CIA covert work? Crowds controlled by an internal opposition that the government always said is made of “just tiny groups? The thousands of Cubans who spontaneously took to the streets on Sunday, July 11, 2021 are living proof that the public protests that, according to the Cuban Conflict Observatory, have increased fivefold on the island since last September, were neither one nor the other. Rather, the regime itself bred in ordinary Cubans the feeling – a dangerous one for them─ that they no longer have anything to lose.
2021 has been a year in which the Castro leadership widely proved its abandonment of the old communist social covenant of guaranteeing a minimum well-being in terms of health, food and social security in exchange for, if not the citizens’ loyalty, at least their passivity.
In cold blood, Havana launched at the beginning of the year its Reordering Task, aimed to consolidate into one Cuba’s double currency, thus wrecking even more the islanders’ family budget with sharp increases in prices for services. The move then unleashed an inflationary process that drove the prices of food and other basic goods through the roof, and still threatens to jack them up to 500 to 900 percent.
Cuba’s health system, which was already in crisis with an overwhelming shortage of medicines, supplies, equipment, ambulances and experienced doctors, ended up collapsing as the number of daily infections from Covid-19 increased six-fold since January. That happened in a healthcare environment lacking PCR tests, steroids, antibiotics, simple antipyretics like Duralgina (Dypirone), with people dying at home for lack of beds and ambulances, doctors who sleep two hours while tens of thousands of others are exploited abroad, and with all patients of other illnesses left to fend by themselves. A drama of catastrophic and unusual dimensions in times of peace.
On the other hand, the peak of infections, which keeps growing by the day, has been exacerbated by the government’s irresponsible decision to forgo obtaining internationally certified vaccines through the World Health Organization’s COVAX mechanism, just because they wanted to be able to boast that Cuba was the only one country in Latin America to develop its own immunizers. COVAX, which charges an affordable $ 1.60 per dose to countries that can afford it (and donates them to those that can’t), has distributed 95 million vaccines to 134 countries since February. Havana, however, left Cubans along these months like sitting ducks, as it kept tinkering with its own, uncertified vaccine candidates, which often proved useless or caused harmful side effects.
Cubans from inside and outside are calling for the opening of a humanitarian corridor to bring medicine and food to the island, but government spokespeople already tried to discredit these efforts. Meanwhile, Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel assures that his government has all the resources needed to face the crisis.
Even if it routinely blames the US embargo for the deprivations suffered by its citizens, the Cuban government indeed has some resources left. The problem is how and to what they allocate them. Economist Pedro Monreal published on Twitter official figures on government investments during the first quarter of 2021. The graph shows how, in the height of the pandemic, they allocated just $ 28 million to health and social assistance, 0.003% of a total investment of $ 8.740 million dollars. On the other hand, $4.398 million, or 50.3% of the bill, were allocated for business services, real estate and rental activities, that is, tourism and hotel construction, a sector that only reports profits to the military.
It is not surprising that from the “How come?” the Cubans exclaimed every time the government gave another turn to their screws, they went to a massive and hopeful “Enough is enough” tinged with cries of “Freedom“, “Down with the Dictatorship”, “Homeland and Life” (Patria y Vida) and “We are not afraid.” Because the latter ─fear─ was the only thing they had left to lose, and they already lost it. If anyone doubts it, just write these keywords in the YouTube search engine: “Cuba, July 11, 2021”.