017. what's going on post 11J cuba protests
[00:00:00] Carmen: Welcome to season three of teikirisi. Woo! We are teikirisi - podcast that celebrates and educates on all things Cuban- American
[00:00:18] Fryda: I’m Fryda
[00:19:] Carmen: And I'm Carmen
[00:00:20] Fryda: We spent all of last season talking so much about modern-day Cuba and honestly, coincidentally Carmen, like things really, really ramped up.
[00:00:30] Carmen: Yeah. So a lot of things happened and we are a podcast that is prerecorded.
So we are not able to keep up with the news cycle as you see it coming. And Cuba has been in the news a lot. And so we thought we would start this episode off and kick the season off with a really quick 101 on exactly what is going on in Cuba, how did things come to the pressure point that it did this past summer, specifically July 11th? What has been happening since then? And what is currently happening right now? Today it is October 12th, the day that we are recording this, and we're going to publish this episode in mid-November *disc scratch* Update! It's November 15th. We normally don't do this, but we knew that we would be releasing this episode around mid November.
So we wanted to plan to give you an update around this time. So stay tuned to the end of this episode, to listen to that update that is currently happening today on November 15th.
[00:01:28] Fryda: For anyone jumping in to season three and you just met Carmen and Fryda, and you have no idea what we're talking about- we are two best friends, born in Cuba, raised in Miami, who gathered together in our mid to late twenties to record a podcast, talking about the Cuban-American experience.
And so you can start here today with us. We will take you on a journey, we promise, but we would also recommend if you are so inclined to listen to at least our first season, and also listen to our episode on the Movimiento San Isidro, because we provide a lot of backdrop on the various interplay of forces in society and culture and politics that create the Cuba that is today. And that lead to the situation we're about to really, really dive into.
[00:02:29] Carmen: So that being said, what happened? What are we diving into?
[00:02:32] Fryda: On July 11th, or 2021, there was a massive uprising in Cuba. And there had never been an uprising of this magnitude. And there are many reasons for that. Previously, there really wasn't much internet coverage in Cuba.
And that's a relatively new development that has changed a lot of things about life in Cuba. Back in the day when activists were organizing in Cuba, they were often cracked down on pretty quickly by the state because they would find out about their plans and the protest would be uncovered.
In 1994 or the early nineties, there was a small protest in Havana, and then came over. And apparently tamed everyone and the protest didn't continue. And so, yeah. And so while there has been a huge history of resistance in Cuba and resistance movements, nothing of the sort of what happened on July 11th has happened before.
[00:03:34] Carmen: The entire island basically organized out into the streets.
There were people from each end of the country, coming out into the streets to protest with signs, and many of them now are armed with one of the most powerful weapons you can possibly have in this day and age, which is a mobile phone that is able to capture images, sound and video, and that is also connected straight to the internet so that they could post all of this.
And so this sort of creates a domino effect, right? You see people gathering and uprising in one end of the country and you start to see... I'm imagining, right? That the general you, if you were in Cuba...you start to see like, “Hey, there are people everywhere doing this. This isn't a tiny protest that the government is going to come in and squash in three seconds.”
This is like safety in numbers. This is power in. And that has never happened before, not even in the Cuban psyche, and definitely not in Cuban society.
[00:04:30] Fryda: Another thing that the internet did to lay groundwork for this protest is provide a slightly contrasting narrative to the state sponsored media.
[00:04:42] Carmen: Right. Because everything that is media in Cuba is more or less state sponsored down to its most granular level. Everything sort of goes into some sort of approval process by the regime.
[00:04:53] Fryda: Yeah. And what that means is that there's actually no legal, independent media. And so the internet, while not necessarily, as we know the most reliable source of information, it's not journalistically rigorous.
It is, at least, a different source of information. Let's say the Cuban government said something about their resolve to, to deal with economic situation in Cuba. So the internet served a purpose, not just to organize people, but also to consolidate them around the fact that the state media has been spewing a lot of false narratives about Cuba, about the situation.
And it's so dogmatic. And so that leads us to some of the reasons why people were protesting almost since the revolution, especially since the 80s people have been resisting the regime in Cuba and for various reasons.
Like there are political reasons to resist the regime. And if you didn't already know, Cuba is led by one political party, the PCC, which is a Communist party, and anything outside that political party is unacceptable.
And we are really, really, really simplifying it here. Um, but we're going to go into some of the simple factors why people felt that they could rise up and protest on that day. Another factor is economic factors, right? Carmen?
[00:06:24] Carmen: To start off here, we can get into the more macro economic situation another time that tells a bit more history.
