Cubans are in revolt, much as Eastern Europe and Soviet citizens were in the 1980s – against communist oppression. The problem is not with US sanctions on Cuba for communist cruelty; the problem is communist cruelty. Biden should take a page from Reagan, demand Cuba’s president, Miguel Diaz-Canel, unchain the Cuban people – make Cuba a democracy.
Seldom do people in a communist or otherwise totalitarian country revolt. To do so means life itself has become less important than freedom.
That level of hopelessness and frustration has arrived in Cuba. The reason is no mystery.
Cuba’s communist “revolution” dates to 1959, when an amalgam of the “Popular Socialist Party” and “26th of July Movement” seized power, codified in 1965 as the “Cuban Communist Party.”
That party has ruled for 62 years, iron fist, no free elections, no competition, thousands of dissidents killed, failed economic system – long underwritten by the Soviet Union, which collapsed in 1989.
To what effect? In 2020, the US State Department reported on the tragedy 330 miles to our south. Cuba remains a “one-party system,” characterized by regular killings, disappearances, near-complete suppression of basic freedoms, from speech, religion, assembly, press, and travel to fair trial, freedom from political detention, cruel punishment, and outright torture. Forget about self-defense.
As State reports, “the Communist Party is the only legal political entity,” and “elections are neither free nor fair.” Might this suggest why Democrat-pushed bills like HR 1 and S 1, which would establish one-party control over the Federal Election Commission, might be a bad idea?
Why is state-level control of elections valuable? Why are anti-fraud measures always timely?
Specifically, State reported in 2020, Cuba’s secret police “are responsible for monitoring, infiltrating, and suppressing independent political activity,” Cuba’s “security forces” have “committed numerous abuses,” and “significant human rights issues included: unlawful or arbitrary killings, including extrajudicial killings …forced disappearance … torture and cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of political dissidents, detainees, and prisoners by security forces; harsh and life-threatening prison conditions; arbitrary arrests and detentions … (of) political prisoners; significant problems with the independence of the judiciary; and arbitrary or unlawful interference with privacy.”
That is not all. “Freedom of the press functionally did not exist,” as “criminal libel laws were used against persons who criticized government leadership” and “the government engaged in censorship and internet site blocking … severe limitations on academic and cultural freedom … severe restrictions on peaceful assembly … freedom of association … religious freedom … internal and external freedom of movement,” with an overhang of “official corruption, trafficking in persons … compulsory labor … outlawing of independent trade unions.” Abuses are not prosecuted since ordered. See, e.g., 2020 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices: Cuba.
Other than that, Cuba is a communist paradise, right? Well, almost. Before 1959, a “free Cuba” ranked near the top for development, the standard of living higher than much of Europe. Since then, life has gone from dark to darker, as those who escape attest.
In the 1970s, government death squads killed 14,000, unofficial death tally from communist killings now over 100,000. Why “unofficial?” Because Communists – like China, Venezuela, former Soviet Union – do not report dissident killings. Wonder why?
Cannot imagine. Reagan raised that with Gorbachev. Do you think Biden has raised it with China’s president or Cuba’s?
As early as 1961, an estimated 300,000 of 6.4 million were detained in “Gulag-style concentration camps” by Cuba’s government. Since that time, two million have managed to escape, under threat of death. The outrage over Cuba’s unconscionable oppression of human rights has, until recently, been shared by all Americans, from John F. Kennedy to Donald J. Trump. See, e.g., Communist Dictatorship in Cuba (1959-present); Cuba: Fidel Castro’s Record of Repression; Bay of Pigs invasion: Kennedy’s Cuban catastrophe; Trump Administration Designates Cuba State Sponsor of Terror.
But today, incredibly, the Democrat Party is split on Cuba’s communism, some defending the repressive government or simply silent. That is objectively jaw-dropping. See, e.g., AOC calls out Biden for defending ‘absurdly cruel’ embargo on Cuba while expressing support for Cuban protestors; Florida Democrat slams AOC for Cuba statement; AOC silent as DSA appears to back Cuba’s communist regime over protesters; Steube Slams Democrats For ‘Staying Silent’ On Cuba.
Now, the real question: What can be done, right now – by the Biden Administration? A lot. How about:
Go on national television, as Reagan did to nail the Soviets, and call the Cuban communists illegitimate. Make clear – unlike the Chinese, Iranian, and Russians, who back Cuba’s repression – Americans do not, will not, never have. Offer any who disagree; they can self-deport to Cuba.
More pointedly, rally the US Congress, which should not be equivocating on communism’s evil.
Rally the Organization of American States (OAS), which is committed to speaking out on human rights. Rally Europe, showing US leadership. Rally the United Nations to condemn Cuba’s repression – then pivot to shine a bright light on communist repression in China. Use this moment to elevate the US – as a free country, politically and economically – to the moral ground we hold.
Then, challenge Cuba’s communists directly, with a tightening of sanctions, get Europe to stand up – as they are now Cuba’s top trade partner. Give voice to Cuban freedom fighters, endorse their demands – as Reagan did for those in Eastern Europe and fighting the Soviets. Invite Cubans who escaped the communist regime to the White House, recognize their courage, honor them.
Remember aloud, with visuals, how what is happening in Cuba now is what happened in Hong Kong in June 2020, what happened in China in June 1989, when students rose to confront Chinese communists, one lone man standing down a column of communist tanks at Tiananmen Square. See, e.g., How Hong Kong caught fire: the story of a radical uprising; 1989 Tiananmen Square protests; Tank Man.
In short, world events call for leadership, unified opposition to evil, calling a spade a spade. Edmund Burke reminded us, all it takes for evil to prevail – or continue – is for good people to do nothing. Cubans are rising, willing to trade their lives for freedom.
We must do all we can to validate them and delegitimize communism at every turn. Can there be any question?
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