascism, what I have experienced in recent days cannot be called something else,” he stressed in reference to the threats and harassment of which he has been targeted. “How can anyone believe that this is on the left?”
The young man does not accept that they are trying to discredit him by calling him a “counterrevolutionary”: “I am a revolutionary because I want to change the dynamics of my country.”
The activist has recounted the harassment to which he was subjected in recent days, at which time, convinced that he would be arrested, he applied for a preemptive visa with which he tried to achieve some type of subsequent negotiation that would help him get out of prison. However, after November 15, when he had been isolated and incommunicado for hours, he was aware that the Government did not intend to arrest him.
“If they kill me they make me a symbol, if they take me to jail they make me a symbol,” he said. It was at that moment that he realized, he says, that the Government was planning to keep him away from society by keeping him locked up in his home, a situation that he could not bear. “They yelled insults at me and I felt like a Jew surrounded by Nazis.”
“If the only thing I have is my voice and they take it from me, then they have won,” said García, who stressed that a “living death” awaited him in Cuba. Illustratively, he has recounted the day he suffered an act of repudiation that included bird corpses on the fence of his house and has used the image as a metaphor. “If we stay in Cuba they will behead us like doves,” he said.
The opponent has repeatedly declared his intention to return after overcoming his anger at recent events. “I need to heal myself from that rage to start the fight again, and that will be when my life and that of my wife are not in danger.”
García Aguilera has repeated that he refuses to request asylum in Spain and has said that Cuba is his country and his mother and son are there, so it does not even cross his mind to stay in Madrid in the long term.
The playwright says: “I have a 90-day visa and during my stay I am going to connect with artists and focus on the movement of Cuban artists here.”
The founder of Archipiélago has revealed that on the 14th, despite having his phone cut off, he found a means of communication through which he got in touch with the cardinal of Havana, whom he asked to pray for him because he was afraid of having rage. “I needed to heal my anger to find my balance. I never wanted to stop being tolerant.”
In the same way, he has confessed to reading “painful things” about him once he was able to access the internet after landing in Spain, and apologizes to his colleagues from Achipiélago for not being able to bear more pressure. “I have to forgive myself for being human and apologize for not being made of stone or bronze,” he added.
García Aguilera has also rejected the US embargo, which he believes acts as an ally of the regime by providing it excuses, and has vindicated the use of dialogue with all political forces if the time comes.
The opponent, who has been moved by talking about his 10-year-old son, has begged the international press to look for the stories of anonymous Cubans who have not had the luck that he has had, being able to leave the island thanks to his visibility.
He has also referenced the names of José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu), Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, visible head of the San Isidro Movement, Félix Navarro, of the group of 75, and Maykel Castillo Osorbo.
García Aguilera took the opportunity to close the press conference with a message calling on the international community to help. Thus, he opined that “it is inadmissible for Cuba to have a chair on the UN Human Rights Commission.”
At the same time he rejected, for the umpteenth time, an armed intervention. “A Cuba for all cannot be achieved through violence, but through dialogue. They believe that this fight is won through blows.”
“Let us not get angry,” he asked. “This cannot become a bloodbath. It is the only way we have to get out of this, because we cannot continue to be slaves. But we cannot achieve freedom at that price either,” he said. “A bloodbath can only be avoided if the world stops looking the other way.”
14ymedio, Madrid, 16 November 2021 — The image of Yunior García leaning out of the window of his apartment with a flower in his hand and dressed in white while a mob tries to block his view of the outside by lowering a Cuban flag over his window has become an icon of the civic struggle in Cuba. From Spain, the Cuban filmmaker Yimit Ramírez has made a poster that captures the essence of November 14, when State Security prevented the playwright from marching with a white rose, as he had announced he would.
As he explained to 14ymedio, Ramírez considers that the fact of “covering him with the flag is horrible… You can’t do that with the flag, but even less with people. These people are so outdated that they don’t even know their own horrors. It’s a very symbolic image. The flag as a prison.”
The Archipiélago platform considers that, despite the Cuban government’s attempts to prevent the Civic March for Change on November 15, “never have the Cuban people been more united in the fight for their rights” and so has called for the protests to be extended until November 27, one year since the sit-in of artists and intellectuals before the Ministry of Culture.
Between now and the 27th, the opposition group proposes a series of activities to make its message visible and asks people to continue wearing the color white and carrying a rose of the same tone, joining in on a cacerolazo (banging on pots and pans) at 9 o’clock every night, and spreading the message of what it is happening in the country among families and neighborhoods, particularly to those who do not have social networks.
In addition, they invite each sympathizer to bring a rose to a monument to a Cuban martyr whenever they deem it appropriate and safe, and documenting the act to spread it, since Archipiélago considers that there is still “a debt of honor to the Apostle* José Martí.”
The platform launched its proposal in a statement released after midnight in which it took stock of the previous day. In the text, they emphasize that the Government has criminalized and disrespected the right to freedom of expression, assembly and demonstration recognized by the Cuban Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; and, what is worse, setting “Cubans against Cubans.”
“The Cuban government has responded to our demands as a dictatorship does: extreme militarization of the streets, more than 100 activists besieged [in their homes], arbitrary arrests, forced disappearances, acts of repudiation, violence, threats, coercion and hate speech,” denounces the text, which warns that it will not accept this escalation of violence against peaceful citizens.
Despite all the efforts of the authorities, Archipiélago considers that the March was a success due to the solidarity received from 120 cities around the world and those who were able to go out into the streets within the Island or show their adherence to the mobilization with a minimal gesture. “We have surpassed ourselves as a nation and here is the resounding success of 15N”.
The objectives of the struggle that continues from today until the 27th continue to be the initial ones: the liberation of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, respect for the rights of expression, assembly and demonstration, the cessation of violence between Cubans for political reasons ,and the beginning of a dialogue that allows resolving differences through democratic and peaceful means.
In addition, the end of the statement opens a door so that the 27th is not the last day of activities. “If the Government does not give up its efforts to violate our rights, we will continue the civic struggle until Cuba is a State of Rights, a Republic ‘with all and for the good of all’.”
The platform notes that since the 16th, many people linked to the opposition are still unaccounted for, detained or besieged in their homes and sends its solidarity to all those affected.
For its part, the Cubalex Legal Information Center published this Tuesday a record in which it documents the arrests of at least 56 people in the context of civic days for change, of these 27 just on November 15, and they include 11 people reported in enforced disappearance.
Of the more than 50 people arrested, “11 were previously in detention for participating in the 11J [11 July] protests,” details Cubalex.
*Translator’s note: José Martí is considered a hero by Cubans on all sides of the divides, and is popularly called “the Apostle.”