But for right now, let's just talk about COVID. COVID really, really, really affected Cuba in a lot of negative ways. Tourism was greatly affected and tourism is one of the largest sources of income for the nation. So if you are cutting that off, well immediately, you're starting to see a lot of food shortages, um, a country that was already rationing food and resources, now we're seeing that happen even more.
And on top of that, It's COVID, so remember that people are dying from this pandemic as well. Cuba had really bad numbers for a very, very long time. And hospitals were maxed out. It was an ugly situation. So society is sick from from the most from the bottom levels all the way into the most metaphorical ones.
And there have been a lot of messed up things that have gone on in there as well - like the Cuban government pouring a bunch of resources to developing a vaccine that it didn't give its own citizens. And you know, the economic reasons were there are - people are out of work. They're out of food. They're out of water, they're out of electricity and there's just nothing else left to lose.
[00:07:34] Fryda: Carmen and I are not there, but what we get a sense of great desperation coming from people who are there now, who also have been part of this project that is Cuba for a very, very long, long time since 1959 and the revolution started. But the generation that grew up and that is protesting today is not really reaped any of those so-called benefits from that revolution that has gone on for so long.
It's kind of like old, old news to them.
[00:08:10] Carmen: And most importantly, now people have this little back box, which connects them to the rest of the world, via the internet, where they are able to see how the rest of the world lives. And they're able to see that there are many other ways to live and that most of those other ways to live are actually better than the way that they have been living for the past 60 years. And the only life that they have ever known, we're talking about our generation. We're talking about millennials and younger people and gen Z, and they're tired of it.
[00:08:35] Fryda: This is absolutely a generation with very little career opportunities, very little economic advancement opportunities. They are living in a planned economy that still has rations.
[00:08:47] Carmen: It's very common, for example, to see somebody go to college and study “una carrera,” as we have explained before, and then end up working in hospitality as a waiter or as a hotel staff or a taxi driver. Why? Because tourism is where the money is at and everything else, your degree, your piece of paper, is kind of useless in this society.
[00:09:07] Fryda: Imagine a world where tourism is where the money is at, and there's no more tourism not happening right now. There've been like drastic economic changes, including slashing one of the currencies in Cuba. Like the amount of things that have happened to really create like a boiling pot of water for people who are in Cuba.
It's let's add to that. Okay. Let's add to that. Let's not forget a couple of things. The fact that it’s an authoritarian regime and it's a police state with a very intense police repression. So there is a lot of fear.
[00:09:49] Carmen: Therefore, if you don't like it, you can leave or die.
[00:09:50] Fryda: Protesting isn't even legal, actually gathering together for any purpose other than communists conversations is illegal. On the one hand that makes it scarier to do this on the other hand, you're like, why the fuck not, right?
Because at this point, like, what am I allowed to do? So what are my personal freedoms at all?
[00:10:15] Carmen: And by the way, the population of Cuba is not armed. In Cuba people protesting isliterally people wearing the clothes on their back and maybe like a sign if they happen to have paper that day.
[00:10:25] Fryda: As we mentioned, it's a police state, it’s a repressive state. It's a state in the regime that uses nonsensical arrests of protestors nonsensical force, causing people to disappear for unending periods of time.
There's no real due process of law. If you end up arrested, you don't have particular rights and almost anything can happen to you. And we have seen that happen to people who protested. And speaking of protesting, I really want to harken back to the momentum that was built in the Movimiento San Isidrio movement and the 27N movement that led to the larger widespread protests.
[00:11:11] Carmen: Yeah. So who are the players here?
[00:11:11] Fryda: Okay. I'm lazy. Part of me wants to say, go listen to the Movimiento San Isidro episode, we do cover the players in that space and a lot of what propelled this movement forward. But in a nutshell, it started with protesting artistic freedom and individual liberty.
[00:11:31] Carmen:Go figure. Some people just want to make some art who are like, oh, why can't we make this?
Why are you such a joykill?
[00:11:39] Fryda: So there were a group of artists. That had been protesting for the right to make art and make art that wasn't state sponsored. These artists were arrested and apprehended in all sorts of different ways. There were live streams that captured different incidents. It led to a larger group of artists gathering in front of the ministry of culture.
On November 27th, there was a whole meeting. And then there wasn't, there was a lot of disappointment. The internet was turned off, um, and, uh, of shit happened since then, that led to just larger outrage on behalf of the Cuban people, artists, and non-artists alike.
[00:12:22] Carmen: You mention the government turning the internet off.
That's really important. And I just want to make a quick note about that, because that is, aside from using and police force and rounding people up without trial and stuff, that is one of the key ways that the government has kept the population under control for a very long time, which is to say that they take a resource that is incredibly essential to the wellbeing of society, say, electricity or water or the internet. I can't believe that I have equated the internet to being an everyday necessity just as water and electricity, but actually here we are. And that's really important because without the internet, people aren't able to see who their neighbors are, not their literal, like next door.
