Cuba brings forth images of vicious dictators, rigged elections and abuse citizens from state police. The people’s freedom to express any discontent is all but null, as constitutionally the country only allows the Communist Party to run the state, and the government agencies known as the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution (CDR) ensures that policies are enforced and “counter-revolutionary” actions are choked. It’s a situation that involves insurmountable odds and requires an unshakeable belief in freedom to fight, which makes the current liberation movement so inspiring.
In 2017, I began reporting on the Partido Libertario Cubano-Jose Marti (Cuban Libertarian Party) because their situation compelled me to inform as many people as possible to help out. Truly, there’s an Americentric problem in the global liberty movement, and many international groups face much larger obstacles; the Cuban libertarians being one of them. To me, it’s always important that one uses one’s position of privilege (sadly a dirty word in today’s rhetoric) to uplift those around them.
The United States has a history of making things worse for the people of Cuba. Southern plantation owners supported pro-slavery Cuban expeditions to sway the balance of slave and free states, and President Ulysses S. Grant actively opposed the Cuban independence movement and had members of his administration halt efforts of Latin American nations to buy the island. President Barack Obama revoked policies allowing Cuban refugees, and President Donald Trump has placed sanctions on the country for its leadership’s support of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, causing massive economic damage.
Cubans don’t need any help to worsen their living situation. Restrictions on travel for “defense and national security” or “reasons of public interest” have been used to keep anti-government activists on the island. They also use policy to sway statistics on their laws’ effectiveness, one example being offering free abortions and encouraging their use as contraception to keep their infant mortality rate low (more on this topic can be read in Mamela Flor’s essays in Igniting Liberty). The government also arbitrarily arrests and imprisons dissenters to intimidate and repress, which led to the Cuban Libertarian Party’s origins.
In February 2017, two Cubans members of Mises Cuba (now Mises Mambi) Institute were arrested outside of the Benjamin Franklin Library, created to introduce Cubans to libertarian ideas and eventual headquarters of the party, with charges of “distributing enemy propaganda”, i.e., putting up flyers, and “assault” for not providing registration to police. This event would trigger the founding of the Libertarian Party of Cuba in May 2017 and begin their biggest push to free the people of Cuba. Since that day, they’ve been victims of constant harassment from the government.
Late in the night before August ended, police arrested the party’s chairman, Caridad Ramirez Utria, Vice Chairman Heriberto Pons Ruiz, and spokesman, Nelson Rodriguez Chartrand, among others, after surrounding the library for six hours. These members’ crime was holding a hunger strike in solidarity of those arrested in February. They were released the next day after having been beaten and abandoned in different parts of Havana, two of them barefoot and 30 km from their headquarters.
To make this event even more absurd, Utria and Ruiz were indicted for “abandonment” because they were paramedics and they did not tend to those participating in the hunger strike. There are no ends to how the government will twist its laws to silence its critics, but despite this, the party has been able to grow and continue.
Later in June 2017, the party would move to Camaguey starting a new library and continuing their activism outside of Havana. Days later, their president, vice president, and spokesman would again be arrested without provocation of the police and without being informed of their charges. They were released over a week later, then led protests against the Cuban government sending troops to Venezuela, and a month later, opened the third headquarters in Pinar Del Rio.
The means that they had to go to coordinate and organize is incredible, for until recently (a private donor and support from the Mises Mambi Institute was able to purchase them a cell phone), they had to rely on public phones to correspond between the headquarteres. Amazingly, they’ve been able to organize protests against Russian armored trucks given to the successor of Fidel Castro from Russia, a march against animal abuse, and show support for Venezuelan National Assembly president, Juan Guaido.
This story is what inspired me to be a part of spreading it. The Cuban Libertarians need basic living essentials, and among them, a computer, printer, and ink to stay connected to the outside world and to create pamphlets to distribute to the public. Social media is heavily censored by the state, making print materials their best option.
I and the rest of the Libertarian Coalition are working on a way to raise funds for technology, but until then you can always support them by sending money through the Mises Mambi Institute. If you can’t donate, the best way to help to follow them on social media, and share their message to any outlets you have available. Outside of technology, their biggest need is to have their message spread.
It’s cliché to express how a little can go a long way, but it truly can for these freedom fighters. Any amount of exposure to a new audience they receive is another potential opportunity to receive help, and any donations can ensure that they can continue a little longer. A libertarian world will have to be built on mutual aid and cooperation, and the best way to demonstrate that now is to support international liberty movements under the thumbs of authority.