Shortly after historic protests swept the island of Cuba on Sunday, the Biden administration expressed its “support” for the Cuban people to “peacefully protest and determine their own future,” but also “call[ed] upon the Cuban regime to hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment….”
While the intent may have been to offer solidarity, this statement is inadequate because it is not conducive to what this national uprising is trying to achieve.
First, the Biden administration is mistakenly implying the Cuban regime can satisfy the “needs” of the Cuban people by offering them aid when this is not what they are demanding. In the videos of protestors demonstrating, they are not crying out for vaccines or medical attention. They are demanding an end to the communist regime and the cruelty, repression, starvation, and torture it has instituted since its so-called ‘revolution. For the U.S. to demand anything less than what the protesters are asking for is not to support them, it is to thwart them.
Second, the U.S. should not be directing its messaging to an illegitimate totalitarian regime. They are the problem. They cannot be part of the solution. It should be directing its message to the Cuban people and perhaps calling on its military to decide if they want to be the heroes of the new republic or the oppressors of the old.
Third, Cuba’s ‘President,’ Miguel Diaz-Canel, has already given an “order of combat” to crush the protestors, which means the regime has effectively declared war against its own people.
When Thomas Jefferson wrote the Declaration of Independence in 1776, he said, “When, in the course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with one another… that whenever one form of government becomes destructive… it is the right of the people to alter and abolish it, and to institute new government….”
Such words provided the moral basis for America’s Revolutionary War against Great Britain, and when the Continental Army took its stand against the Crown, it was not with ‘peaceful protest.’
Cubans, like Americans, have the same right to reclaim their freedom by whatever means are necessary, and the Biden Administration should unconditionally support their cry for liberty. Peaceful protests are acceptable when a government provides people with options. The Cuban regime has not done so.
Human rights violations began as early as Jan. 22, 1959, only days after Castro took control. He tried people in the Sports City Stadium in front of a blood-thirsty crowd of 18,000 people. What soon followed were televised trials, mass executions, the enslavement of Cubans in forced labor camps, and mass incarceration.
Despite decades of oppression, President Barack Obama made the mistake of embracing both the Cuban regime and its people, a contradiction since the regime is the people’s tormentor. The Obama Administration’s support only empowered the regime and gave its rulers a false sense of security they could abuse the Cuban people without consequences.
Our country made an even worse mistake in 1961 when it failed to finish what it started by withholding vital air support for Brigade 2506, the U.S. trained army of Cuban exiles President John Kennedy sent to liberate Cuba. Innocent Cubans died at the Bay of Pigs, and the Kennedy administration’s legacy was forever compromised. After that, the U.S. did almost nothing to help the Cuban people reclaim their freedom.
As the greatest power to ever stride the face of the Earth, America watched human suffering for 60 more years—only 90 miles from our shores.
We now have the opportunity to correct that shameful error.
The U.S. has used its military forces for decades to liberate other countries and prevent repression. Tragically, this did not happen when people rose up in Iran in 2009, Nicaragua in 2018, and Venezuela in 2019, and history will remember those moments as missed opportunities.
The mass demonstrations occurring now are a historical moment. It would be a terrible mistake to turn away from the Cuban people in their greatest moment of courage.
The Cuban people have the right to liberate themselves by whatever means are necessary, and the U.S. should stand behind them—even if that means authorizing a military intervention—or at least providing weapons to the Cuban people to defend themselves.
Such support would send a message that America does not abandon anyone and finally allow the U.S. to answer its own moral conscience for failing the Cuban people in the past.
• Jeffrey Scott Shapiro is the former Director of the U.S. Office of Cuba Broadcasting.