Activists from the Cuban-Canadian community are concerned about more bloodshed following widespread protests that erupted in Cuba on July 11, but they remain hopeful as Cubans continue to call for freedom and democracy.
Nelson Taylor Sol, activist and board member of the Cuban Canadian Foundation, said he has “mixed emotions” about the protests in multiple cities across the communist-ruled Caribbean country, where thousands took to the streets to call for an end to the decades-old repressive regime against the backdrop of a deteriorating economy.
“I’m hopeful … because I know that the protesters are still there, but at the same time very concerned because the only way to get rid of a regime like the Cuban regime … is by concerted effort from the international community,” Taylor Sol told The Epoch Times.
Taylor Sol said he is saddened to see the “defenceless” people in Cuba up against the highly trained, heavily armed police special troopers.
“They have nothing, but at the same time they are fed up. They are fed up and they are encouraged by the support of the Cuban community outside, and that’s why it’s so important for the world to speak up and not to abandon these people,” he said.
“There is going to be huge bloodshed unless the international community intervenes,” he said. “Nobody will know exactly how many people will die because [Cuban government officials] are controlling the information right now.”
Michael Lima Cuadra, a human rights activist and researcher and the founder of a project called “Democratic Spaces,” said the July 11 peaceful demonstrations represent the largest protest in the country since the 1959 Cuban Revolution, the armed revolt that led to communist leader Fidel Castro’s rule over Cuba until 2008. It is also larger than the Maleconazo uprising against government policies in Cuba in August 1994 in terms of dimension and the number of participants.
“The root of the issue in Cuba is the Communist Party, the policies of the Communist Party, and the lack of willingness of the regime to introduce democratic change to allow people to have a voice in government,” Lima Cuadra told The Epoch Times.
He said the protest was a “historic moment for Cuba,” with the Cuban people finally speaking up after 62 years of living under the communist regime, and now with a new generation ready to “[reclaim] their human rights, claiming the rights of Cubans to live in a democratic society.”
“Cuba is entering a historic moment of radical transformation. I think this is the beginning of the end,” Lima Cuadra said, likening it to the late 1980s for the people of Eastern Europe “in their fight against Soviet communism.”
U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, warned in a statement on July 11 that the Cuban government would “block internet & cell phone service soon to prevent videos about what is happening to get out to the world.”
Meanwhile, the Movimiento San Isidro, an activist group in Cuba, has published a list of over 100 people who are believed to have been detained or have gone missing following the demonstration.
Taylor Sol said the protests were triggered by a combination of factors, but it is clear that “people are asking for freedom.”
He noted that many media outlets, however, are “either silent or they’re distorting the reality” by attributing the primary cause of the protests to frustration over the COVID-19 pandemic.
“They keep saying that this is due to COVID, and it’s insulting because they show the images of the people asking for freedom, of course in Spanish,” Taylor Sol said.
He also criticized Global Affairs Canada for releasing a “mixture of conflicting statements” that first supports the freedom of expression, then “jumped” to talk about support for COVID-19 reliefs efforts.
In an email statement, Global Affairs told The Epoch Times that it is “very concerned by recent events,” and that Canada is closely monitoring the situation in Cuba.
“Canada strongly advocates for freedom of expression, freedom of movement, and the right to peaceful protest,” the statement said. “Canada will always support the right to exercise fundamental human rights free from intimidation, throughout the world.”
It pointed to a comment by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during a press conference on July 13, where he was asked if he would condemn the Cuban regime’s crackdown on protesters, including mass arrests and shutting down the internet.
“Canada has always stood in friendship with the Cuban people. We have always called for greater freedoms and more defence of human rights in Cuba. We will continue to be there, to support Cubans in their desire for greater peace, greater stability,” Trudeau answered.
Taylor Sol said Cuban-Canadians are planning demonstrations in different cities across Canada and are looking for allies who had suffered under communism, including descendants from Ukraine, Russia, Hungary, and other countries in the former Eastern Bloc.
Lima Cuadra said, “I would hope, as a Cuban-Canadian, that the government of Canada rises up to the occasion and supports democracy defenders—not take neutral approaches, but be bold in their defence for democracy and condemnation for the repression in Cuba.”