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Basta Ya!

Enough Already — shout the people of Cuba

Songs of protest are coming out of Cuba, as young people cry for freedom, tired of more than 60 years of one-party Communist rule.

Years of pent-up feelings of injustice exploded on Cuba’s streets yesterday, as thousands marched  in Havana and dozens of other cities, yelling “Down with the dictatorship!” and “Freedom!”.

Patria y Vida — protestors overturn a police car in Havana

The soundtrack for these protests came from aggressive and brave Cuban musicians who’s music has helped to spur on this protest.

One song by Gente De Zona has had almost six million views on YouTube since launching in February and plays on the standard slogan “Patria or muerte” — the fatherland or death, with their revised version “Patria y vida” — the fatherland and life.

Patria y Vida is a hit — but not with the Cuban government

No more lies! My people ask for freedom, no more doctrines
Let us no longer shout homeland or death but homeland and life
And begin to build what we dream of
What they destroyed with their hands
” says one verse.

That line “Patria y Vida” is a battle cry for the new protests.

Another song “Basta Ya!”—Enough Already by Rey Chavez is of similar vein. The  accompanying video makes it clear what he ha had enough of – images of police brutality, people trying to flee Cuba in boats that are less than seaworthy, images of the Castro brothers, while Chavez wraps himself in the Cuban flag.

Basta Ya! — Enough Already!

The protests are about freedom, but some parts of the international media are trying to paint it as being about shortages and bread and butter issues, linked with the pandemic.

“State security beat me and my daughter “ said one man, his head bloodied. “They beat us because we were walking on the street” he said on BBC TV.

SOS Cuba is trending on Twitter as protests continue Photo: AFP

“We are here because of the repression of the people” said one man marching outside the capitol in Havana. “They are starving us to death Havana is collapsing. We have no house. We have nothing. But they money to build hotels while they have us starving,” said another man in the march in Havana, as seen on the BBC.

“This is the day. We can’t take it anymore. There is no food, there is no medicine, there is no freedom. They do not let us live. We are already tired,” said another protester to the BBC.

Protesters overturned police cars and raided state stores as they vented their anger.

Cuba is developing its own Covid-19 vaccines Photo: Reuters

It is believed to be the largest popular protest seen in Cuba since the revolution of 1959, when Fidel Castro took power from Batista, and set out on a course of creating a Communist state.


Meanwhile, leader Miguel Diaz Canel has resorted to the fall-back position of blaming the United States. “We came here to show together with the revolutionaries of this town that here the street belong to the revolutionaries.

Canal-Diaz took over from Raul Castro

“No worm or mercenary will claim the streets and it they provoke us we – without violating their constitutional rights – we will confront them” he said.

Dehumanising people who don’t agree with you is a favourite strategy for many authoritarian regimes– referring to Tutsi people as cockroaches at the time of its genocide in Rwanda being a prime example.

In a separate TV address, Diaz Canel said “The order to fight has been given – into the street, revolutionaries!” he said in an address on TV.” Supporters of the Communist Party took this as their cue to fight back with the protesters.

Other protesters came out in support of the government — and anti-worms

And indeed, thousands of Communist party supporters went onto the streets to show their support of the government.

This is the first real test of Diaz Canel and his position as the only non-Castro to rule the island since 1959. Up to now, his rule has appeared to be non-confrontational and staid — boring even. Don’t rock the boat.

But with his recent pronouncements, it is clear that he is willing to take up Fidel’s mantel and blame the US for all of Cuba’s problems – at the risk of intensifying the divide between Communist party supporters and the youth who want the ability to create a more comfortable life for themselves.

Relations between Cuba and the United States have been poor for the last 60 years, with the US almost having a nuclear war with the USSR over the Cuban Missile Crisis, trying at times to assassinate Fidel, trying to overthrow him with its support of the Bay of Pigs invasion, and imposing a blockade on the island — or an embargo if you prefer the US term.

But while there has been a break down in political relations, at the same time, relations on a human level have increased between the people of the two countries as hundreds of thousands of first wealthy Cubans and then the general masses fled to Miami. Cuba was once basically a colony of the United States, and like Puerto Rico, its people have had easy access to life in the US – any Cuban who lands there, whether legally or illegally, has basically been guaranteed the right to live there.

