Ana Julia Jatar, miembro de la Junta Editorial y directiva de El Tiempo Latino.

For 62 years the Cuban regime, when faced with civil unrest, resorted to the strategy of letting “anyone who felt like it” – as Fidel said several times – leave the island. And since 1960, on to the Marielitos in the 80s and on to those who fled with the Maleconazo in the 90s, the strategy had worked. Today, the situation is different. The great-grandchildren of the Castro revolution, amidst the political absence of both Castros, are not going to leave. They are going to fight in Cuba to change the regime, they are rooting for Patria y Vida as opposed to Patria o Muerte. They are not contemplating to run the risk their parents and grandparents ran of dying in the Caribbean waters when they fled in a raft. No, they have said it loud and clear, they would rather give up their life in their land than in the bottom of the sea. 

Is that so hard to understand? Imagine what it is to live for decades in a country where there is only one political party, imagine what it feels to have to silently endure leftist world leaders calling that democracy instead of pure dictatorship. Imagine looking forward to the visit of a leader and to see that leader ignore the tragedy of those who have preferred to die in a hunger strike in the dungeons. Imagine that even the Pope, in his historic visit, preferred to meet with the dictator Fidel and not with Las Damas de Blanco. Imagine what it is to be born, grow up, die, have children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren in a homeland in which – because you cannot express yourself at the voting polls – if you say out loud what you think and feel, empowered by your free will as a human being, you run the risk of being executed by firing squad, beaten or imprisoned for life. Imagine living every day in a country in which those who oppose the line of the only legally accepted political party, the Communist party, do not even have the chance to be part of the government, or congress, and even less of the judicial system. Can you imagine that? 

I remember that two decades ago I went to Cuba several times because I was writing a book. The time came when it was hard for me to go back, I saw firsthand the suffering of my friends, the destitution people endure under a regime whose sole goal is to remain in power at the expense of humiliating their people. That is indescribably despicable. I was born in Cuba. My family lost everything despite having contributed to the triumph of the Castro revolution of 1959. My whole family fled in 1961 leaving everything behind. They preferred to flee so they would live in freedom, their heads held high. They had not sacrificed so much to change a dictator for another one. They left with the same dignity present today, July 2021, on the faces of those who protest in the streets of Cuba, faces which I watch in admiration. 

I have seen many of the videos that have circulated through the social networks, the great-grandchildren of the revolution want “Patria y Vida”, not the Castros’ “Patria o Muerte”. The great-grandchildren of the revolution do not want the floodgates open to emigrate to Florida anymore. They are fighting to stay in their homeland and to live in freedom.

But the Cuban issue is not only a problem of international policy, it is mainly a problem of domestic US policy. It seems the time has come to end what 20 years ago I called in my book The Cuban Way, the long distance civil war. At that time, I said that for 4 decades, Cubans had fought a long distance civil war, and the government of the United States had sided with the Cubans in Miami by using the embargo as a weapon of threat and not of negotiation to achieve an agreement of regime change in Cuba. We have lived 62 years of the same policy, but Cuba is not the same: the great-grandchildren of the revolution want a regime change.

Things have changed. I believe this is the moment in which the Biden administration must take advantage of the absence of the Castros, of Díaz-Canel’s lack of leadership, of the Cuban people’s exasperation and their fight for Patria y Vida, and of the economic power of the United States (including sanctions) to lead free elections through the United Nations. Only thus can people be given a voice after not having been consulted at the polls since 1948 – 73 years ago. The Pearl of the Caribbean, as Cuba is known, must be freed from the oyster that keeps it locked up so that it can reflect its immense worth.


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