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Cuba Is Crying Out. Will We Listen?

People shout slogans against the government during a protest against the government in Havana, Cuba, July 11, 2021. (Alexandre Meneghini/Reuters)
Why is it so difficult for Democrats to say the word 'Communism'?

During the 1980 Mariel boatlift, thousands of Cuban Americans rented small fishing boats to help their families escape Cuba. The trip was risky, but they didn’t care, even as countless ships capsized. Thankfully, the U.S. Coast Guard had accepted the herculean task of performing nonstop search-and-rescue missions. I, along with the rest of the Cuban community, cannot thank the United States enough for that.

But the Left has lost interest in the plight of the Cuban people. The current administration does not care to make a proper effort to understand the problems faced by the country. As protesters chant “Libertad,” somehow, Biden officials understand them to be protesting against the regime’s handling of the pandemic. Yesterday, Julie Chung, an acting assistant secretary of State, tweeted out a statement expressing the State Department’s solidarity with the “Cubans exercising their right to peaceful assembly to express concern about rising COVID cases/deaths & medicine shortages.” Someone should inform Chung that not only are Cubans denied any such right, but that calls for freedom generally are not directed against viruses.

After receiving significant criticism for its silence from prominent Cuban Americans such as Senator Marco Rubio (R., Fla.), today, the Biden administration circulated a press release that seems to be an effort at damage control more than anything else. The White House explained that “the right to peaceful protest” was a “universal right,” and affirmed the United States’ support for “freedom and relief from the tragic grip of the pandemic and from the decades of repression and economic suffering to which [Cubans] have been subjected by Cuba’s authoritarian regime.” To Biden’s credit, this statement is a significant improvement over his silence. But that is not a particularly high standard to meet, and it still leaves much to be desired.

In a fascinating display of the Democratic Party’s swing to the left, almost all party statements about the Caribbean country tiptoe around the forbidden word: Communism. Mind you, the protesters have been more than willing to demand an end to Communism, so it is not as though left-wing politicians such as Biden and the ever-expanding ranks of socialists in Congress remain silent due to a lack of information. Americans on both sides of the aisle would have once condemned Cuba’s government for what it is: a Marxist dictatorship.

It may be politically easier to paint the abuses of the Castros and their successors as run-of-the-mill tyranny. To be sure, the Communist Party certainly is oppressive. By Fidel Castro’s own admission, there had been periods where Cuban jail cells housed as many as 15,000 political prisoners, with the actual number likely being much higher. Castro’s lavish lifestyle and his cult of personality also strongly resembled that of your typical tinpot dictator. But to ignore the ideological motivation behind the actions of the Communist Party of Cuba is as erroneous as it is immoral. It is contemptible that our representatives refuse to name the source of so much misery for so many Cuban Americans.

State atheism led to the persecution and devastation of Cuban churches. Collectivist morality justified Fidel Castro’s emigration restrictions, as he argued that the labor of medical professionals was not their own to offer, but a service people were entitled to. He prevented them from leaving the country one day, and then shipped them across the world to support other revolutionary movements the next. Doctors and dentists were commodities to him. Even today, Cuban officials maintain their stubborn belief in the superiority of Communism. In an impressive feat of ideological vanity and selfishness, officials have rejected offers from the World Health Organization’s vaccine-sharing program and declined to enter negotiations with foreign vaccine manufacturers. Instead, Cuba has opted to pursue their own vaccine. In all fairness, they succeeded, but not without leaving their people to deal with massive vaccine shortages.

Cuba is at a tipping point. The Castro family has finally ceded much of its former power, and the new first secretary, Miguel Diaz-Canel, is struggling to maintain control. Cuba has suffered under Communism for over 60 years. It may be optimistic, but it seems to be increasingly likely that this reign is coming to an end. But to ensure that, our leaders should be clear about what the problem is, both with our citizens and the Cubans remaining on the island. The pandemic that Biden officials believe is driving the protests has been worsened by Communism, and Cuba’s misery is inexorably tied with its ideology. If only Democrats had the spine to say it.

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