Solidarity with Cuban Protests

The Center for Latin American Studies at the University of California, Berkeley, expresses its solidarity with the Cuban people who rose up in spontaneous, island-wide protests on Sunday, July 11, 2021, of a magnitude and scope not seen since the Revolution of 1959. Faced with critical shortages of food, medicine, and gasoline, as well as rampant inflation and a rapidly worsening outbreak of COVID-19, a diverse coalition of Cubans took to the streets with cries of “¡Libertad!” and “¡Patria y Vida!,” protesting the failures of their government and its repressive policies during a moment of acute crisis on the island. In response, police fired bullets at unarmed citizens—killing a 36-year-old man in Havana named Diubis Laurencio Tejeda—assaulted and arbitrarily detained journalists and citizens, and militarized the streets of Cuban cities. The next day President Miguel Díaz-Canel repeated tired falsehoods that foreign agents had fomented the protests and called for counter protestors to take back the streets, a seeming incitement to civil war. Díaz-Canel also blamed the U.S. embargo and recent economic sanctions for Cuba’s problems, and his government blocked internet access from Cuban citizens for several days. Although punitive U.S. sanctions indeed harm everyday Cubans, his statement was a gross oversimplification designed to distract from protestors’ complaints about direct government policies and actions that compound their suffering.

We state our support for the right of the Cuban people to freely express their political views and demand that their government be held accountable to its citizens during a moment of extreme crisis on the island. We condemn this egregious display of state violence and abuse of power, particularly by a government that claims to derive its legitimacy from the health and wellbeing of the Cuban people. We urge the UC Berkeley community of Latin Americanists and Caribbeanists, as well as the broader academic community, to listen to the voices of those in Cuba who are standing up against repression and demanding that their government respond to their urgent and legitimate demands. We support the right of the Cuban people, and the Cuban people alone, to decide their own fate, just as we do for the Haitian people, and all those citizens of Latin American and Caribbean countries.