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Putting the Caimanera Protests into Context

Putting the Caimanera Protests into ContextPutting the Caimanera Protests into Context

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Maintaining political power by force is an art. It is not an ethical practice or an exercise of a moral task. Nonetheless, it is a chore that requires strict form, constant application, and pragmatic ingenuity and in this sense acquires an artist format. Regimes that adopt the totalitarian variant might even consider it a science. The Cuban dictatorship has mastered the job of non-democratic rule, judged by its capacity to retain power. They have been able to pull this off for a good part of six decades. Explained philosophically, this preservation of tyranny has been achieved by dogmatically applying Machiavellian principles, harnessing the Hobbesian total domination leviathan model, and successfully presenting it in Rousseauean-Marxist verbiage to appeal to the emotional. Decomposition, however, is a natural occurring phenomenon in artificially controlled political schemes. This is what has been happening in Cuba. We are witnessing its symptoms.    

Havana’s communist regime owes its ability to illegitimately maintain power to zealously following key strategies. Hardcore state terrorism has been one of them. This has been manifested in a combination of approaches such as heavy-handed prison sentences, political killings, historically by way of firing squads, torture, family division, limiting access to healthcare, education, housing, and employment. An immigration escape valve has also proved functional. Infiltrating real or potential opposition and dissident groups, inside as well as outside the island, has been a mainstay and is the third principal method. Yet, despite past success, Cuban communism appears to have lost its firm grip on social control, a fundamental piece of totalitarian governance.

What transpired on Sunday, July 11, 2021 (11J), shredded Castroism’s “stability” mystique to smithereens. Hundreds of thousands of ordinary Cubans, mostly young, taking to the streets in over 72 venues throughout the country demanding liberty and the conclusion of communist tyranny, was unthinkable just days before. Yes, the signs of public discontent had been evident for some time already. It is also true that Cubans, inside and from exile, have methodically waged wars of liberation to free Martí’s fatherland from Marxist-Leninist reign since 1959. However, massive popular protests, from one extension of Cuba to the other, were not likely to occur, given the totalitarian machinery in place. They had managed to keep a large-scale public display of rebellion under control, by adhering to the previously mentioned methodology. The Cuban dictatorship’s reaction to 11J predictably emulated past responses. Yet, the Caimanera protests are just one example that past strategies are ineffective. The tyrannical grip on power is slipping away.    

The Castro regime under the figurative stewardship of dictator Díaz-Canel has followed the course previously executed by his superiors. The non-democratic government he heads emitted the expected and customary long jail sentences and brutal conditions that have traditionally characterized the Cuban political prison system. The 11J protesters received the implementation of the expected harsh suppression. It was a matter of simply following tradition for the Castroite regime. The idea behind the long and unjust sentences has always been, not just, to get discontented citizens off the streets. It has systematically been about extending societal psychological control by spreading terror among the people. Cubans, however, appear now immune to this toxicity.

The open invitation emitted by the communist dictatorship for any Cuban who wanted and could afford to leave, to do so, has also not had the effect that past regime-induced mass exoduses’ have had on domestic population constraint. It is not that Cubans have not been leaving since November 2021, when the Castroite regime negotiated with Nicaragua and Mexico the passage to the American southern border. Over 400,000 Cuban nationals, mostly under the age of 50, vacated the island in 2022. Despite this staggering figure in historic terms, the public display of systemic rejection exhibited among Cubans towards communism and the Castroist kleptocratic dynasty has continued unabated. In other words, Cubans have left and are leaving the country in big numbers, and people are still calling for a political overhaul.    

Wholesale espionage against real or imagined opposition and dissident personnel, the third seminal formula in the totalitarian survival game book, has never ceased to operate. The reason for its evident failure in avoiding social unrest as evidenced in 11J, Caimanera, and scores of other pockets of public space challenges to the island’s despotic rule, has been the unplanned, spontaneous nature of these protests. These demonstrations do not follow the dictum of any centralized figure or movement. There is no single leader, or predominating group that is organizing these public displays of patriotism.

The textbook study of non-democratic regimes tells us that Castro-Communism is decaying and at a fast speed. The authority that total domination models of political power are supposed to elicit from the citizenry is now not in line with the results the 64-year-old dictatorship expects. Stated another way, the recipe that they have followed is not working. Not even a friendly American administration appears to be able to salvage Cuba’s rotting dictatorial state.

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J M Shiling autor circle red blue🖋️Author Julio M. Shiling 
Julio M. Shiling is a political scientist, writer, columnist, lecturer, media commentator, and director of Patria de Martí and The CubanAmerican Voice. He holds a master’s degree in Political Science from Florida International University (FIU) in Miami, Florida. He is a member of The American Political Science Association and The PEN Club (Cuban Writers in Exile Chapter).

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