Only in countries with totalitarian regimes, in which the principles and values of modern liberal democracy are considered drivel, can citizens be forced to do whatever the government wants them to. No one can disobey, because they are arrested and imprisoned if they do.
It could even be stated that this authoritarianism is, ironically, an advantage enjoyed by dictatorships during pandemics or epidemics, as strict government measures to isolate and prohibit the free movement of people, to prevent inter-person contact, are strictly followed.
But these tyrannies also control the media, which is a disadvantage for the population, who, upon receiving false news distorting the true severity of the epidemic, believe it, thereby exacerbating contagion levels.
In Cuba, alas, the regime cannot even take advantage of the only advantage that its military-totalitarian nature gives it. It is attempting to employ its typically top-down, high-handed approach, commanding the population to remain in their homes, but it is not working, because this is simply not feasible, due to the feeble productivity of the Stalinist economic model implemented by the duo of Fidel Castro and "Che" Guevara 60 years ago. The result is a country that is unable to produce large quantities of food and other goods, enabling families to stock up for several days and remain in their homes. Thus, on the island, whoever does not go out for food every day, does not eat.
Therefore, as it becomes increasingly evident that the "Revolution" is unable to protect Cubans from the Covid-19 pandemic, and as they must expose themselves to the virus daily in the streets just to secure food, and as the dire state of the country's health system, once touted as that of a "medical power", is also revealed, the need for the Sierra Maestra gerontocracy to step aside so that changes can take place in the nation will become ever more apparent and indisputable.
Cuba could suffer a humanitarian catastrophe
Of course changes will hardly be made in the midst of the pandemic, but they could and should occur after there are indications that coronavirus infections are dropping and that life in the country is returning to normal.
The question is whether Raúl Castro, Machado Ventura and Ramiro Valdés, the regime's three main historical figures, along with the generals who make up the Military Junta that governs the island, will decide to "gracefully," depart, or be forced to resign, as occurred in Vietnam in 1986 when the old Stalinist leadership dating from the Ho Chi Minh made way for the introduction of Doi Moi (capitalist reform).
This question begs a more difficult one: who, and with what authority (power), could compel that still-almighty Council of Elders to step down? Will we have to keep waiting for them to physically disappear?
No one knows, but if a humanitarian catastrophe occurs in Cuba because of the Communist regime, it is unlikely that the status quo will survive intact. Nobody can be sure that this will not mean the end of the dictatorship. Given the inevitable throngs of Cubans in lines, we are unsure what the devastating scope of this scourge could be; one that originated, not so coincidentally, in China, where another Communist Party, that of the genocidal Mao himself (65 million dead) rules.
In this regard we must note that history also shows that many tyrannies have succumbed after epidemics, earthquakes or volcanic eruptions. Under such tragic circumstances dictatorships are laid bare, as the falsehoods on which they rest are shattered.
Many Russians believe that the catastrophic Chernobyl accident was what ultimately precipitated the end of the Soviet Union.
Natural catastrophes are not accounted for in the government's contingency plans, or in the Communist Party's "Guidelines." They are not predictable, they have no political ideology, nor are they frightened or paralyzed by any despotic power. On the contrary, the misfortune wrought by nature is the worst possible political challenge to the Castro dictatorship, because there is no way to crush, manage or ignore it.
And this connects with another fallacy that is laid bare: the so-called "Cuban Revolution" was nothing more than Fidel Castro's personal stratagem to impose Communism, be maintained by Moscow, and retain power, perpetually. Socioeconomic and political processes can be measured by their results, and Castroism's bottom line is clear: Cubans today live much worse than they did 61 years ago.
The "Revolution" was an act of faith
Furthermore, both fascism and communism are only modernized versions of the feudal Middle Ages and the monarchical absolutism of the era of Ivan the Terrible, or France and its succession of Louis. Nothing differentiates Stalin, Hitler, Mao, Fidel Castro, Mussolini, or the Kims from those kings and emperors who were "chosen" and ruled by "divine will." In other words, their reigns were, in and of themselves, acts of faith.
Fascism and communism are, undoubtedly, pagan acts of faith – and, in the case of Cuba, no one believes anymore. The "chosen" who make up Castroist upper echelons only remain in power by brute force and repression, as there is no longer any "revolutionary faith" to sustain them. It disappeared decades ago.
Returning to the pandemic. In Cuba, the historical chiefs order their subordinates to face the music, like Díaz-Canel and his bureaucracy, and to instruct the state media to lash out at citizens who do not comply with social isolation orders. What they do not want anyone to point out is that the State that they head renders effective quarantining impossible, due to its inability to produce, import and distribute enough food so that families can stay at home.
To date the Castro regime has done what it always does: lie and distort reality. It is censoring the true numbers of those infected, and ordering practices of social isolation that are impracticable, all while the health system is unable to respond to the pandemic. In other words, with the coronavirus, the lies of Castroism and its bungling, criminal leadership, and the urgency of their replacement, have never achieved such mass momentum.
This unprecedented development can be appreciated in the speed with which ordinary people are getting "pissed off". More than ever before. As an indignant Dalia Gutiérrez told an independent journalist in Havana: "It is exasperating that the people always have to endure, with or without a pandemic, problems that can only be solved by the government, not the people."
Like Dalia, many Cubans are already raising their voices, without fear. As contagion spreads, they will speak out louder in the face of the regime's incapacity to prevent it.
Neither General Castro nor those who keep him on his throne ever imagined that an apolitical enemy, without any ideology, and not the "Yankee empire," would be what finally pulled the rug out from under them.