There is another fundamental difference between the spontaneous outbursts of protest from the time of Fidel Castro and the present. Several years ago, the Internet appeared on the island. At first, it could only be caught in some points in large cities, but now it, although rather slow, is available to many. The internet and social media played a huge role in causing the protest, according to Sanchez, “to instantly flare up like dry grass across the island.” The authorities rushed to block Facebook, Twitter, Telegram and WhatsApp, but on the very first day of blocking, every tenth inhabitant of the island took advantage of the Psiphon service to bypass them.
Washington was also concerned about the possibility of providing Cubans with free Internet so that they could communicate and coordinate protests. Florida Governor Ron de Santis, for example, had the idea that the Cubans could be helped by conventional meteorological balloons with the appropriate equipment that would fly around the island. Someone proposes to install a powerful antenna on the roof of the American embassy in Havana, someone generally at the base in Guantanamo.
The confrontation between Cuba and the United States, as in former times, is one of the main elements of the picture. Joe Biden said in the first months of his presidency that Cuba was not a priority for him, but violent protests on the island forced him to change this position. Moreover, the Biden administration is under pressure from the extremely active Cuban diaspora, which has representatives in both houses of Congress. So this week, mass rallies were held outside the White House demanding to intervene and provide assistance to the Cuban protesters. Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, for example, has proposed air strikes against Cuba. And one of the Cubans living in Belgium made a petition on the Change.org website demanding the start of a military intervention against Cuba, which has already been signed by 420 thousand people.
Of course, Biden is absolutely deaf to such ideas. His main headache was and remains the threat of a mass exodus of Cubans from the island.
The number of desperate people ready to throw themselves into the sea due to hunger and poverty is unlikely to decline, says Ramon Saul Sanchez, head of the Movimiento Democracia organization of the Cuban diaspora, but the Cuban authorities will hardly dare to open borders and use a mass exodus, as Fidel did. Now this will be perceived by Biden as an act of war, given the difficult situation with refugees on the US-Mexican border, and even threats to direct the flow of refugees to the shores of Florida will sharply tighten US policy.
The Cuban authorities accuse Washington of not fulfilling the terms of the agreement, concluded under Reagan, to provide Cubans with up to 20,000 immigrant visas a year. However, there is a reason for this: in 2017, almost all consular employees of the US Embassy in Havana were forced to leave the Cuban capital. The cause was a mystical disease, which manifested itself in constant headache, disorientation and frequent fainting, which was called “Havana syndrome.” The issuance of visas stopped, the Cubans, who received the right to emigrate, were offered to fly to Guyana and there to apply to the US consulate, but Guyana protested, and 100 thousand people who applied were left with nothing.
Now, as a senior Biden administration official announced, the president has ordered an increase in the number of diplomatic staff in Havana. At the same time, he instructed to create a special group that would analyze the possibilities of preserving the program of sending transfers to the island by Cuban Americans.
Where does the money come from in Cuba
This system of transfers (in Spanish – remesas), along with tourism, is one of the most important conditions for maintaining the Cuban economy at least relatively afloat. Until 2020, it brought Cuba $ 3.6 billion annually, but a week before the last presidential election, Donald Trump banned Western Union from dealing with its counterparty in Cuba, Fincimex. The White House believed that it was controlled by the military, which was subject to US sanctions. As a result, all money transfers were suspended, which was a serious blow not so much to the Cuban government as to ordinary citizens. The average amount of transfers was modest – $ 100–150, but it helped hundreds of thousands of families survive, for which it was 5–7 average monthly salaries.
As a result, the termination of sending remittances was one of the reasons for the dramatic deterioration in the situation of the Cuban population, which led to the explosion. And, of course, the Cuban authorities use this for their propaganda purposes. Just like decades ago, they blame the American trade and economic embargo, which they call the “blockade”, for all the troubles.
But what kind of “blockade” can we talk about if Cuba trades with 70 states of the world and one of its largest partners is … the United States. Last year, the country received food from America, which is not subject to the $ 276 million embargo. And before the start of the pandemic, in 2019 alone, the island was visited by 500 thousand American tourists.