Throughout the summer of 2021, the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property (TFP) worked to focus the world’s attention on Cuba. Its petition for Cuba’s freedom grew in intensity in the wake of the protests across Cuba on July 11-12, the most massive unrest in decades. The Cuban government responded by brutally clamping down on its people. The military took over the streets and closed down the Internet that live-streamed the protests. Many protesters were arrested. Cuban organizations estimate that as many as 500-1000 people are still missing while others have been sentenced to prison in sham trials.
One anti-communist Cuban citizen summed up the reason behind the protests. “Our hunger has eaten our fear.” The current unrest offers the best chance in many years to lift the communist yoke from the backs of the Cuban people.
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Defeating a Campaign of Silence
In the face of this opportunity, America should act.
However, many people are so overwhelmed by bad news that they prefer not to deal with it at all. These indifferent people aid the leftist campaign of silence that encourages Americans to ignore Cuba’s plight.
Leftists are urgently attempting to cover up news of the unrest. They know that the fall of Cuba’s Communist government would expose the horrid conditions of daily life in Cuba and refute the left’s assertions that socialism is the answer to America’s problems.
People with some goodwill are already familiar with the American embargo, which leftist claim keeps Cuba in poverty and centralist call an ineffective failure. They ask what more can America do to free Cuba from communist tyranny.
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Four Specific Actions that President Biden Could Take
There are four things President Biden could do right now to help end Cuba’s horrible plight.
1. Live up to his condemnation. On July 22, 2021, President Biden made a statement that began with the words, “I unequivocally condemn the mass detentions and sham trials that are unjustly sentencing to prison those who dared to speak out in an effort to intimidate and threaten the Cuban people into silence…. The United States stands with the brave Cubans who have taken to the streets to oppose 62 years of repression under a communist regime.”
These are fine-sounding words, but there is no action behind them.
The first thing the president can do to help Cuba is to keep it in the news. President Biden should demand that the Cuban government be held accountable for every single detainee now languish in Cuban prisons. He must make accountability a non-negotiable condition for any future contact between the U.S. and Cuba.
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2. Cut off any aid to Cuba and prohibit all American tourism. Most Americans would be surprised that U.S. foreign assistance goes to Cuba, mainly in food and drugs. Getting the exact amount is difficult. However, World Population Review cited the 2018 figure as $12.29 million.
In addition to foreign aid, Cuba also buys these materials from the U.S. According to the U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, U.S.-approved exports to Cuba in 2019 (pre-pandemic) totaled more than $257 million, thus making America a major supplier of food to Cuba.
The foreign aid and trade amounts are eclipsed by the money spent in Cuba by U.S. tourists. Cuba gains vast quantities of cash from American and other foreign tourists. Almost 500,000 U.S. tourists visited Cuba in 2019, according to Statista. Covid restrictions prevented much travel during 2020, but the Cuban government hopes that 2021 will see tourism numbers pop back up.
America is in a position to cut off this trade and tourist lifeline. America could also pressure allies to prohibit travel in the name of human rights.
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Given Cuba’s precarious economic state, foreign aid and tourism are critical. Given President Biden’s comfort in using executive orders, why hasn’t he used his fabled pen to stop both instantly?
3. Demand the Cuban government open the Internet and allow freedom to protest. President Biden’s July 22 statement indicated that the United States was “working with civil society organizations and the private sector to provide internet access to the Cuban people that circumvents the regime’s censorship efforts.” However, there is no indication that these efforts have succeeded.
The government needs to keep up the pressure to demand that the Cuban people have safe and secure access to the free flow of information on the Internet. It should employ technical means to restore access if this Cuban censorship continues. The silence on this score is deafening.
America might also make use of its radio assets. During the Cold War, the U.S. government used Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty to undermine Communist governments. It still exists, albeit in a shrunken form. Those assets could be used to beam strong anti-Communist messages and encouragement to the Cuban people, not empty platitudes, to assure them that they are not alone.
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4. Denounce Cuba on the International Stage. When President Biden was Vice-President, President Obama was doing everything he could to bring respectability to Cuba’s government. His White House immortalized these “achievements” on a webpage titled “Charting a New Course on Cuba.”
If anything, the July 2021 disturbances told the world that President Obama’s optimism was sadly misplaced. President Biden could repudiate those “achievements” as easily as he did those of President Trump.
On the international stage, President Biden needs to keep denouncing the Cuban outrage. Every single imprisoned Cuban must be accounted for. The president can summons the Cuban ambassador in Washington and demand accountability. He can recall the American ambassador in Havana as a sign of permanent protest about what is happening in the island prison.
If the President Wishes
The Administration can send strong and consistent messages to Cuba if the president so wishes. Each of these four measures is something that can be done right away. If executed properly, they could have a disastrous effect on the Cuban government’s ability to tyrannize its people.
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However, the crucial part of this strategy is contained in the words, “if the president so wishes.” While the left has sent out cosmetic messages of concern about the unrest in Cuba, it clearly does not wish to see Cuba free from communism.
Indeed, the battle to free Cuba is centered more in the West than on the island. The West’s complicity has kept the regime in power over these long decades. The unprecedented unrest has indicated that there is an opportunity to end communist rule in Cuba once and for all. Tragically, the hour is late, and the will to act is lacking.
Photo Credit: © Javier – stock.adobe.com