US President Barack Obama made friends with Raul Castro, and abandoned the Wet Foot, Dry Foot policy

Or at least that was the case, until US President Barack Obama ended the so-called “Wet Foot, Dry Foot” policy on his last day in office on January 12, 2017 with immediate effect. Since then, Cubans are liable to be deported if they land in the US illegally.

As a result, it has been harder for Cubans to leave their country – even though they no longer require an exit visa from their government. That means that the pressure valve that an American escape offered, has now been removed, intensifying the feeling of being trapped that many Cubans experience.

But they still receive support from their relatives in the States, and yesterday, thousands of Cubans in Miami went on the streets in support of their relatives in Cuba. It is believed that there are some 1.5 million people of Cuban heritage living in Florida, with thousands of others in other parts of the US.

Fidel Castro left some big boots to fill

Back in the early 1990s Cuba went through what it euphemistically called a “special period” when the Soviet Union ceased to exist and it could no longer rely on aid from that country to stay afloat.

The economy went in freefall, and people struggled to keep their heads above water. Later, Fidel was able to build a friendship Hugo Chavez in Venezuela – but as that country’s economy has also gone into freefall, Cuba was once again struggling, and could find no new benefactor.

Now, Cuba is going through another special period – an economy that is flailing at a time of the Covid-19 pandemic. Tourism is down to virtually nothing, and not even the sugar crop has performed will this year. The economy is believed to have fallen by 11 percent over the last year – though that is comparible to several other countries during this pandemic, including neighbouring Jamaica.

Meanwhile, the vaccination programme is not performing. Cuba decided to create its own vaccine, and has been working on at least four different ones. But none are yet ready, and as a result, the people are largely unvaccinated, while the virus spreads and people die.


US President Joe Biden came out with a comment printed on his Twitter account and on the White House site on Monday.

“We stand with the Cuban people and their clarion call for freedom and relief from the tragic grip of the pandemic and from the decades of repression and economic suffering to which they have been subjected by Cuba’s authoritarian regime.

US President Joe Biden

“The Cuban people are bravely asserting fundamental and universal rights. Those rights, including the right of peaceful protest and the right to freely determine their own future, must be respected.

“The United States calls on the Cuban regime to hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment rather than enriching themselves.”

Quite why he emphasised the part that the pandemic was playing, rather than suggesting that the people were sick of living in a totalitarian state, was unclear.

Republican senator of Cuban descent Marco Rubio – pointed out the importance of freedom as a driver for the protests in another tweet.

US Senator Marco Rubio

He inserted the words “Socialist and Comunist” after Biden referred to Cuba as authoritarian.

Rubio was more pointed in an earlier tweet.

“People in #Cuba are protesting 62 years of socialism, lies, tyranny & misery not “expressing concern about rising COVID cases/deaths” Why is it so hard for @potus & the people in his administration to say that?” Rubio tweeted.

Former Vice President Mike Pence also had something to say about the situation in Cuba.

“America stands with the oppressed Cuban people assembling for their birthright of #Libertad and America stands for a free and democratic Cuba! Que Viva Cuba Libre!” Pence tweeted.


Nevertheless the pandemic is hitting Cuba, and getting worse. According to official numbers, the country had 6,750 new cases of the virus on Sunday, with 31 deaths – and the hospitals having a hard time keeping up. The country is believed to have had a total of 175,000 cases, with 1,600 deaths since the start of the pandemic.

It is currently vaccinating people with its own vaccines – none of which have received approval elsewhere. One of them, Cuba claims, has an efficacy rate of more than 92 percent.

But the death rate in Cuba from the virus is now higher than the world average, higher than the UK and higher than Jamaica according to Our World in Data. So how effective the vaccination is in reality remains to be seen.

Meanwhile, as Cuba restricts the internet further — good luck in getting any of the latest news coming out of the country. But reports are that demonstrations are continuing. Could this be the beginning of a new revolution?

Hasta Ya! Photo: Reuters



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