When I was 17 years old, I toured a Cuban biotechnology facility operated by the authoritarian Castro government. I had gone there on a visa to study Spanish with an American-based program within the University of Havana, and the leaders had arranged several cultural and educational excursions for our group of starry-eyed San Francisco leftists who wanted to see socialism up close and enjoy fine Havana rum and tobacco in the idyllic but crumbling Old- World Caribbean setting.
It was charming — and eye-opening.
In a nondescript cement building on the outskirts of Havana, a few unofficial looking men explained to us the glories of Cuban biotechnological advancements, boasting that they could have a thriving market for these products … if only the United States would buy them. Then, as now, the U.S. had a trade embargo in place against the communist nation.
Looking back on this experience this week, it hit me for perhaps the first time: These officials were telling us that the Cuban government had — supposedly — invested time and resources into developing all sorts of world-changing medications that somehow could only be profitable if they were sold in the United States, and yet I don’t remember seeing anything at that facility but an empty room with plastic tables and chairs. All they did was have us Westerners sit and patiently exercise our Spanish language chops by deciphering their guttural and twanging Cuban accents as we were treated to a diatribe on the glories of Cuban bio-innovation — and the cruelty of the American trade embargo. Not once were we shown even the most basic much less world-changing medical products
What those government officials told me in that random building on the outskirts of Havana in 2003 is no different than what they’re telling the global community today as to why their nation is suffering the devastating food shortages and lack of medical supplies that have prompted a virtually unseen degree of protests across the country. The only difference is that in a new age of social media the words the Cuban communists use are even more dramatic, as they now prefer to describe the trade embargo as “economic asphyxiation” by the United States, when, in fact, the government is able to obtain pretty much anything it wants through its partnerships with other countries including China, Russia, Mexico, Brazil, Spain, the Netherlands, and even Canada.
What is much more chilling is that some of the most high-profile American political leaders, organizations, university professors, and corporations will also tell you that the reason Cuban citizens living under the thumb of a decidedly authoritarian regime are so impoverished is because of — yes, you guessed it — the U.S. trade embargo.
While it’s far from shocking that openly left-wing socialists like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Bernie Sanders and a self-admitted Marxist organization like Black Lives Matter are using the same talking points as the Cuban regime, it is nonetheless concerning that they are doing it even as Cuban protesters are being beaten in the street by Cuban secret police and communist supporters. Rather than invite us to see the Cuban situation differently, all they’ve done is fully confirm our every suspicion that they are fully and unapologetically sympathetic to a communist regime that does not believe in civil liberties or even the most basic human rights.
Now, to be fair, Rep. Cortez and Sen. Sanders say they support the rights of the Cuban people to protest the regime, and AOC, also to her credit, did denounce the regime as authoritarian. However, by blaming everything on the U.S., they show by solidarity with the Cuban communists and they justify the regime’s tyrannical actions, including the imprisonments, the torture, and the stripping of all rights.
Ocasio-Cortez, for her part, declared that we “must name the U.S. contribution to Cuban suffering: our sixty-year-old embargo.” Meanwhile, Sanders — who has a history of praising the late Cuban dictator Fidel Castro and falsely crediting him with providing the Cuban people with “good things” like literacy programs and world-class free healthcare — called on the regime to respect the rights of the opposition movement but also stated, “It’s also long past time to end the unilateral U.S. embargo on Cuba, which has only hurt, not helped, the Cuban people.”
So while both these lawmakers acknowledge that the Cuban people are having their rights trampled on by their own regime, they in the same breath are calling on the United States to take steps to enable the regime to survive economically, which undermines any show of sympathy they might otherwise have for its oppressed populace.
And now we move on to the jaw-dropping statements from Black Lives Matters. The group’s critics have long been warning that the organization is Marxist in its goals — co-founder Patrisse Cullors has even declared that she and her cohorts were “trained Marxists.”
The group — from which Cullors has since stepped down amid accusations that she enriched herself from its proceeds, which is about as quintessentially Marxist as it gets — seemed to take the opportunity to confirm, once and for all, that not only are they communists but that they also sympathize with communist dictators — even as those dictators are sending their police into the street to beat and arrest the Cuban protesters.
“Since 1962, the United States has forced pain and suffering on the people of Cuba by cutting off food, medicine and supplies, costing the tiny island nation an estimated $130 billion,” the group wrote in a statement last week.
“Black Lives Matter condemns the U.S. federal government’s inhumane treatment of Cubans, and urges it to immediately lift the economic embargo,” the statement continued, declaring that the Cuban people are “being punished by the U.S. government because the country has maintained its commitment to sovereignty and self-determination.”
It gets worse.
They plainly stated that the “United States leaders have tried to crush this Revolution for decades.”
This is exactly what the Cuban government has been saying for decades, my friends. That the United States is all that stands between Cuba and its utopia of socialism…not the cruelty of those in power or the inevitable failures of Marxism in practice.
Black Lives Matter also praised Cuba for showing solidarity with “oppressed peoples of African descent,” supporting “Black liberation struggles” on the African continent, and offering refuge for accused fugitive cop killer Assata Shakur.
One of my most distinct memories of Cuba was certainly not of a society that identified with the struggles of Africans; rather, I remember that many of the black Cubans I met were often antagonized and singled out by police officers as they walked the streets.
As for police brutality, which Black Lives Matter was supposedly founded to offer loud opposition to, the Cuban regime is apparently above reproach despite President Miguel Diaz-Canel calling on his “revolutionary” forces to fight the protesters in the street.
Let’s be abundantly clear: It is not cruel of the United States to deprive an authoritarian regime of the funding it needs to stay in power, as heartbreaking as it is that this regime continues to try to suck the life out of its own island and starve its own citizens in the process.
Defending the regime’s blame-shifting is tantamount to defending an abuser who blames his victim for making him so angry to the point that he cruelly beats her.
The United States didn’t set up the communist regime in Cuba — the communist revolutionaries did. And this is the regime we have long held sanctions against as they’ve managed to survive on trickles of support from other wicked regimes. And despite the passing of power from the Castro brothers to Diaz-Canal, the government has not softened, evolved, or changed in any way. Since 1958, the Cuban communist regime has been governing immorally, violating the rights of their citizens, and refusing to adopt the global community’s standards as to what constitutes human rights.
The people are poor because the leadership insists on being evil. And the figures in the United States who have been accused of wanting to lead our own nation down a similar path is propping up the false claims that their wickedness is our fault.
So, are we really that crazy for believing that communism might soon be accepted here at home?
It already is and has been for some time. I know. I lived among all those starry-eyed leftist believers and was one myself — until I saw the reality of a communist “utopia” with my own eyes.
As our comfortable and wealthy political figures stateside disseminate the talking points of the Cuban oppressors, we must let the desperate cries for freedom from the Cuban people serve as a loud, red-siren warning that has, up to this point, not been heeded. Listen carefully, America:
“¡Ya no tenemos miedo!”
“¡Abajo la dictadura!”
And then make their shouts your own:
“We are no longer afraid!”
“Down with the dictatorship!”