But they're neighbors in the next village, their neighbors on the other side of the country. So I'm not trying to say that people in Cuba didn't know that they were all struggling the exact same way before, but now they're actually able to see it. And that is incredibly validating to the people, which is another reason yhy so many people, I imagine, felt a lot more empowered to take the actions that they did in, on July 11th, and, and another reason why the Cuban government is like, oh, well, you know what, no more internet for you guys. Obviously you're misbehaving. So you're on timeout now.
I also want to say on that exact same note - since this is an essential part of society at this point in this day and age, the government actually can't afford to turn the internet off for that long. So they would like turn it off for a few days and be like, okay guys, we kind of have to put the internet back on. Cause we need to like conduct business and stuff. So. We're going to do that and you guys are going to uprise again, and then we're going to keep turning it off.
And it's just been this like long cycle of the government turning off the internet whenever they don't like something.
[00:14:06] Fryda: Also there’s incredible amount of creativity among the Cuban people. In our first episode of the entire podcast, we talk about all these different ways that Cubans have circumvented traditional, conventional internet.
And those things still exist today. So even when the internet was turned off, I remember hearing about a lot of people who had VPNs and they turn those on and circumvent all of these restrictions in Cuba. People having data on their phones were able to get people outside the country to recharge those phones.
And so there are definitely other ways there's other outlets and I would say that the censorship that exists in Cuba still has leaks, you know, thankfully. They try to sensor and there, and there are state agents watching out for what people are doing, but there are still enough that, that things get through.
And so with everything that we present about these movements, there's a lot of hope and there's a lot of tragedy and then there's hope again and there's tragedy again.
[00:15:08] Carmen: So that's the landscape of what's going on. So to quick little recap, Cuba's a fucking shit show. It doesn’t have food. It doesn't have water. Its citizens are now dying of COVID.
There's no vaccine or rather there is one, but should you be so lucky to receive one - wow you must be super important - and you better be careful with how important you get, because you don't want to be associated with all of those people who are out there protesting the government, because then you don't get the good stuff. Except should we bring up the time that they made a bunch of people high up in the regime disappear for no reason. I don't know what I'm trying to say here is that there nobody is safe. Hide your kids, hide your wife.
No, one's safe. And July 11 happens. Everybody's up in arms. Everybody's pissed. Everybody's going at it. There's nothing left to lose. And the Cuban government can't do anything about it, except for send their people, which they actually ran out of because people who were supposedly enlisted in military service, you know, regular civilians, because that is compulsory in Cuba, people who were enlisted as military servants, who are being called upon to suppress their own neighbors, their own families are now refusing to work in cahoots with and fulfill their quote, unquote civic duty as per the communist regime, because everybody is tired of it.
So it kind of reached a boiling point. So Cuba garners, international attention, and of course, Cuba has to respond to its own crisis. There's entire campaigns out on TV, on the radio, on Twitter, all over the internet, of the Cuban government basically saying everything is fine, nothing is wrong, nothing to see here.
So that was the initial response. And then after they realized that they were totally acting a fool because the whole world can see what is really going on. They of course blame, who?
[00:16:54] Fryda: The U.S. they blame the U S and they blame the embargo, which as you'll see over time is just like this crutch that Cuba can use to say that everything that's going wrong in Cuba has nothing to do with mismanagement, corruption, authoritarianism, and more, internally.
No, in fact, it is all the embargo. And look, the embargo does things. Yes, it is. It is actually even intended to do things to affect Cuba. But it does not do quite all of that. And it is not the reason for this protest. And here's the thing, there were enough public figures that actually took that rhetoric and believed it.
And it was, really, I remember Carmen, really frustrating during that time to navigate both you and I being relatively progressive, liberal, but at the same time, not aligning at all with any of the progressive or much more left-leaning groups and individuals who were reacting to the Cuba situation.
[00:18:00] Carmen: And this is one of the things that we struggle with the most as progressive identifying Cubanitas because to be able to hold these two seemingly conflicting beliefs, leaning left, and also understand exactly how the Cuban government is missing all the marks, meanwhile, simultaneously carrying a long and painful history that is till very close to home is one of the most difficult things to reconcile and articulate. But this is the walk that we are walking and it's one of the reasons why we needed to bring this up and to continue talking about this.
[00:18:29] Fryda: It was quite disheartening to see Cuba also being used as a political pawn. And it was particularly hard to see human rights organizations and advocacy organizations who should have seen what was happening in Cuba as part of a human rights and humanitarian problem. And they did not. And they saw it as a way to bolster their political agenda. Yeah, I think that it was really disheartening to see a political divide in the United States and elsewhere when it came to understanding the humanitarian and also political crisis that was happening in Cuba.
