Cubans More Excited About School Reopening Than Regime Change

By Medea Benjamin, LA Progressive

“If you build it, they will come,” said Kevin Costner in the Field of Dreams. In Cuba, they didn’t come. Dissidents on the island, with their U.S. backers, had been working feverishly for months to turn the unprecedented July 11 protests into a crescendo of government opposition on November 15. They built a formidable structure, with sophisticated social media (including an abundance of fake news), piles of cash from Cuban Americans and the U.S. government, and declarations of support from a bipartisan Congress and all the way up to the White House.

Even after the Cuban government denied the protesters a permit on the grounds that they were part of a destabilization campaign led by the United States, anti-government forces insisted that they were undeterred and were ready to take the risks. But in the end, their Field of Dreams turned out to be an illusion. What happened?

A group of Cubans sits on the Malecon with a green and white background
Photo by flako

Intimidation of dissidents was certainly a key factor. The leader of the Facebook group Archipelago, Yunior Garcia, was kept under virtual house arrest. Other leaders were threatened with arrest and repudiated by their pro-revolution neighbors.

But at the grassroots, I talked to Cubans who had second thoughts about the usefulness of street protests. They had come into the streets on July 11, spontaneously, with all kinds of legitimate gripes: the scarcity of food and medicines, the long lines for basic goods, the rapid spread of COVID, the hard currency stores they didn’t have access to. But in the intervening months between the July protests and November, many realized that street protests only created division when the country needed unity. They realized that despite all the social media hype, the government was not about the fall, and that even if it did, there was no telling what would follow. If it was chaos and civil strife, or a rush of voracious Cuban Americans trying to grab waterfront island properties, their precarious economic situation might be even worse.

Read More