As Cuban Americans celebrated the first anniversary of the last summer’s protests in Cuba while incessantly trying to provoke an all-out uprising, President Joe Biden, like his predecessor, flew to meet with leaders in the Middle East, stopping in countries known for suppressing free expression, silencing news outlets, and murdering journalists.
Ironically, hours before Biden’s departure, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken issued a statement saying the U.S. stands with the Cuban people and their fight against repression from the Cuban government.
“One year after the July 11, 2021 protests in Cuba, the United States recognizes the determination and courage of the Cuban people as they continue to fight for respect for human rights and persevere through repression during a historic year,” Blinken said. “We celebrate the Cuban people and commend their indomitable determination in the face of oppression.”
Actions like this aren’t new. U.S. policy toward Cuba, regardless of the president or political party in power, has always been oppressive. An imperialist position meant to create so much misery that it would hopefully provoke a rebellion against the Cuban government and open the door to U.S. corporate interests and what the majority of Cubans regard as exploitation.
What right-wing Cubans that dominate the conversation won’t tell you is that despite a growing minority of Cubans who are displeased with their government, the vast majority are not interested in U.S. intervention in their affairs —not socially, politically, or economically— and are more interested in reforms instead of regime change.
Cubans don’t want to go to war with each other, and they certainly don’t want to plunge the country deeper into turmoil, leaving them at the mercy of the United States. Instead, Cuba has been receiving support from many other nations in a coalition known as the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), which was founded in 2011.
By the time the July 2021 protests became newsworthy for big media in the U.S., Cubans were already on their third day of action. What started out as a call to the international community for help with COVID-19 and food shortages had been appropriated by right-wing Cubans in the U.S. and overtaken by anti-government actors. Meanwhile, CELAC countries heeded the call for help and began sending food, syringes, and other needed medical supplies to Cuba.
CELAC boasts a membership of 32 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean representing a population of 650 million people. Together, CELAC nations are the number one food exporter in the world. This broad coalition of countries and their unified political and economic strength are seen as threats to the interests of the United States.
Life in Cuba is hard. An entire country of 11 million people lives under similar conditions as the poorest 37.2 million people (11.4 percent of the population) in the United States. The difference for Cubans is that they don’t have access to resources afforded to the impoverished in the United States. While poor people in the U.S. have hope tied to assistance programs, Cubans on the island have little access to anything outside of guaranteed healthcare, housing, and education due to punitive U.S. policies.
The United States’ corporate-interest-driven systems toward Latin American countries that don’t toe the capitalist line and choose to determine their own futures are outdated and draconian. They transcend U.S. politics in a continuous effort born of colonialist rule. Because of this, most in the region have a singular political view of the U.S. government.
U.S. political partisanship is all the same to people outside of the country and is often referred to as neoliberalism throughout Latin America. For Cuba and other Latin American and Caribbean countries that are putting the environment first, the United States and much of the imperialist West are nations of excess. But the U.S., being a unilateral oppressor of the tiny archipelago, one whose society doesn’t care about the people outside of its borders, stands out the most to Cubans.
The United States makes it too easy for the Cuban regime. From the lack of action to address mass shooters and domestic terrorists, to not providing guaranteed healthcare and people dying from not being able to afford medication, Cuba’s government exploits all those realities. The exceedingly high violent crime and murder rates are also used to prove Cuba is better than the United States.
In addition, how Cuba is treated in the U.S. media and by politicians of every stripe also plays a huge role. From sanctions to trade embargoes, Cuba has plenty of ammunition for its propaganda machine to counter the messaging coming from the United States. The attack on the Capitol, armed domestic terrorists, school shootings, and police brutality all have their own functions in Cuba’s messaging.
Similarly, those using video footage from last year to try and provoke another uprising on the first anniversary of the July 11 protests are also transparent in that no one takes them seriously. Then there are the right-wing Cuban Americans who travel to Cuba with fake designer clothes, handbags, and jewelry to portray themselves as being instant successes in the United States but are routinely laughed out of neighborhoods on the island.
Many Cuban Americans often attempt to “go viral” by propagandizing their visits to Cuba with videos posted on Facebook about how hard life is on the island. While it never works, many seem to view themselves as the next revolutionary leader who brings “freedom” to the island nation. The reality is that most of their views are fascist, racist, and transphobic.
When it comes to Cuba, it’s a lot more complex than the U.S. and Cuban propaganda machines would have us believe. If we’re not hearing from the people and only getting our facts from big media in the United States, then we’re not getting the full story. We’re getting the story the U.S. State Department wants us to receive.
Last year’s protests are just the latest example of that.
Arturo Domínquez is a first-generation Cuban American father of three young men, an anti-racist, journalist, and publisher of The Antagonist Magazine. If you’d like to learn more about the issues covered here, follow him on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. You can also support his work here and here.