[00:19:17] Carmen: Yeah, it was really disappointing, at least for me personally, to see the statement that Black Lives Matter put out on Instagram on July 14th immediately when I read it, you and I Fryda, we were in Vegas and I remember reading it out loud and there were a lot of feelings in that moment just because of the climate and everything that was going on.
But that statement also stirred up a lot of feelings and I kept thinking, wow, do I really have to unpack this? And then. Yeah, it turns out. Yeah, I do.
Um, one of the things that it says is that the people of Cuba are being punished by the U S government because the country has maintained its commitment to sovereignty and self-determination.
The country in this statement being Cuba. And I'm here to argue. Um, that this is contradictory because obviously the people of Cuba are protesting en mass saying that their government is not serving them. So I don't think this is accurate and it was just not- it was not well worded.
I don't know if that's what they meant to say or what they meant to communicate. But I also recognize that this statement specifically talks about the country and the country being Cuba, therefore being the regime and the regime’s exercising of its own sovereignty is, you know, it's a very long statement that basically calls for the US government to end the embargo and two things here.
Number one, we're making this into embargo politics, which again, takes away attention and validity from the actual struggle that the people of Cuba are trying to bring to light.
And second of all, the way that they phrased it was so incredibly ignorant, in my opinion. They also said things like the embargo is a cruel and inhumane policy instituted with the explicit intention of destabilizing the country and undermining Cuban's right to choose their own government.
Literally, how are you going to take away Cuba's actual intents to claim the right to choose their own government as it's happening and be like, oh, it's the embargo like. Dude, seriously?
[00:21:15] Fryda: Here's the problem with generalizing the situation is that you can't bring what's happening in Cuba today only explicitly into that narrative.
Yeah, sure. The influence of the United States is always going to be part of it they’re so interconnected, but we want to highlight that at its foundation, it's this movement. It's so important to see what the Cuban people are seeing. And it highlighted how important it is for us to educate people about how life is like in Cuba.
How, how you can't use Cuba as a model for communism in the world, because it's not a model place to live. It's really so, and so we want you to stop doing.
[00:22:13] Carmen: It's a very US centric point of view, and that's very clear from the way that it is written. Blacks actually have it worse in Cuba because of communism.
And also many of the socialists benefits that BLM celebrates Cuba for are not that beneficial for its people. There's always another side here that is ignored. For example, a point that is often made in progressive spaces to help color Cuba as having this sort of idealist socialist system is that Cuba has strong medical care.
And I'm now quoting the BLM statement “and has a history of lending out doctors and nurses to disasters around the rest of the world.”
Excuse me, in the middle of a global pandemic where people are dying, the hospitals are maxed out and there's no resources. COVID is raging through the entire island.
And somehow you're going to call that strong medical care? And somehow the government is still lending out doctors when it can take care of its own people?
[00:23:08] Fryda: Doctors aren't lent out, they are used in exchange for oil, they're used as an export and actual export in exchange for resources. And it all happens without the consent of the doctors themselves.
Um, so one of the reasons why we're specifically disappointed in Black Lives Matter is that a lot of their advocacy has been centered around black lives and police violence. And in Cuba, Black lives are protesting the most and they're not doing very well. And, uh, there's so much police violence and oppression and crack down in Cuba.
It's a police state. Um, and so they had, they had a place to offer solidarity, um, and instead just took it in a direction that have just felt so such a political,. such a political move.
[00:24:03] Carmen: There were some countering statements that really did a good job of clearing the air with this BLM statement specifically Cubanos in LA on Instagram, did a really good job.
I know that we re-posted that. So I'm really glad that there are people out there talking about this and voicing their thoughts on the matter. And ultimately to wrap up this d iatribe about the BLM statement, the most important takeaway here is that it is. Easy to speak and very difficult to listen.
[00:24:30] Fryda: In all of this because Cuba's uprisings reach the international sphere and everyone has an opinion.
We just discussed an organization that we, you know, who’s mission we support, who we were disappointed by, because it was an uninformed opinion.
But the same things were happening in discussions among people in the Cuban-American community during this whole time. And it doesn't, it doesn't help the fact that in Cuba, they're reacting to the government that they have, and we need to acknowledge their sovereignty and acknowledge the people who are in Cuba and live through it, have the right to be able to determine their own future, whatever that is.
Carmen and I might entirely disagree with the future that the Cubans want for themselves, but that is not for us to say. And so in the same way, we're going to want to help in so many ways. And there are ways that are helpful and ways that are intrusive. And so this has brought on a lot of reflection. I felt a greater need to elevate the voices of what's happening in Cuba.
