While having lunch with a Cuban friend in beautiful St. Petersburg, Florida, he was optimistic that better days awaited Cuba after the passing of Fidel Castro in November of 2016. His hope was that with this strongman no longer on the scene, democratic reforms would be introduced gradually in Cuba.
My Cuban friend is not alone in expecting that hope and change will come to Cuba in 2017. Ben Rhodes, the Deputy National Security Advisor to President Obama, opined that the death of Fidel Castro provided a golden opportunity for a political transition in Cuba.
I disagree with the previous assessments as I am a faithful follower of the saying by the prominent American abolitionist Frederick Douglass:
“If there is no struggle, there is no progress. Those who profess to favor freedom, and yet depreciate agitation, are men who want crops without plowing up the ground. They want rain without thunder and lightning. They want the ocean without the awful roar of its many waters. This struggle may be a moral one; or it may be a physical one; or it may be both moral and physical; but it must be a struggle. Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will.”
Even taking into account Raul Castro’s promise to retire in 2018, Fidel and Raul Castro have planned the continuity of the communist regime by placing key supporters in the armed forces and in the government bureaucracy. The armed forces are in control of 65 percent of the economy, while 14 members of the Politburo are military men. Moreover, the children of Fidel and Raul and their extended families occupy important positions in the Cuban Government. Raul’s son Alejandro is the regime’s intelligence chief, while his son-in-law, Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Callejas, is in charge of the Cuban military’s business operations. With the majority of them in their fifties, they will remain key players for many years to come. In addition, the Cuban Government retains full control of the Cuban news media, which is well adept at keeping Cubans in the dark.
With all the hoopla associated with President Obama’s new Cuba policy of December 2014, things have not changed for the better in the Caribbean Island. Any political activity or political dissent that are not aligned with the Communist Party of Cuba remain criminal offenses. Dissidents are spied on, harassed, and roughed up by the state-supported vigilante committees. The Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation documented 8,616 cases of politically motivated arbitrary arrests in 2015, and 9,484 arrests through November of 2016 – making possible that the number could reach 10,000. Reporters Without Borders rank Cuba 171 out of 180 countries for press freedom – worse than Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Zimbabwe.
So, in other to restore democracy to Communist Cuba, there has to be a Cuban Spring that mirrors the Arab Spring that spread across the Middle East in early 2011. Cubans living in Cuba have to wake up and say once and for all that they’ve have had enough of lies, oppression, lack of civil and human rights, and totalitarian rule. They have to fill out the streets and plazas with their chants of “no más.” They have to take up arms and be willing to die for the cause of freedom to their homeland. The have to do it by themselves – without expecting to receive the help of Americans, Cuban-Americans, or any other groups throughout the world. No government can withstand the wrath of the majority of its own citizens.
But, in order to ignite the spark of revolution, the escape valve known as the Cuban Adjustment Act has to be repealed. Rather than fight for a Cuba Libre, many Cubans take the easy way out afforded by this law and emigrate to the United States. This provides the Cuban Government with a lifeline into the future by getting rid of most of its dissenters. Those dissidents that remain in Cuba are then either locked up in Cuban gulags or killed by communist thugs. What is left are the frustrated but obedient citizens, and you cannot make revolutions out of this group. With the repeal of the Cuban Adjustment Act, there will be enough dissidents in Cuba to provide the spark for the liberation movement that will untie the chains that have oppressed the Cuban citizens for over fifty-seven years of communist rule.
President-elect Trump has a golden opportunity to help the forces of freedom by demanding — as condition precedents to the normalization process with Cuba — religious and political liberalization, the freeing of all political prisoners, and the payment of the $8 billion debt owed to U.S. businesses after the Cuban Government confiscated their properties. If Raul fails to meet the U.S. demands, President Trump can reverse President Obama’s concessions by rescinding all executive orders on the Cuban policy. The fact that Mauricio Claver-Carone, executive director of the U.S.-Cuba Democracy Political Action Committee (USCD PAC) and Yleen Poblete, former chief of staff for U.S. Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, are now in the transition team are indicative that President Trump will make the right moves to restore democracy to Cuba.