Friday, August 5, 2016

Maleconazo 22 years later: Looking back at Cuba's August 5th uprising and the aftermath

"Without memory, there is no culture. Without memory, there would be no civilization, no society, no future." - Elie Wiesel  

Uprising in Havana, Cuba on August 5, 1994
22 years ago on August 5, 1994 there was a social explosion in Cuba called the Maleconazo that threatened the dictatorship, but the opposition both inside and outside of the island was not ready to seize the moment. Instead the Cuban dictatorship cracked down internally and opened the ports turning a political crisis for the dictatorship into an immigration problem for the United States that led to a negotiated immigration agreement and a new lease on life for the dictatorship. Cuban dissident blogger Yoani Sanchez compared this uprising with the events in Beijing in June of 1989:
"Apart from the distances: in China they tried to erase what happened in Tiananmen Square and in Cuba the Maleconazo."
In both China and Cuba the government of the United States backed up the regimes in power at the expense of the people in the streets. Unfortunately, other parts of the world are also following this regrettable path and turning their backs on the example set by a previous generation of leaders who brought their country out of totalitarian darkness into the community of free nations. The end result, in my opinion, explains the steady decline in human rights around the world over the past decade

It is important not only to remember how the Castro regime responded to Cubans running through the streets shouting "freedom!" but how the Clinton administration helped to maintain the status quo in Cuba shoring up the dictatorship.

State Security agent points his gun at the crowd on August 5, 1994
State security went out and shot into the crowds. Years later photographs taken by a tourist confirmed the anecdotal accounts of that day. Cuban dissident Regis Iglesias described how the dictatorship militarized the streets in an effort to terrorize the populace:  

A convoy of trucks crammed with repressive special troops and a vehicle with a 50 caliber machine gun on top patrolled up and down the long street.
Ignacio Montero described how he was attacked and a young boy was shot:

They broke my left eyebrow and left me semi-lame. Yes, there were assaults and the aggressors had guns, but not among the civilians. One of the boys who went with us, who was called the Moor, even while handcuffed, they shot him in the torso and it was a miracle that he did not die. Who do you think paid for that? No one.
In the aftermath the Clinton administration backed the dictatorship, not the Cuban people on that day and in the weeks that followed stopped granting parole to Cuban refugees, claiming some as migrants holding them at Guantanamo Naval base and eventually started deporting others to Cuba. 

State Security aiming their guns at Cubans. Did they end up retiring in Miami?
 At the same time an immigration agreement was reached with the Castro regime by the Clinton administration that placed the control of 20,000 visas at the dictatorship's discretion. This led to regime oppressors being rewarded with retirement in the United States.

Cresencio Marino Rivero, Cuban prison chief found in Miami
In November 2012 The Miami Herald reported on former Cuban provincial prisons chief Crescencio Marino Rivero who abused prisoners and ordered guards to abuse others before he moved to Miami. This is in spite of the August 4, 2011 Obama Administration ban on visas for people who the State Department finds have been involved in human rights violations. Cuban human rights violators continue to get a free pass to enter the United States and when identified by their victims, nothing happens. 

Thankfully, Vaclav Havel and his ideas on the power of the powerless and living in truth still give some hope for the future even if they are falling out of fashion with certain elements in the Czech Foreign Ministry.

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