Because this, this is something that was so hopeful to see. Like no other generation of Cubans have had this level of courage to get up and out on the streets.
[00:26:06] Carmen: Let's bring it back a little bit because we got a little bit passionate there. But going back to the facts and what's going on, aside from the government response of turning off the internet and imprisoning people, there have also been shady hospitalizations and disappearances.
[00:26:24] Fryda: People who protested and were injured injured as well as some figures who were on hunger strike, including Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara who we mentioned a lot of in Movimiento San Isidro people have been hospitalized and then not to be seen later.
One of the tactics that the Cuban government has is using hospitalization as a pretext for kind of arrest, almost like house arrest, but in a hospital.
And disappearances, we define as anytime that you just have no clue where the people are, there have been hundreds off disappearances since the protest. And these are people whose faces and names, you can see posted all over, all over the internet, where people are looking for them after they've been part of a protest.
The unspoken truth is that they were apprehended in some way. And because there's no process, due process at all, like no family doesn't have a right to know where they are.
[00:27:11] Carmen: And, the people who do get turned back, the stories that they’re telling are absolutely horrific.
[00:27:17] Fryda: Not to mention that COVID has also been used as a pretext for apprehension and hospitalization.
[00:27:35] Carmen: Since January 1st, 2021, we have seen 2,240 dissidents arrested. A lot of these dissidents are actually minors. And so they are still treated in the exact same way that adults are, which is not great. And the few people that do make it back. They don't have great stories to tell.
[00:27:52] Fryda: Shortly after this protest, there was some international attention. There were even talks in the EU at the UN in the United States with Biden, the United States Congress. And so we would love to go a little bit into what some of those responses have looked like and what some of those relationships look like.
Because it helps to illustrate the magnitude of the problem, but also leaves a sour taste in our mouth. When we see how little has been done.
[00:28:25] Carmen: So Cuba has allies. Cuba has friends. Let's talk about Cuba’s friends first.
One of the first friends that Cuba called when all of this was happening was Venezuela. And they were like, “Hey, listen, bro. Remember how we're like, Biffles cool. So I'm having some troubles at home. Do you think you could send some support?”
And so Venezuela sent over SWAT teams.
[00:28:53] Fryda: Yeah, that friend has your back, man. They sent paramilitary forces over to repress your own people that is just.
[00:29:02] Carmen: Ride or die. Baby, let's go.
[00:29:02] Fryda: Ride or die. And now some of the peripheral friends, I would say like that, one's like your best friend and the other ones are kind of low, more like sugar daddies or like people in your clique (I mean, these are the main girls, honestly,) when it comes to it, these are people in your clinic who will support you, no matter how much of a bitch you are. And that is Russia, China. Iran and North Korea. And one thing we can say Carmen, que dime con quién andas y te diré quien eres.
[00:29:30] Carmen: Oh, Baby. So that means tell me who you're hanging out with. And I will tell you who you are.
[00:29:37] Fryda: So if you find out that North Korea, Iran and Russia are Cuba's defenders and best friends, is it tells you something about what's going on. And here's the reality of it Russia, China and Iran did indicate that they did not want the United States or anyone else getting involved in what happened in Cuba.
You might say on the one hand, “okay, the United States should not go in with military forces.”
All right. Let's agree on that. But it wasn't just that it's that these countries express support for the situation in Cuba, these countries express support for the regime in Cuba and said “everyone else, lay off”
The Russian foreign ministry ministry, the Chinese foreign ministry.They both towed the same line that the US embargo is a root cause of what's happening in Cuba. And so that might give you an indication of, that's not the line you want to tow when Russia and others are saying it. And so this is the backup crew, the clique that supports Cuba in at the world stage. But then there are other figures in the world stage.
[00:30:51] Carmen: Namely the EU. So let's talk about the EU really quickly. The EU is Cuba's first and number one, trading partner for imports and exports. It is also Cuba's number one foreign investor. And speaking of tourism, tourists from the EU make up one fourth of all tourists visited in the first half of 2019.
So the EU has a big stake here in Cuba. And what did the EU say?
[00:31:19] Fryda: Shortly after the arrest of prisoners and the protests, the EU immediately urged Cuba to release prisoners. And that is fine and dandy, but the thing about polit- the political imprisonment situation in Cuba is that it isn't new. So it's kind of weird to treat it as if it's like a new thing.
Certainly the rate went up. It was a phenomenon that happened after these uprisings, but there's no way to not acknowledge the fact that Cuba has been doing this forever.
