It is never too late to wake up. The Cuban people, subjected for decades to a bloody dictatorship, decided to take to the streets in search of freedom. Apart from the many reasons on the island to demonstrate, removing Castroism from power is the main objective of the dissident Cubans who, it is worth mentioning, are the majority inside and outside Cuba.
In El American Space on Monday, July 12, Cristian Crespo, Cuban dissident, Julio M. Shiling, Cuban-American political scientist, Salomé López, Colombian social communicator, and Emmanuel Alejandro Rondón, Venezuelan journalist, analyzed the magnitude of the historic protests in Cuba and their impact on a possible political change on the island.
Is the Castro regime crumbling? That was the central theme of the Twitter space.
El American space, a summary of the unprecedented demonstrations in Cuba
“Sunday, July 11 was a historic day. For the first time in three decades, Cubans took to the streets asking in unison for one thing: freedom,” said Emmanuel Alejandro, the space’s moderator. “Freedom of expression, political freedom, freedom, in short, to live. Cuba has been immersed for 62 years in a bloody communist tyranny. Many say it is the most fearsome dictatorship in the region, ahead of Nicaragua and Venezuela.”
What is behind these demonstrations, how important are they, or how does it affect the Castro regime were some of the questions analyzed in El American space.
Cristian, who has a great coverage on his social networks about the protests, intervened to explain that these demonstrations are unprecedented on the island, as they surpass, even, those of the Maleconazo in the nineties.
“Clearly it was a historic day because […] there was no mandate to go out to protest. That surprise factor played very much in favor of the citizens […] because in Cuba one knows how the State security system is, that it locks you in when ideas like the March of the Sunflowers begin to take shape, and people begin to organize to go out to protest, but they lock you in your house, they put three patrol cars on you and you simply cannot go out,” said Cristian.
“I really couldn’t believe it. I saw the images of the Capitol and I thought that it had been more than 70 years, maybe, since there had been a protest like this. I think the last one was against Batista, but in the 62 years of communist regime this had never been seen before and I think that July 11 will mark a before and after for the regime.”
Julio M. Shiling, analyst at El American, agreed with Cristian’s statement and revealed how he found out about the demonstrations early on Sunday.
“Early in the morning I received a call from a friend […] I said, “hey, how strange, why did he call me?”. He did it out of the joy he had for everything that was happening, that all over Cuba they were taking to the streets to protest […] I immediately opened my Twitter, I started watching videos and I couldn’t believe it. I tell you in all honesty, I couldn’t believe it,” Shiling said.
For the Miami-based political scientist, the importance of these demonstrations lies in the fact that Cubans are not “asking for diapers, toilet paper […] they were not asking for chicken breasts, they were not asking for visas to come to the United States. They were asking for freedom, freedom and liberty. And that’s a fundamental difference in these requests and this claim of asking for systemic change.”
During the space, analysts discussed the factors driving the protests and what were the reasons why the regime was unable to intercept them in advance. One of them was, of course, the organization via social networks. Today in Cuba people have the possibility of having a cell phone and enjoy an expensive and restricted service of megabytes that is paid for by relatives abroad. This affected the Cuban regime’s intelligence networks.
Another key point analyzed is that the protests also mark a turning point in terms of the people’s loss of fear of the communist regime. There were images of Cubans being threatened by armed “civilians” of the Castro regime, however, far from shying away from the danger of demonstrating in a country ruled by a dictatorship, Cubans continued to go out in defiance of the authorities.
The loss of fear and spontaneity are points in favor of the citizens. However, there are also several challenges ahead: how long can citizens stay in the streets, who can politically capitalize on political discontent, will the international community act to defend Cubans or will it remain a passive accomplice of the Cuban dictatorship?
The panelists also discussed how in Cuba people are clamoring for freedom and a less interventionist state, while in other Latin American countries, and even several U.S. states, citizens seem to be calling for socialism or bigger government.
Salomé López said that some Latin Americans seem to be looking for “a State that gives them subsidies, a bigger State, a more oppressive State so to speak […] how ironic what is happening in Latin America compared to what is happening in Cuba […] could it be that in these countries we will have to hit a wall to realize how important freedom is and how lucky we are with the little or much freedom we have?