Josh Hammer: The Left's Failure to Condemn Cuban Dictatorship Is More Disgusting After Seeing the Scene on the Ground


The Castro (and now post-Castro) regime in Cuba is a deeply repressive communist dictatorship whose ultimate place in the proverbial ash heap of history cannot arrive soon enough.

A retrograde relic of the Cold War era — when it served as a strategically positioned Soviet satrapy — the impoverished island nation has barely changed an iota since the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The most recent bout of unrest there, spurred by a restive Cuban population yearning for the basic freedoms that most of their Latin American neighbors take for granted, is also a harrowing portent of what could someday come if the “progressive” — in many cases, increasingly outright socialist — left gets its way here in the United States.

I have been to Cuba and seen the barren fruits of this hellish, “revolutionary” regime with my own eyes. Parts of Havana are positively charming — the historic parts that predate the revolution, at least — but the majority of the city looks like it was just hit by a neutron bomb.

Dilapidated buildings that look like they are out of Mogadishu circa 1993 are the norm. Skeleton-thin stray dogs wander the streets, while locals are usually reliant on government-provided scraps to get by with bare life necessities. The Malecon, Havana’s pre-eminent esplanade along the water, is naturally beautiful. It is easy to see what Ernest Hemingway fell in love with when he wrote “The Old Man and the Sea.”

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But instead of sparkling five-star resorts dotting the landscape, there is rubble and desolation as far as the eye can see.

Cubans also lack the most rudimentary of civil liberties. The regime’s internal security service is a thuggish brownshirt militia that beats and subjugates perceived enemies — all without basic procedural norms, such as due process of law. The internet, which is pathetically slow, is constantly surveilled by politburo lackeys.

Every time a Cuban steps out onto the street to complain to a compatriot about the struggles of daily life and his general hopelessness at life advancement, he is under threat of being watched and spied upon. And complain they sometimes do — my own trip there belied the notion that every Cuban is a fully indoctrinated Castroite.

That, in a nutshell, is post-“revolution” Cuba. But it is certainly not what the American left sees when it looks to the island just 90 miles south of Florida.

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The recent grassroots protests in Cuba, immediately spurred in part by the government’s terrible handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, are directly responsive to the Cuban people’s decades-long oppression at the behest of a genuinely evil, communist police state.

As former President Donald Trump put it in a statement on Thursday, “The proud people of Cuba are desperate to be free from the iron boot heel of the Island’s wicked Communist Regime.” That is indeed what has been happening over the past week.

But when the modern left, for whom such men as Sen. Bernie Sanders — a dyed-in-the-wool communist who honeymooned in the Soviet Union and defended his erstwhile praise of Fidel Castro as recently as last year — are increasingly emblematic, looks at Cuba, it sees something quite different. Namely, they see an opportunity to bash the long-running (and often tweaked) U.S. embargo of Cuba — which was the focal point of Sanders’ comments this past week.

Leftist “it girl” Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has instead opted for deafening silence — but the Democratic Socialists of America, of which AOC is a member, forthrightly tweeted that it “stands with the Cuban people and their Revolution in this moment of unrest.”

Black Lives Matter, apparently not content with the $1 billion to $2 billion in paid insurance claims from last summer’s riots that it helped spawn, condemned the U.S. for “tr[ying] to crush this Revolution for decades.” That a large portion of Cuba’s tyrannized populace is itself black appears not to have crossed BLM’s mind.

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As Jeffrey Scott Shapiro, former director of the U.S. Office of Cuba Broadcasting, detailed in a February Op-Ed at Newsweek — where I am opinion editor — the Cuban regime is, to this date, an unmitigated totalitarian disaster.

“Doctors who have tried to escape the island have often faced persecution and harsh punishment,” Shapiro wrote. “In other instances, dissidents in desperate need of medical attention, including cancer treatment, have been denied proper medical care simply because of their political activities.”

This is the regime that large swaths of the American left have been willfully ignoring, defending or outright egging on as it has taken to the streets this past week to terrorize a citizenry craving basic human dignity. Remember that the next time you go to the ballot box in these still-free United States.


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Josh Hammer is the opinion editor of Newsweek, a research fellow with the Edmund Burke Foundation, counsel and policy advisor for the Internet Accountability Project ad a contributing writer for American Compass.