But what complicates this is that the EU has been trying to build up some sort of relationship and communication with Cuba.
There's an agreement that has been in place for just a couple of years where they're like mutual talks between Cuba and the EU. There isn't any free trade, but the EU sends over development money to help like develop their economy 200 million. euros and humanitarian money, more than a hundred million euros over time since 2008, these are really broad figures.
And most of the money you do send to Cuba is going to the Cuban government and to whatever they want to do with it.
It's really tough to assess what's happening with this money. And I'm not necessarily criticizing what the EU is doing, but rather providing a broader picture for that relationship.
Anyway, Yotuel went and spoke in front of the European union. And I think Asiel Babastro did too. Yotuel, from, from Orishas, who was one of the artists that was part of Patria y Vida, which we mentioned so much in the second season, because that song really, really propelled a lot of the movement forward. Like it inspired a lot of the protests. We interviewed the director in season two.
They got some responses from European leaders, but I don't think that anything other than urging happened.
Similarly, the UN another, you know, international force also just like urged Cuba to release its prisoners. There was an attempt to form a task force in the, the Organization of American states, which is the part of the UN that like has a Caribbean states in it, but that never happened. And I don't think that anything other than urging happened, then again, the UN like can barely do anything, anything forceful.
And lastly, the US is the most aggressive towards, towards Cuba. And what I mean by aggressive is in, in terms of its its sanctions, when its relationship to Cuba.
[00:34:11] Carmen: As of July 23rd, 2021, the US department of State did update their fact sheet on the provision of humanitarian assistance to Cuba.
And it specifically states that the US embargo allows humanitarian goods to reach Cuba. And that the US government expedites requests to export humanitarian and medical supplies to Cuba. Which the government and Miguel Diaz Canel has then turned over. Not trying to defend the US but that is something that is written out there that is said, I don't really know all of the ins and outs of it.
[00:34:46] Fryda: So in updating that fact sheet, at least when it comes to your medicine and the things that you're currently complaining about the embargo, um, isn't directly responsible for that. The embargo is more complicated than that, of course, like including the Helms-Burton act, which prevents a lot of other countries from trading with Cuba.
But it is important to say that it's not stopping like vaccines or other stuff from getting into Cuba. The United States, even with those sanctions, they authorized billions of dollars worth of exports to Cuba, including food, agricultural commodity, commodities, medicine, medical devices, equipment, other goods.
And so there are policy efforts in the amount of billions of dollars pouring into Cuba as part of the United States and the United States is one of Cuba's principal trading partners. And so the relationship is absolutely fraught. There isn’t open travel. There is a really, really intense set of sanctions that have existed since the 60s, but here's everything else.
[00:35:51] Carmen: Miguel Diaz Canel specifically stated this is me and the way to put a little bandaid on this little wound that we're calling embargoes. Miguel Diaz Canel did say that goods brought to the island by visitors would no longer be subject to customs duties. So that's their way of being like, okay guys, here's an olive branch. But like not really.
And speaking of sanctions, uh, want to turn the lens back to our Miami Cuban exile response and everything that happened there. So there were many meetings with Biden and the US Congress.
Out of that Biden extended sanctions that kept Cuba on the state sponsors of terrorism liat. Which is important because this has implications for remittances. Getting humanitarian aid to Cuba, specifically, there isn't really a, an established and safe route to do that.
[00:36:47] Fryda: Here's the thing about humanitarian aid. Most of the country in Cuba is poor. And as far as I know, there are just like a large shipments of like expired, semi expired food that would come through and boats and mostly from Russia, that like, as far as I know, like that is the kind of aid, like I remember people were exposed to in Cuba.
The humanitarian crisis is a constant thing in Cuba. Like just like getting fed is a constant thing. And so I would say that like remittances, as in like actual direct money in dollars, which were later turned to another currency, it was, was one of the primary ways that people in Cuba are able to have any form of like liquidity and choices in their life.
[00:37:39] Carmen: Yeah. So the problem with giving the government a bunch of money to help them is that then you're still giving the money to the government and the government gets to do whatever the heck they want with it. And it's probably not going to end up in the people's mouths and pockets.
So that's the problem with that. And so we come to this big question of like, all of these people have been urging Cuba to get their shit together and stop being big bullies to their own people and all of this stuff. But like what has really been done?. Like really what has actually happened, how the Cuban people received relief?
Everything's better now, now that we're in October? what are we looking at?
[00:38:12] Fryda: Well, we can break down the efforts in a couple of different ways. There are, of course, all these lofty statements from foreign countries and institutions, but a lot of the grassroots work that has been done, from outside of Cuba, there've been organizing of Cuban diaspora protesting.
To continue to keep this in the view of people in power to do something a little more than urging...
