The most recent protests in Cuba demonstrate a worsening split between the regime and the people in terms of the former?s legitimacy. Three analysts consulted by DIARIO DE CUBA agree on this, in the wake of demonstrations generated by an ongoing crisis that has become ingrained and exacerbated by the collapse of the national electro-energy system and the consequent blackouts.
Political scientist and historian Armando Chaguaceda points out that, although "it is necessary to have real data on the level of support for the Government to have a well-founded opinion," there are signs of a rupture.
"What is evident, in a country that criminalizes dissent, where a new Penal Code has been approved (which supports this criminalization), where there are more than 1,000 people imprisoned for demonstrating, is that there is a high and growing level of rupture on the level of legitimacy."
"Legitimacy is something that has been greatly eroded. You see people admonish officials, they don't believe them, they mock them, knowing the cost of this: repression, which is what has increased the most, " says Chaguaceda.
"Basically, there is a growing level of rupture, of disconnection between the government and a large portion of the people, although that is a diffuse category. Part of the population, whether for ideological reasons, or benefits, continues to support that government, but I think there is a much greater part that denies its legitimacy," he says.
According to Chaguaceda, "the electro-energy crisis itself will not lead to an overthrow of the regime, because that requires other factors, more external pressure, fissures within the (Castroist) elite, more coordination of the protests, but all these elements add up to a crisis, to a model that is exhausted."
He stresses that Cuba is seeing "a repertoire of protests, the banging of pots and pans, the chanting of slogans, and blockades in the streets, typical of popular protest worldwide and in Latin America that (Cubans) are incorporating" and that "are, nevertheless, still peaceful."
The political scientist observes that there "is another important fact: the protests are mostly peaceful, and transversal, combining a large number of demands, from goods and services, to calls for rights and freedom, and a continuation can be detected" of the demonstrations on July 11, 2021.
"The protests have come to stay, because, if even after a particularly repressive year, people are doing this, and not just for immediate circumstances, not just because they have no electricity, I think it's important to understand that they're here to stay. The people have learned to stop being a mere population, and are starting to be citizens," he said.
Cuban dissident Manuel Cuesta Morúa, meanwhile, believes that "the rupture is total," and goes on: "the citizens and the government form two parallel universes connected by weak threads based on the redistribution of poverty, and strong ones based on repression."
"There are three levels of rupture from which there is no return: the ideological one, confirmed by the negative numbers in the referendum; the psychological one, in the people's growing loss of fear; and the moral one, which we see clearly in the ongoing social discreditation of the government," he says.
According to Cuesta Morúa, "the first fall of the regime has already occurred: its moral collapse".
The analyst believes that the crisis in Cuba "was already normalized" and "the normality of the crisis is now being exacerbated by the collapse of State's options."
"This normality is overturned by the greatest migratory exodus in any period in Cuban history; with the rampant repression of citizens, and no longer just civil society actors; and the emergency requests for aid lodged with the enemy itself (USA), the latter a political recognition of the Cuban economy's structural exhaustion," he explains.
The dissident is not sure, however, whether this energy crisis will, in itself, lead to overthrow of the regime.
"It serves to reveal its incompetence, to delegitimize it further, and worsens society's weariness," but "other political factors are also involved in the fall of regimes that have not yet appeared in Cuba. In addition, the State still has strong instruments, in the form of its political police, civil police, army and ideological bureaucracy," he says.
What Cuesta Morúa does believe, like the other two interviewees, is that popular protests will continue to take place.
"Since July 11, the protests haven't stopped. They've been spaced out, and scattered, but they haven't stopped. Even in the face of two powerful deterrents: long prison sentences and the new Penal Code. They have overwhelmed the basic control mechanism of totalitarian regimes: political police, designed to keep organized civic groups in check," he emphasized.
Cuesta Morúa: "it is worth noting how their accumulated anger has been transformed into exemplary peaceful protest actions" where "violence has been the exception."
"There is a civic maturity, more intuitive than learned, that impresses me, at least, in a society that, on the other hand, exhibits clear traits of interpersonal violence. The words at the protests are doubly significant: demanding that basic needs be met shows that we have become rational actors who measure and criticize the management of the State and the Government based on their capacity for management and the solutions they provide. At the same time, by demanding freedom and respect for rights, we are behaving like people who are civic and aware of what distinguishes and separates us from the Government. This return of increasingly peaceful social protest is a learning process for the people, a guarantee of a democratic future," he said.
Journalist Boris González Arenas is not sure "whether or not it is the moment of definitive rupture," but the rift between the government and the people today "is the greatest after the triumph of Castroism in January 1959."
"At this time the regime is absolutely unable to forge links with the citizenry, and is protected only by its capacity for repression. In the last three years we have endured in Cuba the Communist regime's worst stage, not counting the horrors and theft of the 1960s," he says.
González Arenas believes "without a doubt" that "the conditions for a definitive rupture have been created."
"Cuba, at this time, is a nation that does not support its Communist regime. Let's say that there is some nostalgia, some residue in elderly people, in some more than others, but most of those who today can be called Communists or Castroists are nothing more than officials, bureaucrats, people connected to the regime by some type of interest," he says.
He does not think that there has been a normalization of the crisis in Cuba, despite its intensity. González Arenas: "what does happen is that, in any environment, any type of crisis, people have to keep on living."
He sees the current electro-energy system crisis as "one more," part of "a period of cyclical disasters where disfunction and the decay of the regime's operation is producing disasters that were absolutely unnecessary." He cited the examples of the recent catastrophes at the Saratoga Hotel, and the fire at the Matanzas fuel depot.
According to the activist, "all the protests are continuations of an exercise in opposition to Cuba's adverse forms of government." Therefore, he considers the current demonstrations aftershocks of those on July 11 and: "the greatest expression of adversity, of the inability of the Cuban regime to satisfy the minimal demands of a people whose consumption capacity has been decimated for six decades."
"There was a social outburst and, as that was not properly addressed, sporadic, frequent and periodic flare-ups are continuing at the national level," he adds.
According to the journalist, "the Cuban people have always known how to protest," but the problem "has been the totalitarian regime's ability to render the protests sporadic and scatter them."
He believes that there is a "greater willingness among citizens to oppose the Communist regime" and also mentions "access to the phenomena that has revolutionized the exercise of democracy worldwide: the Internet, mobile networks and new communication systems."
"So, maybe it's not that Cubans are learning to protest —because they always have known how to do that— but rather learning to connect, to unite and to forge ties, precisely to throw off this terrible Communist tyranny forever," he concludes.