Leer en Español
This Thursday, El American co-editors-in-chief Vanessa Vallejo and Orlando Avendaño sat down in exclusive conversation with Alejandro González and Maikel Rodríguez, Los Pichy Boys, the most influential Cuban comedy duo in the Hispanic world, to discuss the massive protests against the Castro dictatorship in Cuba.
The comedians, whose first public appearance took place on the famous Spanish Broadcasting Systems (SBS) radio show El Vacilón de Miami in 2008, have since been strong advocates for their country’s freedom.
“They are asking for freedom in the streets,” Gonzalez said when asked why Cubans are protesting. The comedian stressed that citizens did not take to the streets for lack of medicines or vaccines against COVID-19, but “they are asking for freedom and down with communism” because they are tired of living under a “murderous dictatorship.”
In an attempt to contextualize how life is lived in Cuba, Rodriguez explained that there is “a childhood with many shortages”, in which toys are a luxury and even a liter of milk is unattainable after a certain age. “The regime has a supply booklet that says what you should eat every day and the amount,” said Maikel.
“A child is deprived of milk at the age of 7, which is when he needs it the most. He has a lot of shortages of everything,” Rodriguez added. “Children in Cuba worry about things that children around the world have nothing to worry about.”
Rodriguez says that from the age of 7 he began trying to leave Cuba by raft, risking his life in the shark-filled Caribbean Sea, in order to seek his freedom:
“You live in a limbo where the only thing you think about, being a teenager, is how to get out of Cuba.”
The United States, the embargo on Cuba and the West’s excuses
“The embargo is internal.” This is how Maikel Rodriguez explained it. For many citizens and leaders in the West, Cuba’s problem is not the Castro’s communist dictatorship that has been oppressing its population for more than 60 years, but the economic embargo that the United States imposed on the dictators in order to cut off their financing networks.
That’s not what Cubans think. “Cuba can buy food, receive humanitarian aid, buy medicine,” Rodriguez explained. In fact, Miguel Díaz-Canel’s regime has maintained its trade relations with its main partners: China, Spain and Germany; although it also has other important partners such as Indonesia, Singapore, Cyprus, Hong Kong and Lebanon.
Cuba exports its products to more than 70 countries around the world without being hindered by the United States, since the trade embargo applies only and exclusively to American companies. Otherwise, Cuba is free to trade with the other 85% of the global economy.
In fact, the U.S. exports about $277 million worth of goods to Cuba each year, despite the embargo, and about $180 million of Cuba’s imports from the U.S. are foodstuffs.
In such a way that, as Maikel explains, it is the dictatorship itself that prohibits the entry of foreign goods. The embargo “is an excuse that the communists use” and that “the ignorant keep repeating”.
“If you have a restaurant in Cuba, the moment you open it you go to jail for illicit enrichment”, said Rodríguez. To complement the idea, González explained that fishermen are even prevented from fishing and trading with the fruits of their labor, and that it is not a blockade because there are no military ships preventing the passage of food. “The only place in the whole world where the Cuban is not prosperous is in Cuba,” Alejandro said.
The story of one is the story of all
All Cubans in the United States have a trauma story, almost heroic, that explains how they managed to escape the tyranny that oppressed them in their homeland. The case of Los Pichy Boys is no different.
Alejandro commented that, when he was 7 years old, his father left on a raft (like many Cubans arriving in the United States) bound for Florida, and spent 5 days crossing the Caribbean. Since then, 7 more years passed until he was reclaimed by his father from Miami and they were reunited.
Maikel’s father did the same in 1994. He took a raft from the coast of Havana and crossed the Caribbean Sea to Florida. His brother followed in his father’s footsteps in 2000. Maikel’s particular case was not so simple: he tried to make the sea crossing 8 times, but each time he was thwarted by the island’s authorities. He finally made it across the sea to Mexico and crossed the southern border to be reunited with his family.
Like Los Pichy Boys, there are millions. Aboard flimsy homemade boats, thousands and thousands of Cubans arrive annually to the United States in a risky gamble to cross the Caribbean in search of freedom. Many of them do not make it. This practice reached its climax in 1994 with the so-called “rafter crisis”, but it has existed since 1965 and continues to this day.
The humorist duo, like a good part of Cubans who lived through the ravages of Castro’s revolution, says they feel pain at seeing “people who have never lived through communism” venerating “murderers” like Ernesto “Che” Guevara and Fidel Castro and romanticizing the communist revolution, when in reality they are “terrorists who kidnapped a country with weapons.”
A threat to the U.S. that calls for U.S. intervention
For Alejandro and Maikel, it is very clear that the Cuban regime represents a threat to U.S. national security, and they are convinced that the American government must respond to the clamor of citizens on the island.
“America’s worst enemies are Russia, Communist China and Iran,” said Alejandro, noting that 90 miles off the American coast there is a military base from each of these countries. “Cuba is the exporter of communism in the entire region”, he pointed out in addition to mentioning the cases of destabilization in Nicaragua, Colombia and Venezuela, something that represents “a perfect bridge for the enemies of this country”.
In that sense, Maikel considers “ideal” that the United States leads a “humanitarian intervention“, given the defenselessness of an unarmed people in the face of a criminal tyranny and with such great anti-American military alliances. “If these tyrants are not squeezed by you, if they don’t feel international pressure, they will have free rein to kill the people,” he said. He also argues that the intervention should include a wake-up call from the Biden administration and the major allied powers.
Alejandro stressed that “the United States has always been the world’s policeman” and has been in charge of “guaranteeing peace” in multiple regions such as Iraq, which was intervened because Saddam Hussein was destabilizing the Middle East. “The Castro government is the biggest destabilizer in our region,” he added.
Mentioning examples such as Panama, where the Organization of American States (OAS) played a diplomatic intervention role, Alejandro highlighted the leadership of the United States in denouncing and condemning the abuses of the Castro dictatorship “so that everyone else has to act.”
You can watch this and many more interviews on our YouTube channel.