For the very first time in the 62 years since the Castro dynasty turned the island into a totalitarian dystopia, Cubans have taken to the streets from one end of the island to the other, denouncing their repressive regime and calling for freedom. They can be seen and heard on YouTube and social media, chanting “Liberty,” “Down with the dictatorship” and “Down with communism.” And they can also be heard shouting a challenge to their rulers: “We are not afraid.” That chant is a taunt, a war cry, a rebel yell. And it is coming mostly from young Cubans, the grandchildren and great-grandchildren of the so-called revolution. They want and demand freedom.
You have to live in a place like Cuba — where an inordinate percentage of the country’s budget is dedicated to keeping Big Brother’s eye fixed on you — to appreciate the magnitude of the fearlessness and despair needed to loosen one’s tongue out on the street. The protests are among the most dramatic proof ever offered of the failure of a tropical dictatorship that has driven 20 percent of its people into exile. Innumerable promises for a brighter future have been made during this time by the military junta that has ruled Cuba since the days when cars had tailfins and the top songs in the US charts were Elvis Presley’s “Jailhouse Rock” and Domenico Modugno’s “Volare.”
Well, surprise, surprise, the future is here, and the youngsters can clearly see that all of those promises have turned out to be lies. Now, those who were supposed to reap the benefits of decades of sacrifice, self-denial and unquestioning obedience demanded by Big Brother are out on the streets, shouting at their aging masters — and the world — that they are tired of living a lie.
The crisis is due to a long string of blunders and catastrophes. Here are a few: the loss of revenue from Venezuela; a collapsed economy; gargantuan foreign debt; a disastrous sugar harvest; uncontrolled inflation; a plague that is intensifying rather than abating; a collapsing health system; medication, food, water and electricity shortages; long lines and empty shelves at every store; and increased repression.