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Beyond the Manifesto: Cuba’s Cry for Freedom Amidst Marxist Decay


America’s younger generations who are entranced by socialism’s promised glories should spend some time like I did with our brave but worn-down neighbors to our south. Maybe then they’d realize that all socialism ever truly delivers is a suffocating existence without basic human rights, religion, prosperity, or political freedom.

You’ve probably heard the adage that “communism looks great on paper, but it doesn’t work in reality.” The unfolding saga in Cuba means that, for those still romanticizing the theory, it’s clearly time to re-examine the “paper” — because the pages are written in the ink of suffering.

From the Caribbean Island just a stone’s throw from Florida’s coast, the reports are dire: relentless blackouts disrupting daily life, essentials like food and medicine are scarce, and inflation is so rampant that, according to CNN, “many state salaries [are] now worth less than the cost of a carton of eggs.”

In Santiago de Cuba, among other cities, hundreds of people have poured onto the streets in protest, some reportedly shouting, “Down with communism, down with Díaz-Canel” — Canel being the current dictator.

The economic turmoil in Cuba doesn’t come as a revelation; it’s the inevitable aftermath of Marxist policies. News reports, though, often fail to capture the suffocating grip of socialism up close.

It’s a truth you must see for yourself.

Let me tell you what I witnessed with my own eyes — stuff that usually gets skipped over in our “mainstream” press. It’s about more than what’s happening on the ground in Cuba, however; it serves as a warning for us back home in America.

If we sit back and tune out the progressive encroachment here, we risk letting those same totalitarian instincts cause more turmoil and pain on our shores, even more than they already have.

Don’t forget that progressive politicians like Castro came to power with lofty promises —endless ‘freebies’ that dazzle the masses. Yet, the outcome is tragically predictable: a merciless boot of tyranny that crushes human liberty under its heel, a reality the Cuban people have endured for more than six decades.

In 2017, I took a short-term mission trip to Cuba with folks from my church in Seattle.

You meet Cubans, and they’re the nicest people you’ll ever bump into. But you also see that they’ve been worn down — spiritually and emotionally — over so many years and generations under communist rule, which makes it all the more heartening to see them stand up in defiance today.

The people showing us around, primarily pastors, wouldn’t breathe a bad word about the government in public. They knew the score: say the wrong thing and you might disappear into a cell. Even when we were driving around in cars with the windows up, they were hesitant to criticize a dead Fidel Castro or his brother, Raúl.

That’s when it hits you: Speaking your mind, something we take for granted, is gold dust over there. If we don’t hold onto that tightly in America, we likewise might find ourselves one day whispering our political grievances, scared that government enforcers might haul us off to prison for “wrongthink.”

The situation with religious freedom in Cuba was also a real eye-opener.

As our tour guides explained, the government tolerates the existence of church buildings if they existed prior to Castro’s takeover, but only if such gatherings are not perceived as a threat. Still, the government uses a labyrinth of zoning laws and other regulatory maneuvers to suppress the number of new church buildings that can be built. 

We did hook up with a church network, all operating out of tiny living rooms. That’s the drill there — house churches, for the most part. The government lets them be, sort of, but with strings attached: keep it small, keep it quiet, and don’t be surprised if there’s a spy in the crowd taking notes, which is always a possibility, as we were frequently warned.

A house church we visited in Old Havana

Another thing we often overlook is the expectation that our supermarket shelves will have basic necessities in stock. For the Cuban people, this kind of certainty is a luxury they can’t count on.

Our local friends shared that each Cuban family is allotted a ration “book.” It’s meant to guarantee them a daily share of bread and a monthly allowance of eggs, rice, sugar, and chicken.

The catch?

These supplies are supposed to stretch for a month but often run out in a matter of days.

In these times, the hope is that when they visit the store to buy more groceries, it isn’t picked clean. Unfortunately, as recent protests have highlighted, empty shelves are a common sight, driving frustration to the tipping point.

Contrast this with the narrative on Cuba’s state-run TV, which paints a picture of abundance and socialist success. This glaring discrepancy between propaganda and reality has not gone unnoticed by the Cuban people, who meet such broadcasts with a well-earned mockery.

“Want bread? Ask the media for it,” Cubans will opine sarcastically.

Then there’s the crumbling infrastructure, which, in many ways, reflects the moral rot deep within the system itself.

Take Old Havana as an example.

An area once resplendent with ornate Spanish architecture that had served as a muse for the likes of Ernest Hemingway now stands in neglect. These once-proud buildings are in total decay, while the streets are marked with the scent of urine as if every block were a San Francisco homeless encampment.

High-profile visitors like Michael Moore or Sean Penn may receive the Hollywood star treatment on arrival, complete with luxury accommodations and scenic views. But step away from the curated imagery, and you’ll encounter the real Cuba. Many live in circumstances far removed from the beachfront glamour, lacking simple amenities like air conditioning or proper plumbing.

Old Havana circa 2017

In more rural areas, “outhouses” are the norm, not the exception, as our missionary team found out firsthand.

We worked with a local translator — we’ll call him Carlos — whose wife was a pediatrician. She earned about $60 a month, which is on the higher end of the wage scale if you can believe it. In a twist that pretty much sums up Marxist economics, street vendors can earn more by selling ice pops to tourists on the black market than doctors and lawyers make in a year.

“Carlos” was a local minister and one of our translators.

Out in the countryside, farmers toil with antiquated tools, and their hard work hardly pays off. I met a family in the Pinar del Rio region who routinely see as much as 90 percent of their harvest confiscated by the Communist Party. They labor under the hot sun for long hours every day to keep just a fraction of the fruits of their labor.

So, when nearly half of young adults view socialism positively, as a 2022 Pew Research Center poll concluded, this is what they are endorsing: Confiscation and hardship, not the rosy utopia they’ve been taught in the classroom or have seen on the big screen.

Maybe it would take describing Cuba’s pitiful Internet infrastructure to get the attention of those with a fond view of socialism. In my experience, accessing the Internet in Cuba means buying pre-paid Wi-Fi cards for time-limited sessions, with connectivity so slow that it hearkens back to the early days of AOL dial-up speeds — hardly enough juice to load up a website with more than three pictures, much less 4K streaming video of the latest episode of whatever.  

With no competition and no profit incentive, there’s little push to improve services, whether it’s the Internet or even something as straightforward as food service — imagine waiting an hour for a slice of pizza.

In an environment where the state runs everything, efficiency and customer satisfaction take a back seat.

There’s more I could add if space permitted me, but here’s the bottom line: Daily life for the Cuban people is a shameful embroidery of human rights abuses, economic instability, and political subjugation.

This is my prayer, and may it be yours too: That Cuba’s despotic regime crumbles just as the USSR did — spectacularly and irreversibly. Such a downfall would mark a triumph for freedom and finally close the book on decades of agony and oppression.

Photo Credits: Jason Mattera

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