On the 64th anniversary of the triumph of the Cuban Revolution, the Toronto Star elected to publish a deceitful, one-sided article that pushes the United States’ imperialist agenda and genocidal policy against the Cuban people. Its authors have recently been engaged in a smear campaign in Canada, by lobbying the government for yet additional sanctions on Cuba, using falsified justifications and a non-existent moral authority.
It is not difficult to discern whose interests are being represented by the authors of such articles. Sarah Teich is a senior fellow of the Macdonald-Laurier Institute, a right-wing think-tank with many powerful corporate sponsors, including mining and oil corporations, banks, and the Charles Koch Foundation. Rosa María Payá, who has close ties to Republican Senator Marco Rubio, is the CEO of U.S. NGO Cuba Decide, based out of Miami, which receives funding from the U.S. State Department and were directly involved in the violent riots of July 11, 2021 in Cuba. Michael Lima’s Canadian NGO, Democratic Spaces makes spurious, unsubstantiated claims about so-called political prisoners in Cuba and states a goal of bringing democracy to Cuba – Cuba already has democracy.
These contributors cite reports which are all from organizations that are directly influenced by U.S. government policy and known to be comprised of officials who have been in foreign policy roles in the United States. One of the named organizations gets more than 85% of its funding from the U.S. State Department alone.
It's time for the Canadian media to be honest about the fact that the protests in Cuba on July 11th, 2021 were violent riots, and not peaceful. They were responsible for mass destruction of public property destruction, theft of high value goods, assaulting police officers, and attacking a children’s ward of a hospital and threatening health care workers. These are crimes in Cuba, and in Canada as well.
Those convicted after the events of July 11th, 2021 are not “political prisoners”. They committed crimes which threatened the safety and interests of Cubans, in many cases at the behest of foreign actors and organizations. The Cuban Attorney General has provided updates on those who were charged; a total of 381 persons were sanctioned, mainly for crimes that included sedition, sabotage, robbery with force and violence, assault, contempt, and public disorder. Why do the contributors compare the number of prisoners in Cuba to Venezuela and Nicaragua, and not the United States for example, with the highest incarcerated population in the world, where people are in jail due to socioeconomic factors and racism (as well as political prisoners), some without ever having had a trial? That is a rhetorical question.
Cubans have the right to express themselves, including the right to protest, protected by their Constitution. The majority of Cubans support their government, as seen by the massive mobilization of counter-protests after July 11th, 2021, drastically outnumbering the violent rioters. There is routinely a significantly higher voter turnout in Cuban elections than there is in Canada as a matter of fact, and Cubans directly participate in policymaking on a regular basis. Cubans already have their own democratic system. Cuba is a sovereign country, and Canada has no right to interfere in its affairs.
The Canadian government should not use sanctions, which always harm regular, working people in the targeted countries, the least of all against Cuba, who is known throughout the world for their international solidarity via their medical brigades providing doctors, providing free university education to students from all over the world, and donating or selling at-cost their highly effective COVID-19 vaccines to countries that otherwise could not afford to procure them, while wealthy countries hoarded and wasted their vaccines.
The only human rights crisis in Cuba is due to the United States’ blockade of over 60 years, and Canada should be publicly denouncing it and calling for immediate removal of those sanctions on the Cuban people. Cuba has the right to self-determination, and to diplomatic and trade relations with any country that it wishes, and there is no justification for Canada to be dictating, as the contributors specifically try to suggest, that they cannot trade with countries that the United States does not like.
Canada has no moral authority, nor justification, to sanction Cuba, and should be focused on correcting its own human rights abuses and developing an independent foreign policy based on mutual respect, collaboration, and peace, rather than following along with the U.S. agenda. Canada should not jeopardize our relations with the Cuban people, from whom we have much to learn.
Co-Chairs, Canadian Network on Cuba
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