This past Sunday, July 11th, Cubans were called on by the Christian Liberation Movement, MCL, to keep pressuring communist authorities in Cuba to open general elections. This was after thousands of people hit the streets in major local cities protesting the unprecedented scarcity of essentials, along with the COVID-19 death rate.
The government is willing to admit that July has had a “serious rebound” of COVID-19. There have been over 6,000 cases every day. While the Cuban government has developed a vaccine requiring three shots of their own, the efficacy of the vaccine has yet to be confirmed independently. Cuba’s vaccination rates are fewer than 10% of the adult population. The low rate has been attributed to the government’s lack of ability to increase both production and distribution, as well as a lack of trust among Cubans with their government’s vaccine.
Following months of medicine and food shortages, Cubans were heard in the streets shouting, “Down with the dictatorship, We are not afraid, We want vaccines,” and “Homeland and life!”
What happened on Sunday were some of the largest demonstrations in Cuba in over 60 years of communist rule. In some areas, protestors marched with the image of Our Lady of Charity, Cuba’s national Marian advocate.
National Coordinator of the MCL, Eduardo Cardet Concepciòn, released a statement to ACI Prensa saying that “thousands of Cubans are in the streets today peacefully demonstrating, demanding freedom and an end to repression and misery.” MCL said this was happening “in order for the tyranny to end.”
The statement continued, “The MCL, as part of this people tired of oppression and injustice, is fully identified with their desires. We support our brothers and sisters of the Christian Liberation Movement and all Cubans who demonstrate peacefully, making use of this legitimate right.”
The statement made demands of “the release of political prisoners, the annulment of the repressive laws against freedom, recognition of economic rights of free enterprise for Cubans, recognition of each Cuban’s right to vote and be elected, Cubans both inside and outside of the island.”
Cuban President Miguel Díaz Canel responded with a television and radio message, blaming the majority of the unrest on the United States and called upon “all the revolutionaries in the country, all communists, to take to the streets and go to the places where these provocations are going to occur,” counteracting protests by creating fear of civil confrontation.
President Biden Gets Involved
On Monday, President Biden called on the leaders of Cuba to listen to what thousands of Cubans were demanding. Biden urged the Cuban regime not to respond with violence of any kind. He said the Cubans willing to finally speak out “are bravely asserting fundamental and universal rights.”
Biden continued, “Those rights, including the right of peaceful protest and the right to freely determine their own future, must be respected. The United States calls on the Cuban regime to hear their people and serve their needs at this vital moment rather than enriching themselves.”
Later in the day, Biden told White House reporters that he and his administration “call on the government of Cuba to refrain from violence in their attempt to silence the voices of the people of Cuba.” Biden said he will have “more to say” in the future, discussing any changes that could take place in U.S. policy with Cuba.
What is the MCL?
The MCL was founded in 1988 by Oswaldo Payà Sardiñas, who was a Catholic dissident. His reason for starting the MCL was to achieve peaceful democratic reform on the island. The social doctrine of the Catholic Church was his inspiration for the reform. Payà was able to take advantage of a loophole within the Communist constitution and organize a collection of signatures introducing democracy in Cuba.
The Cuban government responded by persecuting the movement throughout the country, and over 40 MCL leaders were incarcerated during the “Cuban Spring,” a wave of repression back in 2003. In July of 2012, Payà and Harold Cepero, another MCL leader, died in a car accident under suspicious circumstances.
Jeffrey Stevens is a published author and is currently earning his second degree in theology from Aidan University. His writing career has focussed on living the Christian faith, mixed with some sports writing from time to time.
Jeffrey regularly writes on his personal website and blog, “The Catholic Wordsmith.” In addition, he’s written articles about his faith on websites such as Big Pulpit, Catholic 365, Catholic Stand, and Joshua’s Outpost. As a sports writer, Jeffrey has written articles that have been published on Sports Illustrated, ESPN, and Bleacher Report.
Jeffrey can be heard hosting “The Catholic Wordsmith Show” available on Google Podcasts, Spotify, Overcast, and RadioPublic.