Not since 1994 have Cubans risen up as they did on July 11 last year. The Maleconazo of over twenty years ago now looks like a distant memory, overshadowed by the wave of protests that shook the bloodthirsty Castro dictatorship in the summer of 2021.
More than six months have passed and everything seems to remain the same. The regime remains almost intact, with dictator Miguel Díaz-Canel at the lead. The oppression, including persecutions, harassment and threats, continues. The relentless Cuban espionage apparatus imposes silence, both in the streets and homes.
Reality is harsh in the streets of San Antonio de los Baños or Palma Soriano, where the demonstrations began. An almost unprecedented effort, of a generation that knows about the Maleconazo from what their parents or grandparents told them. A gesture of incalculable bravery of some young people, without weapons or protection, who confronted gorillas armed to the teeth. It is hard to believe that this feat, six months later, has not changed anything. It is unbearable because the cost was so great: assassinations, detainees, tortured and disappeared.
Depending on whom you ask, the figure is scandalous, or it is not. Obviously, the official numbers make up the reality. According to the Castro dictatorship, there were only a few detainees and only one person died in an accident. But different organizations report other figures: more than 800 detainees, including children; dozens tortured and at least five killed.
To a large extent, this heroic effort of thousands of Cubans was diluted because the international community did not accompany them. A peaceful demonstration, no matter how much will it may have, will hardly be able to resist a bloodthirsty tyranny that has held on to power for more than 60 years through repression, torture, persecution and slavery. It is remarkable that the United States, whose history is closely linked to that of the island, has looked aside.
In an exclusive interview with El American, Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) said that “what we witnessed six months ago in Cuba was historic, an organic uprising throughout the island where everyday Cubans expressed their contempt with a failed Marxist ideology and a dictatorship that has subjected its people to repression, censorship, and indoctrination.”
“The Biden administration did not rise to the occasion, and has ultimately failed to deliver on the need of providing internet to the people of Cuba,” Rubio added.
Beyond a couple of symbolic sanctions, pronouncements and gestures rejecting the repression, there was nothing from the White House. When we at El American interviewed Frances Martel, a Cuban and Breitbart editor, several months ago, she told us that the protesters “need weapons to confront the regime.” In that sense, she referred to logistical support from the United States. We also spoke with the well-known comedians, Pichy Boys, who put forward their proposal: a “humanitarian intervention to free the Cubans.”
But ultimately, in the face of the White House’s passivity, the Cuban community, especially in Florida, began to press for Joe Biden to at least give the Cubans Internet access. One of the main voices leading the pressure to demand Internet was Rep. Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL). Salazar even proposed an “Internet access plan for Cubans” that included the provision of “hot air balloons” near the island. Her voice did not find support in the White House.
Rubio insists that Joe Biden was not up to the task.
The feeling of desolation now dominates the mood on the island. There is great frustration over a missed opportunity. Antonio Rodiles, a well-known activist who has been harassed by the dictatorship, acknowledges the feeling: “The situation is very difficult. The reality is complex. In social and economic terms, everything is worse than it was six months ago. The country continues to deteriorate. The dictatorship has once again opened the escape valve for whoever wants to leave the island.”
The onslaught came after the protests—and it has been harsh. “The sentences against protesters have been very long. Up to thirty years in prison for peaceful protest. The families of the political prisoners are astonished,” says Rodiles, “they didn’t think that for going out to protest they would have these consequences”.
Regarding Biden administration, the activist says: “It has been a weak administration, which has only responded symbolically. Canceling visas for regime officials who would never think of going to the United States is symbolic. We had hoped for sanctions that would carry more weight and would force the regime to loosen up.”
Rodiles clarifies that the responsibility is not limited to the Biden administration. “We expected more from Cuban-American politicians, especially during the administration of former President Donald Trump. Many of them remained only in their speeches.”