Testimonies of the Cuban community in the U.S. “Our hearts are in those streets”
BY PEDRO GRATEROL
The world of Latin-American politics was shaken on July 11th when massive protests erupted in Cuba. The catalyst of these manifestations was the severe food security problems as well as the discontent over the dictatorial government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. According to a report from The Economist, Cuba imports 70% of its food. However, the global economic crisis caused by the pandemic brought a significant reduction of national income. The nation’s economy depends on tourism and, due to the contraction of this sector of the economy because of COVID-19, the island’s government was not able to acquire the necessary resources to import food.
This lack of government purchasing power, in conjunction with a bad harvest of sugar, the island´s key trading crop, the global increase in food prices, as well as the reduction of remittances from abroad, complicated the precarious humanitarian situation in the country. Besides, despite having mild success at the onset of the pandemic, Miguel Díaz-Canél´s government has been unable to control the growing number of cases of COVID-19. On August 9th, the weekly average number of cases, according to data from Johns Hopkins University, was 8,935. The regime’s response to the protests was to violently suppress them and to cut access to the Internet, the only free mechanism that the inhabitants have to communicate with the outside world. This pattern corresponds to the human and civil rights violations that have become characteristic of the castrista government and that are detailed in the latest report on the situation in Cuba by the NGO Freedom House.
The protests from this summer are the largest and most significant demonstrations of political discontent against the regime that governs the island since 1959. Abroad, the protests were openly supported by the Cuban community with solidarity protests from the diaspora in Miami, Washington D.C, and here in Alaska.
However, they were also appropriated by political actors from both the left and the right to push their ideological agendas with little regard to the well-being and future of Cubans. Here in Sol de Medianoche, we believe in highlighting the voices of the Latino community. Therefore, in the midst of the protests, we talked with members of the Cuban community in the U.S to listen to their testimonies and to share them.
“What’s happening in Cuba today is a historical event. Never in the history of Castrista Cuba have we seen a general uprising of this magnitude. The people of Cuba are tired of shortages, human rights violations, repression, and government lies. The access to the Internet has been crucial for Cubans and the rest of the world to learn about the Cuban reality and not only what the government wants us to know.” Heidi M. Lopez
“We’re hearing the same tired rhetoric from the Cuban government telling us all your pain, your hunger, your want, is because of the United States. The Cuban people have had enough of the lies and deflection. The “misery” comes only from the communist regime that has strangled the island for over half a century. The Cuban people know the consequences for protesting. They have family members serving indefinite sentences without trials because of bogus laws. They are on the street anyway, with their bravery, tenacity, and sheer will to be free. And Cubans all over the world, exiles forced to leave their beloved land, and the descendants of those exiles, hear their cry. No matter where we are, from Florida to Alaska, from Spain to Australia, our hearts are on those streets.” Mitzi Bolaños Anderson
“I want the international community to know that we need help. Please, help Cuba - Help the Cuban people. In this key moment we need help from all around the world because we want to be free. We want the blindfold to be gone and we want to learn about what happens in the rest of the world. In Cuba, there is hunger, there is misery. Cubans are tired. We need your support to end this ruinous dictatorship, for Diaz-Canel to leave. Because if there‘s any dictatorship around the world, we all will end up affected by it.” Ciro Manuel Anaya
“In my country today, the dictatorship ordered to kill, incarcerate and repress every Cuban that went to the streets to ask for their freedom. This war has been going on for the last 60 years. My people are not asking for food or medicine. They are not asking for remittances, or more personnel to the U.S embassy in Havana. My people are asking for freedom. With our protests all around the globe, we ask the international community to intercede somehow, whether militarly or with humanitarian aid, to stop the bloodshed happening in my country.” Sonny Ernesto Guardado
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