[00:38:44] Carmen: AKA the caravan from Miami to Washington DC. It started in Hialeah actually. I don't know when it started in Hialeah, but I imagine...
[00:38:50] Fryda: Ph no, I think my parents almost joined, my gosh.
[00:38:52] Carmen: There were plenty of people out on the streets here in the U S across many different cities.
I remember that Fryda, you and I were in Las Vegas when Vegas, um, had its own March and gathering for Cuba. And I know that in, in other countries as well, people have gathered. I know that on the grassroots sort of action-forward response, there have been several people sending supplies to Cuba, independently - medicine, remittances, and so on.
And there have been a good amount of people working to refill the internet and data on people's phones so that they can continue to record their lives and the things that are happening to them and be posting them onto the internet. There have also been meetings going on at the federal level.
[00:39:40] Fryda: There have been statements from like members of the Cuban diaspora who just stand in solidarity with a couple of priorities, including increasing access to internet and, or like gifting Cuba with internet and better internet supporting the sovereignty of the Cuban people, which is different from the Cuban regime, independent elections.
Um, because even if voting exists in Cuba, doesn't truly, those are not legitimate elections. The person currently empowers just like a puppet of the regime that's been in place for, I don't know, I keep saying 60, but it's like 70 now. Like, I don't know. It's been a while. Another ask that I, that I heard about from the Cuban diaspora particularly is allowing Cubans in the diaspora to have citizenship and to vote.
I don't endorse this necessarily endorse this list other than especially focusing on access, access to internet and a pathway to change in the way the government operates. And it's so hard because this government, this regime isn't made for feedback.
It isn't made to be flexible. It's been organized from the top down for such such a long time.
It's not been a government of the people in any way. There's a combination of hopefulness and helplessness. Again, the hope that people continue to organize regardless of all the repercussions and the helplessness of the repercussions and of the existing system.
If someone can do it, it's going to be, it's going to be the Cuban people that are there right now.
[00:41:26] Carmen: Of course, no one else can. Many of the people who led and inspired the protests are either now in prison or have disappeared or are, or have fled the country. Another thing that's happened that's notable is that Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, one of the key figures of Movimiento San Isidro, who led one of the longest hunger strikes and was hospitalized in a shady manner since we were talking about that, he was named as one of time's most influential people of the year.
And his blurb was written by Chinese artist, Ai Wei Wei, and this is. Huge huge, huge. Ai Wei Wei is an artist who has been at the forefront of contemporary art and has never had a way of being politically critical.
Another notable thing here is that the Cuban Biennial is happening very soon. It's on November 21st, and I think it's really ironic to have one of the biggest national art events of the year. I think it's really ironic to be having that in during these times during like a militarized state. And, you know, the government is working really hard to squash freedom of speech, and that artists are at the forefront of all of this.
And, you know, meanwhile they're supposed to be celebrating art. Um, and Tania Bruguera, which is another key figure and an important artist in all of this who has helped pave the way, she has now accepted a position at an American university and will be leaving the country. And she has called for the release of 25 people who are being held by the Cuban government as prisoners. She has an entire list.
And this is an important thing to note, because this is this type of bargaining, this type of negotiation normally happens between sovereign states, right? Like you get my people and I have your people, and now we switch our peoples and that's supposed to mean something like we're negotiating some kind of, you know, peace or another.
And for Tanie Bruguera, to be able to leverage power in order to demand that her fellow peers be released is, is something enormous for one individual to be able to, to accomplish and to demand. So shout out to Tania for doing that. We don't know if, if this will happen, we don't know if the government will comply.
But I did want to mention that that is a thing that is happening as well. And the last thing that I wanted to note is that the Cuban government has declared November 20th as the national day of defense, a day where they call upon the civilians and everyone to rally for the name and defense of the revolution.
And they made this date as a response to finding out that people were organizing to protest on this day,November 20th. And obviously as a result, the protests have had to be moved and now they might be happening right now. Like I said, we're recording this in October. We heard of this news, so the protest might be happening right now.
They may be moved for later. They might have been already happening. We don't know. But that is a thing.
Editing Fryda and Carmen here today. It is November 15th. And we are back with that update that we said that we were going to give you all the way at the beginning of this episode. As of yesterday, the Cuban state has been incredibly militarized and all of the people who were supposed to be leaders and were planning to have these protests have been, uh, under house arrest.
[00:45:04] Fryda: Yeah, they've been, uh, the leaders as well as people who participated in J 11, um, have been placed under house arrest. Um, the leader of the group Archipelago, which, uh, organized this national day of action has also been, had also been placed on their house arrest. And, um, and, and also. Speaking to the events of the day before today, the government also shut down the internet and.
