Is it Still 1959?

Cuba’s Harmful Dictatorship and the affliction on its people

Cuba, an island in the Caribbean Sea, is under severe distress and has been for 61 years. The people of Cuba have been suffering under an authoritarian dictatorship that has been in progress since 1959 when the former prime minister, Fidel Castro, was in position. Cubans are barely given enough freedom to speak without constraint or fear. Their every move is being watched and judged by the government, which has the absolute power to arrest them for being ‘threats’ against the island. Personally, I am one to speak out during issues and problems that arise in our world, so if I was a Cuban in these circumstances, I would feel extremely helpless and vulnerable, which I am sure they are feeling as well.

During the coronavirus pandemic these past years, events have only gotten worse. Inflation rates have gone through the roof due to the economic decline, as well as the Cuban government’s ability to starve its citizens. Prices for simple food products, such as bananas, pasta, and more have become as expensive as 300 Cuban pesos (15 US dollars) which is unreasonable for Cubans who on average bring in about 400 pesos (20 US dollars). This is unacceptable considering a government that is supposed to be responsible for looking out for its citizens is creating the hardships they are suffering from.

Miguel Díaz-Canel, Cuba’s current dictator/president, has made the Cuban government highly restrictive towards Cuban’s options for free speech and protests. I do not see how it makes sense that the United States of America, a democratic estate that prides itself in allowing its citizens to be free and equal, does not have a significant influence on Cuba, which is right below it. The lack of intervention and abundance of disregard Americans have taken towards this situation is both disappointing as well as saddening to me. I hope the US government will soon have taken upon themselves  to intervene in the adversity that Cubans are in right now.

Although some Cubans have taken upon themselves to go out and gather for political demonstrations, most of them have been jailed for this by the government, who have passed a law that states the consequences for public anti government oppositions. The last memorable account of protests in Cuba was in 1959 when the embargo that the United States put against Cuba was reinforced. This embargo or better known as a blockage made Cuba unable to trade materials with the United States as well as other countries. The embargo is still causing multiple problems to this day – some even influencing the shortage of food and medicine that Cubans have.

Nevertheless, even though the embargo is a tough and difficult part of Cubans’ lives, that is not the reason they are protesting. Like Cuban American actress and writer, Carmen Peláez, said recently about the protests: “I’m anti-embargo. But it’s not about the embargo right now. That’s not what this fight is about.” Right now, Cubans are protesting for their rights and their humanity. In addition to lack of civil freedom and economic sufficiency, Cubans are dying in abundance each day from the coronavirus and its variants. Vaccinations are slow and gradual, and COVID cases pile up by the second, according to protestors. In my opinion and I’m sure many others, the vaccines against the coronavirus should be distributed equally across the island and rapidly, especially due to the amount of deaths that are accelerating at the moment.

It is difficult that people here in America are confused and unaware of how to assist Cubans. However, imagine how frustrating it is for Cubans who are not allowed to speak on merely the starvation their government is permitting. Numerous movements in other locations and in America itself have been gradually resolved with the help of people everywhere signing petitions and donating money. Unfortunately, these things will not function successfully due to the Cuban government’s disinterest in their citizens’ opinions or the money that people outside of Cuba provide.

However, there are definitely ways to help Cuba and the immense anguish its people are going through. When I first heard about the problems in Cuba, I rushed to find any petitions I could sign and spread to my friends and family. I signed a few, hoping it would make a difference, and I even put it on my social media to give my friends awareness of what was going on. Visiting Cuba and directly donating or supporting charities there would be incredibly beneficial to those in Cuba, because it is a first hand and verifiable contribution. If you are too young or unable for any reason to actually visit Cuba, spreading awareness and donating money to a few American non-profit organizations can do massive efforts. Some of these American organizations, such as Connect Cuba and, are able to do ground work in Cuba, and the accumulated money will go to families and seniors who are unable to buy food and survive in their homes. Going to one of the many protests organized in your state could amass an abundance of attention towards the issue as well. Retweeting a tweet about Cuba, reposting an Instagram post, snapchatting a link to a petition and article, and watching YouTube videos for raising money for donations can do much more than you think, and they only take a minute. 

Please keep those in Cuba in your prayers, as well as in your efforts to be more aware of both your surroundings and the world. I, myself, learned a huge lesson after the Black Lives Matter movement to understand that not everything is perfect in our society and even though you do not think you can do much to help, doing all that you can is more than enough. 

Cuba Libre. Free Cuba.  

Eleshaday Mengiste 

Northside College Prep High School