Despite the brief moment of hope when tens of thousands of Cubans took to the streets in protest on July 11, 2021, the communist regime’s violent response brought back the desperation, and it’s only getting worse.
Two years after the mass demonstrations, Cuba remains as desperate as ever
With this week’s anniversary of the nationwide protests of July 11, 2021, Cuba continues in a precipitous downward spiral. The one-party communist nation continues to experience unprecedented rates of outward migration, protests and government repression.
It is also groaning under the implementation of a restrictive new penal code and a growing failure of leadership. In recent weeks, Cuba’s growing desperation has led to strengthened ties with both China and Russia, including concerning talk of installing a Chinese military and intelligence facility on the island’s eastern coast, just 90 miles from the U.S. mainland.
In 2022 alone, some 220,000 Cubans sought entry at the U.S.-Mexico border. From a historical perspective, these figures represent an exponential rise from previous years. The majority of Cubans now enter via Nicaragua, a close ally of Cuba’s leadership which eliminated visa requirements for Cubans. As a result, Cuban migrants now increasingly flock to the southwest border rather than their usual journey through the Straits of Florida.
This rise in outward migration is a response to vastly deteriorated economic and political conditions, with inflation estimated by some to be nearly 200 percent. Consequently, access to food, medicine and fuel has become a daily struggle for Cubans. Electricity blackouts remain commonplace. While a number of factors are to blame — including a contraction in Cuba’s tourism sector sparked by the pandemic, the loss of Venezuelan subsidies and the 2021 elimination of Cuba’s dual currency system — ultimately, the failure of Cuba’s centrally planned socialist system is to blame.
Internally, it appears many are also questioning the viability of Cuba’s leadership. In power since 2018, Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel has had a tumultuous tenure thus far. And although he was “reelected” a few weeks ago, voter abstention and the persistence of protests bodes poorly for his ability to lead effectively going forward.
But rather than consider viable solutions to Cuba’s current challenges, in the last year, Diaz-Canel has doubled down on repression and initiated a new penal code that further criminalizes dissent. Among other provisions, it criminalizes the use of social media and imposes more severe restrictions on challenges to the current pollical system.
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