HAVANA, Cuba — Saturday.- marked 63 years since the communist usurpation of Cuba — 63 years of unfettered totalitarian control by the Castro brothers, their henchmen, and successors over nearly every aspect of their subjects’ lives.
The government refers to the anniversary of its 1959 victory as “Triumph of the revolution” or “Liberation Day.” But those titles are deeply misleading. The revolution has been anything but a triumph for my nation. And instead of liberating the Cuban people, the communist regime has forced them to live as prisoners on a prison island.
This past weekend’s festivities included the usual long-winded speeches by government officials and regime-induced celebratory activities in public squares across the country. But these outward expressions of success belie the reality of a nation that’s rotting on the inside after decades of economic stagnation, political subjugation, and spiritual and intellectual despair.
It is sometimes said that the most basic measurement of a nation’s health is whether, when given the opportunity, people clamor to enter it or risk their lives to escape from it. By that standard, Cuba has been an abject failure since the communists took over.
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Millions have fled Cuba since the revolution, and many thousands have died trying to make the perilous journey to Florida through treacherous, shark-infested waters, often in flimsy rustic rafts.
The decades long exodus from Cuba shows no signs of abating. The U.S. Coast Guard intercepted 838 Cubans at sea in fiscal 2021, a large increase from 2020. Since October, another 410 Cubans have been intercepted trying to make the 90-mile journey to a better life in the United States. In addition, tens of thousands of Cubans are given sanctuary in the U.S each year as political refugees.
They are driven to flee out of desperation —desperation to leave behind a system of government that stifles opportunity and suppresses the human spirit. And they have grown impatient with the idea, perpetuated most recently by Cuban leader Miguel Diaz-Canel, that if only they wait, reforms will gradually take place.
We Cubans know the true nature of communism. We have lived it for all these years. We know that it is capable of neither growth nor improvement, reform nor evolution. It is irredeemable, and no real reform will occur until Cuba is free of it. What Cuba needs is not reform of the stale communist model but a rebirth into a truly free democracy.
The desperation, hopelessness, and desire to reclaim our nation from its captors prompted the historic protests of July 11, when thousands of Cubans across the island took to the streets to demand freedom. The protests were spurred by the increasing realization of everyday Cubans that only a free Cuba can flourish.
Cuban officials and the state-run media blame the U.S. trade embargo for all the ills of Cuban society. Recently, Diaz-Canel blamed the embargo — which he referred to as “genocidal” — for the conditions that led to the July 11 protests.
Blaming Cuba’s economic privations on the U.S embargo is also common among U.S. progressives and some international institutions, including the United Nations General Assembly.
But inside Cuba, the practice of blaming the embargo has become something of a joke among ordinary people. If someone doesn’t show up for work or is late to an appointment, he or she may say in jest that the embargo or blockade (“el bloqueo”) delayed them. In short, Cubans don't buy it.
One reason is that America’s trade embargo against Cuba has many exceptions, including for food, medicine, medical supplies, agricultural goods, and humanitarian supplies. And there are numerous other exceptions as well. For instance, Cuba imported more than $120 million worth of U.S. chicken in the first six months of 2021.
Moreover, Cuba is free to trade with the world’s 193 other countries and does so extensively. Spain and Italy are major trade partners, and Cuba has developed strong commercial ties with the rogue regimes that control China, Russia, and Venezuela.
U.S. sanctions are not causing Cuba's problems, and more importantly, they do not justify the harsh constraints that the Cuban authorities impose on the civil liberties of Cuban citizens.
Cuba is poor not because America won’t trade with it, but because it is shackled to a Marxist economic model and authoritarian political system that are morally bankrupt; because it is a dictatorship that stamps out free expression, political freedom, human rights, and economic opportunity; because it is a soulless enterprise whose only animating principle is the instinct to control.
The Cuban government will continue to point to the U.S. trade embargo as the source of its problems and to demand that it be lifted. But only when the embargo imposed against the spirit of the Cuban people is lifted will the problems that ail our nation begin to disappear.
Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet is a human rights leader, former prisoner of conscience, and recipient of the Presidential Medal of Freedom. He lives in Havana, Cuba, and can be contacted through his website.
Sígame en: http://www.twitter.com/@oscarbiscet
Publicado en /washingtonexaminer/. /La Nueva Nación/.