We cannot ignore the suffering in Communist Cuba

Published 12:32 pm Friday, July 30, 2021

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After years of intense study, Hector was ready to visit Cuba. A trained Marxist, this Tennessee resident felt empowered by what he had learned during his studies, but his conversations with everyday Cubans revealed communism’s more sinister underbelly. Communism causes people to suffer. The recent protests are a liberating reminder of that reality.
On July 11, the historic uprising began in San Antonio de los Baños and quickly spread across 40 cities, including the capital, Havana. Thousands of peaceful protestors risked their lives, banging pots and spoons and chanting “Libertad!” and “Abajo la dictadura!” “Freedom! Down with the dictatorship!” The protesters’ demands were clear: they wanted an end to the oppressive communist regime. What happened next was nothing less than an authoritarian crackdown. Communist President Miguel Díaz-Canel restricted internet access, the military attacked and arrested activists, and hundreds of protesters suddenly disappeared.
As the communist regime waged war against the freedom fighters, the American media covered their tracks. Ignoring the direct demands of the protestors, the media sold the party line that the protests originated in response to pandemic-related shortages. The ensuing propaganda wave about vaccine access ignored the oppression that has ruled Cuba for 62 years. But the media aren’t the only villains in this story. President Biden hesitated to condemn Cuban dictators, and prominent Democrats blamed the U.S. embargo for the conflict.
We cannot waiver in our wholehearted support of the Cuban people. In the U.S. Senate, I have led the charge to counter authoritarian censorship and ensure freedom fighters like the ones in Cuba are able to expose oppressive regimes. Thanks to the Psiphon tool supported by the Open Technology Fund (OTF) Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and I championed, 1.3 million Cubans and counting now have daily access to the internet. My efforts to empower the freedom-loving people of Cuba are essential in the fight against communism, but there is much more work to be done.
Faced with evidence of internet censorship and mass imprisonment of dissenters, it would be tempting to turn away from the horror and believe the passive narrative peddled by the left. It’s about vaccines! Communism works! The Cuban government believes in equality! The people of Cuba deserve better. Sanctions of top Cuban military officials are a good first step by President Biden, but he must fulfill his role as the leader of the free world instead of delicately threading the needle to appease the radicals in his own party. Washington must make it explicitly clear to Havana that we will not tolerate the abuse of the Cuban people.
Like many who have gone before him, Hector returned to Tennessee, realizing that communism breeds nothing but suffering. He abandoned his years of Marxist studies to openly advocate for the freedom of the Cuban people. “Once people get a taste of liberty,” Hector explained to me recently, “It changes you, and you can never take that freedom away.” The Cuban people are waving the American flag in the streets as a symbol of hope, and we cannot ignore their cries. While the left continues to push propaganda, I will continue to fight for the Cuban people’s freedom.
(Marsha Blackburn represents Tennessee in the U.S. Senate)

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