And by militarization of the streets, it meant that police, um, civilians that were part of, you know, brigades, um, as well as tank cars, uh, were all parading the streets.
[00:45:52] Carmen: So, of course they did this on purpose because what happens today?
Um, everyone is kind of locked up. And there's no protests today.
[00:46:02] Fryda: And so what was already a really daring thing to do, which was to announce a protest day. It's really disappointing, but also, um, there's a New York Times article on the fact that the government cracked down this hard. I would only hope that this government crackdown becomes very, very public and that we could use that as fuel to the fire.
[00:46:24] Carmen: So, okay. So how can you help? You, the person listening to this because I know that's ultimately what it comes down to. People want actionable items.
You can... are you ready for this is?
Call your representative. No seriously though. If you have it in you and you have some time and you would like to do something, I know it sounds kind of moot and you don't really see the, you don't really see the results right away, but calling a representative can be really important because it continues to bring to light at your local level, the things that you care about to your representative, which can then actually force, um, change to happen at the policy level.
And you can ask for specific things like aid to Cuba avenues for helping people recharge the internet. You can actively donate to people who are working to recharge people's phones. Another thing that you can do is donate to actively recharge people's phones with internet and data.
[00:47:26] Fryda: If you. Spanish and can translate from Spanish to English. We recommend that you volunteer for CubaAmp, which stands for like an amp amplification, and you can find them on Instagram. You can find them online. And they're all, they're constantly translating Spanish communications from Cuba, into English in order to amplify the message in the English speaking world, which is really important.
[00:47:50] Carmen: And also if you follow them on Instagram, they have events. Well for Cuba, I went to a fantastic comedy show organized by Cubaamp, and it was really great. Got to see Alexis Guerreros a little talk about his hemorrhoids. Can't forget that. And there are also organizations that you can get involved with such as Cuba Decide, Foundation for Human Rights in Cuban, and Free Cuban foundation.
And if you want to take a more passive role and you just want to stay informed, we highly recommend Cuban independent press. Now we said that there is no official Cuban independent press, but there is, as you would call unofficial Cuban independent press. And some of those names are got 14 y Medio, 14 and a half, El Toquecom, and Periodismo de Barrio.
There are, if there are more that come up between now and then we will leave it in the show notes.
[00:48:46] Fryda: There's more folks that you can stay connected with in order to get a sense of the pulse. We personally as teikirisi know, the folks from Cubanos Pa’lante and we know that they have organized funds to provide supplies and internet to people in Cuba.
And they're an organization, um, MimainCuba, that's her handle on Instagram. She lived in Cuba for some time and her fiance, Yoel married. On the, oh, they got married. Okay. And her husband, Yoel also talks on the, damn congratulations. They'll also talk on the platform a lot about the experience of what's going on in Cuba.
So there's more people, more people out there, and if you stay connected to us, we hope we can also be a resource for you as well. We know that we couldn't continue with our season with other episodes, with other topics with guests and more, if we didn't make sure to fast forward from Movimiento San Isidro, you see that all to what happened as part of the uprising and how we're dealing with it today.
[00:50:01] Carmen: So with every episode, we like to end it with , which is a, typically a Cuban saying, but it could also just be a word or a phrase that is very Cuban and really explains or communicates a feeling or a framework for thinking about things
[00:50:19] Fryda: Un dicho. So with Alabao,
[00:50:25] Carmen: Alabano is an ex- it's an exclamation that you say as a response to something that's really remarkable.
It doesn't have to be remarkable in a good way. It could be remarkable in a bad way. So for example, Fryda, if you were to tell me about this crazy day that you had and all of these ridiculous things that happened, you know, a duck was crossing the street and then some other guy tried to run him over and then you were like, ALABAO, when you're telling me this.. That would be it.
[00:50:54] Fryda: Yeah. And the origin of Alabao is in Cuban and, or in Caribbean, when we talk, we eat a lot of letters. And so Alabado is actually a way to say, like, praise, be like, praise God . And so it makes sense. Cause it kind of like matches up with saying My God, like, Oh my God. And yeah, it's nice. It has, it has a lot of vowels.
[00:52:04]Carmen: Okay, Fryda.
[00:52:07] Fryda: Thank you so, so much for joining us in our first episode of season three. Ee are so grateful. Special thanks to our patrons: Carolina, Lauren, Gianni, Christine, Dee, Derek, Andy, Ryan, Jose, Susan, Salia, Catherine, Lauren, Keighlee, Amaury, Kristen, Sarah, Karina, Jason, Daniel, Josh, Ivett, Kelis, and Jesse.
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[00:52:10] Carmen: Take it easyyyyy.