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Cuban Communism has been methodical and repetitive in its survivorship strategies. It has been systematic to the point that it is predictable. The use of state terrorism was initiated immediately upon seizing power in 1959. However, this proved early on to not be enough. The Castro regime has also relied on a geographically and politically directed immigration policy to achieve social control. As record numbers of Cubans are reaching the U.S. southern border, Havana’s escape valve approach is obvious. Immigration is another of Castroism’s political durability weapons.
The 11th of July Cuban Popular Insurrection of 2021 (11J) blew Castro-Communism’s mind. Hannah Arendt keenly noted that the most seminal component of a totalitarian regime was its ability to cohesively organize society and political power. The magnitude of the 11J mass demonstrations convinced the Marxist dictatorship that their organizational skills were gravely deficient.
The Cuban political prison system has swelled up with 11J protesters. Hundreds of demonstrators have already been “tried” in sham trials and handed jail sentences of up to 30 years. The idea is to inflict a severe lesson and atomize the population by entrenching fear. Erika Guevara-Rosas of Amnesty International (AI) called it out well. The director at AI said, “Through a series of unfair and opaque proceedings and trials of protesters in recent weeks, Cuban authorities have continued to wage a campaign of criminalization with the sole aim of re-establishing the culture of fear that was ruptured last year when people took the streets to express themselves.”
The communist regime correctly noted that the country they have controlled for over six decades is today a hotbed of rebellion. The demands of the thousands that took to the streets on 11J called, not for material betterment, but for freedom and communism’s end. In other words, Castroism has a chronic problem of popular upheaval. Immediately, the exodus option was put in motion.
The psychology behind the Castro-Communist scheme is rudimentary. If Cubans find it plausible to leave the country in the hope of reaching the land of liberty, settling in the exile communities across numerous American states (FL, NJ, NY, IL, CA, NV, TX, and KY), the communist dictatorship is betting that challenges to its authority will subside. As portions of Cuban society plot their exit, the Castro regime safely concludes that people will be preoccupied with leaving and living free and prosperous abroad, as opposed to miserable, rebellious, and oppressed on the island.
Geography, in Cuba’s case, means having water as your immediate border. The Florida Straits have become a cemetery to thousands of freedom-seeking Cubans. While nonetheless many have risked the dangerous passage through shark-infested waters, others have preferred a land exodus through South and Central America, into Mexico, and hopefully, crossing the U.S. southern border. For this alternative (which is an equally dangerous terrain of jungle and drug cartel criminality), Castroism has always counted on the willingness of an accomplice to facilitate the employment of this politically calculated exodus.
Nicaragua, a socialist dictatorship that is under the tutelage of Castro-Communism, lifted all visa restrictions for Cubans in the autumn of 2021. Four months after 11J, the island’s dictatorship apparently pressured the Ortega-Sandinista regime to accommodate this scheme. Since Castroism has become an avid state capitalist player, it offered the Central American autocrats some monetary incentives. With the average airplane ticket to Managua from Havana costing around $3,400 each, the Castro and Ortega business emporiums are surely bulging financially from these operations. Coincidently, the Mexican government under Castro ally, Manuel López Obrador, is fully cooperating. Cases of authorities in México requisitioning documents from Cubans is not as diligent as it once was.
Following the mass demonstrations in Havana in August 1994, known as the “Maleconazo”, the Castro regime tacitly allowed Cubans to leave the country. The result was the rafter exodus of 1994 where over 30,000 arrived in the U.S. in makeshift rafts. Thereafter, there ensued a regulated mechanism of 20,000 annual visas issued to Cubans to enter the U.S. legally. During the reign of Rafael Correa, a staunch socialist partner, Ecuador served as a transfer point from 2007 to 2017.
Before the previously mentioned exoduses, there was the Mariel Boatlift (1980), the Liberty Flights (1965-1973), and the Camarioca Boatlift (1965). In all these cases as well, the Castro regime opened the escape hatch, intending to blow potential popular rebellion inside Cuba. While it is true that throughout the 1960s and 1970s many of those that left, returned to the island to combat communist rule, Castroism has always felt safer and still does, having the enemy at a distance.
Julio M Shiling, political scientist, writer, director of Patria de Martí and The Cuban American Voice, lecturer and media commentator. A native of Cuba, he currently lives in the United States. Twitter: @JulioMShiling // Julio es politólogo, escritor, director de Patria de Martí y The Cuban American Voice. Conferenciante y comentarista en los medios. Natural de Cuba, vive actualmente en EE UU.