Cuba is facing an unprecedented scenario of protests and police repression, and for many dissidents, the economic, social, and political situation is so serious that there is no turning back.
One of those who believe that the Cuban people will remain in the streets until the last consequences is Cuban doctor and dissident José Raúl Rodríguez Rangel.
Until his definitive departure from Cuba, Rodríguez Rangel was one of the leaders of the United Anti-Totalitarian Forum (FANTU), a Cuban pro-democracy organization led by activist Guillermo “Coco” Fariñas.
“People were left without a house. Not the physical house, the architecture. They don’t have a place to live, they don’t have a place to go back to. They don’t have that place to go. Because they can no longer see their children cry. They can’t go on seeing their grandparents die in bed—there are so many testimonies—because there is no oxygen or the ambulance didn’t pick them up and died because of Covid-19” describes Rodríguez Rangel an interview with BLes.com.
With tourism practically paralyzed—one of the engines of the Cuban economy—the coronavirus has had a profound impact on the economic and social life of the island, to which has been added the emergence of growing inflation, blackouts, shortages of food, medicines, and basic products.
At the beginning of the year, the government proposed a new package of economic reforms which sent prices soaring, and economists such as Pavel Vidal of the Javeriana University of Cali estimate that inflation could climb to 900% in the coming months.
At the same time, the pandemic has also been synonymous with long queues—up to 8 hours long—for Cubans to buy goods such as oil, soap, or chicken.
Power outages have become increasingly frequent.
Basic medicines have become scarce in both pharmacies and hospitals, and in many provinces, they have begun to sell bread made from pumpkin because of the lack of wheat flour.
“Who’s going to come to a place where you’re going to bump into your mom because there’s no electric current or you’re going to fall in the door or you simply can’t sleep? Most of those people [who are protesting in the streets] have not slept for two days because of the ‘apagones’ [power outages]. It’s like this. Most of those people don’t have an aspirin for a headache. Most of those people haven’t eaten for three days. And they are getting sick from Covid-19 with the delta variant,” says Rodríguez Rangel, who currently lives in Argentina due to persecution by the Cuban communist regime.
For this activist and essayist—he has written several publications in various journalistic media—the situation is so serious that “there is no turning back,” even if the Cuban people’s demand for freedom requires people to die in the streets.
“Everyone knows that the government is responsible. But also the government does not have an answer. That’s why the protests are going to spread and it’s important to gain worldwide support because people simply have nowhere to go back to. People have to stay in the streets. There is no turning back. The government has no answer. It has already reached a place where there is no electricity and no food. But also people are dying, so what I have left is the street. Let them kill me in the street. That’s the stance everyone is taking. Let them kill me in the street because there’s no point in going home.”