The Cuban regime is facing the greatest threat to its authority in decades, just four months after President Miguel Diaz-Canel consolidated his power on this communist island.
The massive protests last month, This is the largest since the Cuban Revolution in 1959, and is a clear sign of anger caused by the collapse of the economy, reduced food supplies and a surge in coronavirus cases.
Strictly controlled one-party system and centrally planned economy make Diaz-Canel have little choice in responding to escalating emergencies, and the unexpectedly hard line of US President Joe Biden made this task change. It’s more complicated.
Christopher Sabatini, a senior researcher in Latin America at the Chatham Institute think tank, said: “The protests have a degree of legitimacy that the protesters did not have in the past.” “These are actually about health care, food. , Agriculture, inflation and other bread and butter issues.”
He added that Diaz-Canel “has limited options for total suppression. He was really driven to a desperate situation.”
The protests on July 11 were quickly killed because thousands of police officers were deployed and Internet access was cut off, but it will be much more difficult to deal with the problems behind the demonstrations.
Artists and intellectuals who previously supported the government are now asking questions. In a blog post last week, Cuba’s most famous singer Silvio Rodríguez asked to know the name of “comrades who have not changed everything that should be changed.” He added: “For them, is everything the fault of the blockade, imperialism and social media? Isn’t it our little mistake?”
Human rights organization Cubalex estimated that as of July 30, 705 demonstrators had been arrested, of which 189 were released. The closed-door trial has begun — instilling fear into the public — and the official media often denounces protesters as saboteurs. The regime listed it as a turbulent part of an attempted coup d’état supported by the United States.
since Take over as president In 2019, and succeeding Raúl Castro as the leader of the Cuban Communist Party in April of this year, Díaz-Canel tried to replace the remaining eighty-something revolutionaries. Address deep-rooted bureaucracies that hinder reform, and deal with powerful military and security agencies.
Two indigenous coronavirus vaccines have been deployed, but the official claims that their efficacy has not been proven. The government has also carried out-albeit timidly-market reforms to push Cuba towards a more prosperous communist country such as Vietnam.
The restrictions on passengers carrying food and medicines in their luggage when returning from abroad have been lifted. “Mules” that acquiesce in reselling such goods are important in alleviating shortages, which have sharply worsened since the collapse of the virus-related tourism industry led to a reduction in the supply of hard currency.
The July 11 protests led to a severe discount by Biden’s policy of stricter sanctions against his predecessor Donald Trump, which dashed hopes of renewed relaxation in the Barack Obama era.
Biden called Cuba a “failed country” and imposed sanctions on Cuba Army commander And the Special Forces of the Ministry of the Interior, and promised to explore ways to provide Internet access to help avoid government blackouts.
Cuba’s allies have helped, and Mexico and Russia have provided diesel and necessities. Despite severe domestic shortages, Venezuela continues to deliver fuel to Cuba.
But this is far from the required level. Economists and Western business people said that only serious economic reforms and the restoration of tourism can restore Cuba’s destiny.
“Cuba has been almost excluded from the international financial system, so that it is very difficult to open a bank, let alone obtain credit,” said a Western businessman with many years of experience in the country. “Now, the situation will only get worse.”
The Cuban economy has stagnated since 2016, but with the attack of the virus, the economy fell last year. Official data show that compared with the same period in 2020, the GDP in 2020 has fallen by 10.8%, and has fallen by 2% from January to June this year. In the past 18 months, imports have fallen by 40%.
Since the state of emergency was declared a year ago, a decree to expand the private sector has been promulgated, giving state-owned enterprises some additional autonomy, and a substantial depreciation, but these have failed to alleviate the shortage.
“If all this can bring any benefit, it is that it can provide more political capital for the people in the country. [Communist] Support the party, government, and military that accelerate and deepen economic opening,” said Pavel Vidal, a former economist at the Central Bank of Cuba, who teaches at the Pontifical University of Cali, Colombia.
He predicts that the Cubans will be more difficult in the second half of this year, and there may be some breathing opportunities afterwards. “Immunization should be able to lift internal restrictions on movement and restore income from tourism and travel and vaccine exports. Opening up to the private sector will also begin to gain a foothold, and some benefits can be seen from the devaluation,” Vidal said.
A European investor said that Cuban state-owned companies face endless rules, and directors fear that violations of these rules will affect decision-making. He cited an example where the factory director did not order parts because they were not within the budget, which caused production to be paralyzed. “They don’t have the time or bandwidth to modify all these rules,” he said.
Within Cuba, there is a consensus that more can be done now. Cuban economist Ricardo Torres stated that the government should “support the private sector and cooperatives, especially in the agricultural sector”, and decentralize planning, reorganize state-owned enterprises and control triple-digit inflation.
Orlando, which runs a cafe in Havana, said the regime “needs to let go” and help people like him. “The government recently stated that the private sector can import and export, but only through the country. Why not add the option of direct import and export?”