If the protests in Cuba calm down, the social explosion could wreak havoc in another way

On July 11, protests spontaneously erupted in San Antonio de los Banjoso and spread to 40 more locations, including the capital Havana. People chanted “the end of dictatorship”, “we are hungry”, “freedom”.

President Miguel Diaz-Canel quickly deployed security forces in the country, disrupted communications, and disconnected the Internet.

In just one day of demonstrations, one person died, dozens were injured and more than a hundred were detained.

The Cuban government has accused allegedly US-funded “counter-revolutionaries” of taking advantage of the difficulties caused by US sanctions. True, the president later admitted that “part of the blame” for the protests also falls on the government.

Observers have called the protests “unprecedented” – for the first time in six decades.

True, in November 2020, more than 300 artists staged a seating protest on the steps of the Ministry of Culture: demanding the right to negotiate the terms of sale and distribution of their works of art themselves.

AFP / “Scanpix” nuotr./Protestas Havanoje

What led to the protests?

Prior to the protests, Cubans expressed their dissatisfaction with food shortages, water and energy supply disruptions, and the indecisive government response to the growing number of COVID-19 cases in the comments sections of state websites, according to the BBC.

“Let’s put pride aside, the health care system has collapsed, it’s time to ask for international help. As long as people die, there are no resources to fight the growing number of infections, “wrote Padrino, a self-introduced Internet user.

Cuban historian Lillian Guerra of the University of Florida told National Public Radio that, contrary to the Cuban government’s claims, food shortages and high product prices were not caused by the embargo. This is due to the fact that the state has no resources.

“However, it is still investing resources in the construction of hotels and other infrastructure for tourists. The Cubans are fed up with this. They are struck by the fact that small street shops pay more taxes to cling to them than to an ordinary foreigner who is an investor on the island, such as owning a hotel.

Reuters / Photo by Scanpix / Protesters in Havana

Reuters / Photo by Scanpix / Protesters in Havana

As a result, the story is far more complicated than the 11 percent drop in gross domestic product. last year, ”the historian told NPR.

According to Guerra, the dissatisfaction in recent weeks has shown that Cubans have reached a consensus on what their regime, government, is, for a lack of democracy and accountability.

The historian suggests pointing out that Cubans have felt far more freedom in the last two years of U.S. President Barack Obama’s leadership.

“Politics has made it possible for Cubans on the island to do business with Americans who have left Cuba and share profits. “This opening has been very frightening for the Cuban government,” Guerra told NPR.

At the end of his second term, Obama eased decades-long restrictions on Americans and U.S. companies for travel and business in Cuba. The parties have opened embassies in each other’s capitals.

Restrictions were tightened again by Donald Trump, who became president.

Earlier this year, the Cuban government expanded the list of areas in which private business can operate. This is the green light for small and medium-sized businesses, even if the sectors are limited, writes France 24.

The government has historically always been the largest employer in Cuba. According to economist Mauricio de Miranda Parrondo, Havana “uses slow release tactics to reduce pressure.”

But “such tactics have failed because they do not strategically solve the country’s problems,” he said.

AFP /

AFP / “Scanpix” nuotr./Havana

What’s next?

Cuban political scientist Rafael Hernandez predicts that the Cuban government will now seek to identify political opponents and monitor them closely.

“I would expect the government to monitor them closely. And if they call for action again, they will detain them, “he told France 24.

Cuban historian, currently living in Mexico, Rafael Roy also believes efforts will be made to identify leaders. However, this may not be enough to avoid a “new social explosion, but probably another dimension”. According to him, future outbreaks are likely to be “more localized”.

Journalist Iam Bremmer writes in Time magazine that the economic hardship caused by the pandemic affected Cuba’s most loyal partners, Venezuela and Russia, “leaving Diaz-Canel without a good solution to solve the problems that anger people.”

“The government has also closed tourism, the most important source of human income, which is extremely important for the country’s budget and is a source of a stable currency. Tourists will not be in a hurry to return even if the restrictions are lifted, “I. Bremmer writes.

AFP / Scanpix photo / Image of Miguel Diaz-Canel

AFP / Scanpix photo / Image of Miguel Diaz-Canel

The journalist notes that President Diaz-Canel is also challenged by the changed generation. There are no longer many Cubans who remember the 1959 revolution, and it is difficult for those standing in line for food to explain that the goal of former country leader Fidel Castro is supposedly worthy of sacrifice.

The US issue

Reuters announced on Tuesday that in response to the crackdown on protesters in Cuba, the administration of US President Joe Biden will shortly announce initial steps to review Cuba’s policy.

According to anonymous sources from the Biden administration, the president may look for ways to improve the humanitarian situation for Cubans while maintaining pressure on the regime.

Biden said last week he was not ready to ease restrictions on remittances to Cuba. In other words, American remittances to loved ones on the island are restricted due to fears that most of the funds will be misappropriated by the Cuban government.

According to a Reuters spokesman, Washington is looking for ways to resume remittances that Trump has announced restrictions to keep the money in the hands of the Cuban authorities. However, it would take a long time to set up such a mechanism.

During the campaign, Biden promised to return to Obama-era plans to facilitate travel to and from Cuba, transferring money to people living on the island. He also spoke about the re-establishment of diplomatic ties between Cuba and the United States.

In March, 80 Democrats in the House of Representatives signed a letter urging the president to keep his promises.


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