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The Russian military’s death toll, after one month of fighting in Ukraine, tops the total Soviet loss count during its ten-year adventure in Afghanistan. This humiliating defeat for the Putin regime and epic victory for the Ukrainian armed forces and militias, presents a grave concern for Moscow and other corners of the dictatorial globe. The Castro regime is one of those who are losing sleep these days. There are many reasons why what is happening in Ukraine matters to Cuba.
The 11th of July Cuban Popular Revolt (11J), that legendary Sunday where hundreds of thousands of Cubans spontaneously took to the streets in over sixty localities across the island demanding freedom and a regime-change, has horrified the communist dictatorship. The Castro regime’s barbaric crackdown, with its draconian, decades-long sentences for many of the peaceful protesters, bears witness of its need to amplify state terrorism to domesticate the population. Cubans, however, remain undeterred by the repression.
Before the Russian invasion, few people gave the Ukrainians much of a chance against the world’s second most powerful military force. One month later, Russia’s exuberant forty thousand casualties (killed, wounded, taken prisoner, or missing), according to NATO, tells us many things. Yes, the Ukrainians fight well. The moral principle stamped by Abraham Lincoln in his famous 1860 NYC Cooper Union speech stating, “Let us have faith that right makes might, and in that faith, let us, to the end, dare to do our duty as we understand it,” is evidently being applied by this besieged nation. Cubans have also historically displayed this same uncompromised faith of embracing abnegation in exercising virtue. 11J destroyed Castro-Communism’s immutability myth.
Elon Musk’s Starlink internet
Protests that emanated from 11J continued throughout Cuba for days. Pivotal to the Castro regime’s effort to quell the demonstrations, was cutting off the internet. Russian cyberattacks attempted the same feat in Ukraine upon invading it. Ukrainian Vice Prime Minister and Minister of Digital Transformation, Mykhailo Fedorov, tweeted out for help to Elon Musk two days after Putin’s army forcefully entered Ukraine. “We ask you to provide Ukraine with Starlink stations and to address sane Russians to stand”, he tweeted. Within a few hours, Musk replied, “Starlink service is now active in Ukraine. More terminals en route.” Since then, it has been mostly smooth internet sailing for Ukrainians.
While control over Ukrainian territory was a favorable factor for Starlink’s success in Europe’s biggest country, the notion of thinking outside the box and putting technology to work for freedom in this fashion is encouraging. Ukraine is now an empirical case from which projects to launch internet support for the Cuban people can draw from. A precedent exists for the next 11J.
Sanctions against the Putin regime are full of holes. Nonetheless, those that have been already implemented are seriously hurting the Russian dictator’s ability to finance his war for an extended stretch of time. The idea of a palace revolution is becoming ever more feasible in Russia, the longer this genocidal quicksand protracts. The argument that “sanctions do not work”, has lost validity.
The U.S. has forged its relationship with Cuban communism premised on the principle of seeking to deprive the sixty-two-year-old dictatorship of resources to repress. Different American administrations have strengthened or weakened this approach. The fact remains, however, that despite the embargo’s loopholes and other inconsistencies with the sanctions, the Castro regime would love nothing more than a termination of financial penalties for its criminal behavior. The West is making sanctions against Russia, a moral crusade. This ethical notion can come hard on Havana’s Marxist clan at some point.
The loss of Putin’s banks
Several Russian banks have been ejected from the SWIFT system. Those para-state institutions, at the service of the Russian dictatorship, have established an entangling relationship with the Western Hemisphere’s socialist autocracies. They have served the purpose of evading U.S. sanctions by having Putin’s banks be the agents of transaction with European entities. It is highly probable that they have also been instruments of money laundering from drug trafficking, a lucrative business for continental socialism. As long as the Russo-Ukrainian War is going on and the sanctions on the Putin remain, Castroism has lost one of their premier dirty bankers.
Goodbye Russian tourists.
Russian tourism to Cuba increased about 200% since 2019. In 2021, Russians constituted 40% of the total number of tourists that visited the tropical gulag. That has all changed since Ukraine was invaded. The pale bodies of Russian citizens suntanning in Cuba’s beaches is now a mirage. This important source of revenue for the Cuban dictatorship has vanquished. Given the uncertainty in all of Europe now, visiting Cuba may be the last thing on European minds now.
The likelihood that Cubans in the island will again openly challenge the totalitarian regime in power is probable. The spirit of Ukrainians fighting against the odds, yet winning at every step, will surely send messages of hope and inspiration to Cubans. An internet system, that can bypass tyrannical rule, now has a success story. Sanctions as a moral and tactical weapon has been elevated and is today in the glamour. Losing crooked bankers will be costly. The Castro state capitalist tourist emporium is at a considerable loss with the absence of Russian visitors. Ukraine matters and to freedom-loving Cubans, it is especially critical. #FreeCubaStandsWithUkraine
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.