There are, to date, several million Cubans living all around the world. Not a huge number, sure, but we’ve seemed to make quite an impact on people’s collective imagination, often in the form of stereotypes. Let’s discuss some now and set a few things straight:
1. We’re constantly smoking cigars.
Credit: Universal Pictures
I mean, are Cuban cigars the finest in the world? Yes. Would we, hypothetically, look more powerful and sexier smoking a cigar than anyone else? Of course. But that doesn’t mean we’re constantly puffing away!
2. We all came to the U.S. on a boat/raft.
Credit: Warner Bros.
Balseros exist, of course, and a desperate situation means desperate attempts to leave the island, but the VAST MAJORITY of us left on airplanes. Sorry.
3. We constantly wear guayaberas.
Not always. But when we do, we tend to look fly as hell.
4. We all live in Miami.
We’re everywhere, man. Tampa, Los Angeles and Elizabeth, New Jersey, in particular, happen to have thriving Cuban communities.
5. We’re all the same race.
We’re black, we’re white, we’re Taíno, we’re of Chinese descent, and we’re a perfect melding of all the above.
In a move that is sure to complicate things for the incoming Biden administration, Trump has moved to put Cuba back on the list of nations that allegedly sponsor terrorism.
Obama had taken Cuba off of that list in 2015 and with four years to Cuba back on the list, many agree that Trump has simply put Cuba back on the list to make life difficult for President Biden.
The Trump administration has put Cuba back on the list of countries that “sponsor terrorism.”
With just days left in office, Trump has moved to label Cuba as a “state sponsor of terrorism” in a last-minute move that is sure to complicate things for the incoming Biden administration.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo justified the controversial move which reverses Barack Obama’s 2015 decision to remove Cuba from the list after more than three decades – by accusing Havana of “repeatedly providing support for acts of international terrorism in granting safe harbour to terrorists”.
Pompeo also alleged Cuba was engaging “in a range of malign behavior across the region”, highlighting its support for Venezuela’s authoritarian leader Nicolás Maduro who Trump has unsuccessfully tried to overthrow.
The controversial step places Cuba alongside Iran, North Korea and Syria as state sponsors of terror.
However, most officials agree that Trump’s claims about Cuba are bogus.
Many international observers – including U.S. allies – aren’t impressed by the administration’s claims that Cuba is sponsoring terrorism.
In an interview with The Guardian, Christopher Sabatini, a senior fellow for Latin America at Chatham House, said “These are trumped up charges. Terrorism as an international definition is committing acts of violence against unarmed civilians intended to frighten the population. Cuba doesn’t do that. Yes, it represses its own people – but so does Saudi Arabia.”
Groups that favor greater U.S. engagement with Cuba criticized the announcement.
“There is no compelling, factual basis to merit the designation,” according to Ric Herrero, executive director of the Cuba Study Group, a Washington DC-based organization that supports engagement with the island. “Instead it appears to be another shameless, last-ditch effort to hamstring the foreign policy of the incoming Biden administration and set the stage for the next election in Florida, all at the expense of the Cuban people and relations between our countries.”
Many observers agree that Trump’s move is simply a gift to party hardliners in Florida, and likely a deliberate attempt to make life difficult for the incoming Biden administration who may wish to end deténte with Cuba.
Of course, Cuban officials reacted angrily to the announcement.
After the announcement, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez tweeted: “We condemn the US announced hypocritical and cynical designation of #Cuba as a State sponsoring terrorism. The US political opportunism is recognized by those who are honestly concerned about the scourge of terrorism and its victims.”
Reversing Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s action would require the Biden administration to certify to Congress that there has been a fundamental change in leadership in Cuba and that the government is not supporting acts of international terrorism, has not for the previous six months and will not do so in the future.
It seemed that many Cuban’s hopes for greater freedom of expression – particularly in the art world – seems to have been dashed again. In less than 24 hours after apparently agreeing to meet several demands from dissident artists, the government broke at least three of the five agreements in had made.
Freedom of expression is a hot topic in Cuba, where the communist regime severely limits what artists can say and produce.
But even more rare: public protest. That’s what makes these recent marches in Havana so important, the island hasn’t seen anything like it in decades. And as almost on script, the Cuban government flipped on its public reaction to the growing movement, instead blaming it on “U.S. imperialism” and foreign intervention.
Cuban officials have completely condemned the protest movement in a full 180º change of attitude.
Over the weekend, Cuba saw unprecedented protests led by dissident artists and creatives – known as the San Isidro movement – seeking greater freedom of expression. And although it seemed early on that the group may have made progress (the government agreed to several concessions), those hopes went up in flames as the government launched an all-out rhetorical assault.
Shortly after the meeting between protesters and officials, the protest came to a peaceful end with leaders thinking they achieved what they had set out to do, and with a meeting to discuss the issues further.
But just hours later the government called in the top U.S. diplomat on the island, charge de affairs Timothy Zúñiga-Brown, for a scolding over “grave interference in Cuba’s internal affairs” as state television ran a 90-minute special attacking members of the protest group and broadcasting visuals of their interactions with U.S. diplomats and Miami exiles.
“Sovereign Cuba accepts no interference … The revolutionary ones will fight back,” President Miguel Diaz-Canel said in one of a series of Twitter posts accusing the San Isidro movement of being a “reality show” on social media created by “U.S. imperialists.”
What originally seemed like progress now seems like business as usual for the communist regime.
It seemed, at least for a few short hours, that there was a real chance at bolstering artistic freedom in Cuba. The group of protesters, known as the San Isidro movement, gathered outside the culture ministry, leading Fernando Rojas, the deputy culture minister, to invite in a group of 30 of them. The meeting lasted for more than four hours, those present have said, and resulted in a promise of greater freedoms for artists.
Writer Katherine Bisquet told the press afterward that there had been a “truce for independent spaces” where activists could meet and talk, and that further discussions were promised.
“I cannot emphasize enough that this kind of public protest, with hundreds of people standing outside a ministry for 14 hours, is unprecedented,” Cuban-American artist Coco Fusco told Artnet News. “The fact that government officials conceded to a meeting is in itself a victory for the artists and a sign of weakness on the part of the government.”
The government had also agreed to urgently review the case of a detained member of the San Isidro crew and a rapper sentenced this month to eight months in jail on charges of contempt. It also agreed to ensure independent artists in the future were not harassed.
Cuban officials blamed the U.S. for stirring up dissent.
Shortly after the government launched a verbal assault on the group, it also accused the U.S. of helping them. Officials at the Foreign Ministry summoned the top U.S. diplomat in Cuba, Chargé d’Affaires Timothy Zuñiga-Brown, and complained about U.S. “intervention.”
At Sunday’s rally, Díaz Canel said that “Trumpistas” (referring to the Trump administration) and the “anti-Cuban mafia that are now ‘Trumpistas'” (referring to Cuban American Trump supporters in Miami) “had on their agenda that before the year ends, the revolutions of Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela have to fall.”
Jake Sullivan, Joe Biden’s national security adviser, tweeted Sunday: “We support the Cuban people in their struggle for liberty and echo calls for the Cuban government to release peaceful protestors. The Cuban people must be allowed to exercise the universal right to freedom of expression.”
Thanks to an imploding economy in the wake of the Covid-19 crisis, Cuba is experiencing an unprecedented crisis.
Cuba is going through dire shortages in food and basic goods amid the coronavirus pandemic, which has practically halted tourism to the island, on top of the Trump administration’s harsh sanctions.
Against that backdrop, García said, “I think the government should think about these things and view dialogue as a valid option to avoid a major disaster.”