Cuba’s anti-communist movement is staying strong despite hundreds of people "disappearing" or being thrown in jail for protesting against the government's strict communist dictatorship, according to Johnny Lopez de la Cruz.
Lopez de la Cruz is a retired colonel in the U.S. Army and a veteran of the 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion where he joined thousands of Cuban exiles in an attempt to overthrow Fidel Castro's communist dictatorship.
Cuba's communist government controls everything and has placed severe restrictions on individuals' basic civil liberties while reportedly threatening and intimidating those who criticize the government.
But in summer 2021, the largest protest the country has seen in decades broke out nationwide as people called for greater freedoms and an end to the communist political structure, which has been in power since 1965.
Cubans also protested against ongoing shortages of food and other goods, the lack of access to economic, social, and cultural rights, as well chronic inflated prices and constant power cuts, all of which were reportedly further exasperated by the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent lockdowns.
"The conditions in which these people are being held include high levels of overcrowding, lack of access to drinking water and adequate food, substandard medical care, and the use of isolation measures," according to IACHR, which said that many of the individuals who were arrested were being tried for "unspecified crimes and on unfounded and disproportionate criminal charges."
Hundreds more who took part in the demonstrations have gone missing, according to both IACHR and Lopez de la Cruz, who said that their families simply "don't know where they are."
But despite the government's attempts to silence Cubans, Lopez de la Cruz says the anti-communist movement is still going strong and that those opposed to the communist government will not stop until the country is rid of it.
"I think we're seeing a little light at the end of the tunnel. And now the people are expressing their desire to be free because that regime doesn't work and it's [been] abusing for 63 years, [which] like I say, has been a tragedy," Lopez de la Cruz said.
"Because the Cuban people have been abandoned basically in their quest to get free, and I think now they are demonstrating because that's what they want; they don't want communism, they don't want to be a slave of the regime."
Lopez de la Cruz noted that Cuba's Communist Party "knows how to survive" but that "we have to stop that, we have to stop any action for them to take over again and to continue."
The retired colonel pointed to Cuba's government being under immense economic and social pressure.
"Now, with the pressure that they have economically, socially, and the people against them, perhaps they will try to change things around, maybe instead of one piece of bread a week, you know, they're gonna give the people two pieces," he said.
"So they say, you know, 'we're changing.' But those changes are ... so that we [the communist government] can remain in power. That's it, you know, so we have to be clear that that's ... what the future will be, but we are committed to it. We'll continue on to see Cuba free of communism."
Lopez de la Cruz also called on the armed forces of the Cuban regime to "remember where they come from" and that they have a responsibility to the people of Cuba.
"They have the responsibility not only to defend the nation but also to defend those people that are brothers to them, it's time that the armies take active involvement in what will become the freedom of Cuba and its people."