Last week, the Cuban communist regime once again showed the world that it is nothing more than a repressive dictatorship, holding on to a failed and cruel social, economic and political model. Unfortunately, some in the United States continue to hold a romanticized view of a revolution that maintains its power by weaponizing human suffering.
The Cuban regime continues to commit crimes against its people, beating, imprisoning, torturing — and even murdering — them. It continues to control every aspect of their lives, including cutting access to each other and the world by shutting down the internet and social media.
Instead of expressing outrage at the human misery of thousands of Cubans, there are many, including the Democratic Progressive Caucus of Florida, who failed to condemn these flagrant human-rights abuses and, instead, have chosen to endorse the big lie promoted by the dictatorship — that the U.S. embargo and Americans are to blame for Cuba’s dismal state of affairs.
The leaders of the Democratic Party understand the evils of the Cuban communist dictatorship. The Florida Democratic Party has never taken a position in support of removing the embargo.
It has been the ineptitude, mismanagement, corruption and catastrophic blunders of the Cuban communist regime that have led to poverty and misery; enslavement and total control of its people; the deaths of thousands of men, women and children; suppression of human rights and freedoms; a crumbling healthcare system; family separation; and the lack of any sense of hope and opportunity. This is far from the freedom, independence and opportunity promised to Cubans by la Revolución.
The results of these actions have driven Cubans to desperation and forced them to the streets, even as they face violent repression, including death. The protesters demand Patria y Vida y Libertad. Listen to them. They do not want to debate the embargo. The protesters know the ultimate cause of their suffering is their lack of freedom 62 years in the making. They want freedom and liberty — and they want it now. They deserve to live in freedom.
The embargo that needs to end is the regime’s embargo against its own people. The Cuban regime can do — and does — business with the rest of the world. Cuba’s official figures say that the island conducts trade with 70 countries, including the United States, which is one of Cuba’s 15 largest trading partners and the biggest exporter of food and agricultural goods to Cuba, according to U.S. government figures. Yet, Cuba’s oligarchs continue to enrich themselves while most citizens live in extreme poverty and face food insecurity. They are sick, tired and hungry. By government design, the economy works only for those at the top.
I find it highly insensitive to engage in yet another debate over the embargo while an oppressive regime crushes its people, millions of whom are Black or mixed-race. In fact, it is young Afro Cubans who are leading the call for freedoms.
Our immediate priority must be the well-being and safety of the Cuban people.
Perhaps these unprecedented protests will lead us to reconsider the U.S.’ approach to Cuba policy. If we are going to take any policy cues, it should be from the people on the ground risking life and limb to demand change.
It is they who are suffering under the batons of the Cuban security forces. Rather than Miami or Washington presuming what is right for them, why don’t we let them tell us what they need from us in their fight for Patria y Vida.
Manny Diaz is the chair of the Florida Democratic Party.