Thu | Dec 9, 2021

Cubans have a right to let their voices heard

Published:Monday | July 26, 2021 | 12:07 AM


Recently a series of protests across Cuba has reignited the long-standing, polarising debate about what needs to happen in Cuba. I would like to briefly discuss the idea that external forces are possibly intruding on the island’s sovereign with a well-oiled propaganda machine.

For weeks, I have seen people downplay the protest in Cuba; making the claim that ‘the CIA – and, by extension, the US government – are the ones organising these protests’ or that ‘these protests are insignificant since counter-protests are much larger’. While I am acutely aware of the many times the US has intervened in the politics of several nations – the Caribbean and Latin America included – it is important for us to not hastily assume that these people’s motivations are not their own. Moreover, as someone whose experiences have been minoritised in many ways, I am very cautious about nullifying experiences because they are not popular.

Just to be clear, a minority status is not necessarily about the numbers, it is about power and access to resources. Again, this is not me saying that people in support of the Cuban Revolution have unchecked power. I am just making the point that a minority status does not necessarily equate to having fewer people. And yes, it is not lost on me that the Cubans who oppose the Cuban Revolution are also fervent supporters of the privatisation of the Cuban healthcare sector.

The ability to protest is a right that should be granted to everyone. Well, everyone expect bigots – you should not be publicly allowed to display your unhappiness with others accessing the said rights afforded to you. What is particularly interesting about what is happening in Cuba, and has happened in every other country that is not ‘white’ and/or ‘West’, is the intense call for regime change when people express dissatisfaction with their government. Leaders of these countries are not given a chance to have a national discourse with their people: ‘‘You disagree with your leaders? How about we mail you a coup d’etat? Two days if you ship with prime.’

We never get this energy when it comes to politics in western countries. During the French protests of 2020, no one called for the removal of President Macron; well, no one other than the people of France. After President Trump’s victory in 2016, ‘Not My President’ trended for several weeks, and on several other occasions during his tenure.

Again, no call for a coup. In fact, to my knowledge the only time there has ever been a coup against the US has been Americans trying to replace their own leaders.

We should not downplay the protests in Cuba by just assuming that they are a function of the US meddling in the region. Listen to Cubans when they are telling you what is happening on the ground – and only Cubans living in Cuba! And a protest does not mean we need to interfere with a country’s sovereignty.