How can we help Cuba in a time of crisis

BY: Eridanna Garmashova

Over the summer, social media was inundated with posts about Cuba. While some simply scrolled, others strove to educate themselves about the events affecting Cuban citizens. So what exactly is happening in Cuba? Cuba has been a communist regime for the past 62 years. As a result, Cubans have faced oppression over the course of many decades and have recently begun to protest, demanding change.  


Background
There are numerous issues citizens have faced and continue to face, most of which have been intensified by the COVID-19 pandemic. The people of Cuba are currently facing a horrific food shortage as most of the food has been rationed. This has been an ongoing issue, however, due to the pandemic, this problem has escalated. Cubans have been battling the predicament of “dollar stores;” these stores have basic supplies, such as meat, soap, and pasta, among other items. However, the issue resides in the fact that these stores require that all purchases be made with U.S. dollars, which not all Cuban citizens have. Citizens that have family in the U.S. rely on them to send money to obtain these supplies. But what about those who don’t have these connections? Such people simply cannot access these goods. Even people who do receive money are exploited, as the government takes away 10% of the money sent. The government has also taken away internet access, medical supplies, and electricity from people since the protests began. Ever since the pandemic, Cuban citizens have suffered due to lower salaries and inflation, further challenging citizens' abilities to obtain supplies. All of these factors contribute to the frustration of Cuban citizens.


America’s involvement
   The United States has had a trade embargo with Cuba since 1962, which prohibits trade between the two nations. Cuban citizens have been hurt by this embargo as they are continuously denied access to affordable food, medicine, and technology. President Trump inflicted cruel economic sanctions that President Biden has yet to lift. The Trump Administration ended non-family trips to Cuba, as well as placed new limits on the amount of money families can send to their Cuban relatives.


Protests
On July 11, 2021, thousands of Cubans took to the streets to protest for basic human rights, which include: access to essential supplies and services, higher salaries, and more effective distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. In response to the protests, the government had hundreds of people arrested, and some even killed. The Cuban government also blamed the U.S. sanctions for their economic struggles. Many Cubans are risking their lives by coming to America in order to escape these living conditions; as they continue to fight for their rights, there are numerous ways we can help. 


How can we help?
As teenagers, we’re often stuck in the mindset of “how can I help?” Teenagers are not yet adults, and some often feel helpless; however, teenagers still have a voice, an important one as well. Though the protests are not getting as much media coverage as they did in July, it is still important to remain educated on this topic. Start by finding information about Cuba and their protests to learn about it. Another way we can help as teenagers is to keep the issue relevant by using social media to continue posting to raise awareness. If it wasn’t for social media, many teenagers would not have even known about this crisis. Another way we can help Cubans is by signing petitions, which have the potential to get media attention with enough support, so that a difference can be made. The “Freedom and Support for the people living in Cuba” petition can get the issue picked up by local news at 1,500 signatures. Another petition teenagers can sign aims to help Cuban citizens get internet access. “Atlanticcouncil.org” writes “Biden’s team is assessing new ways to extend internet access across the island.” The “Free Satellite Internet for Cuban people” petition supports the idea and already has 63,000 signatures. By getting the petition to 75,000 signatures, awareness can be brought to the issue once again. Teenagers are able to help by donating necessary supplies such as clothes, food, medical kits, or technology supplies (such as flash drives) to organizations such as the Cuban Red Cross or health clinics. Teenagers can also use this situation as a conversation starter with people in their lives about the importance of good relationships between Cuba and America and to advocate for the ease of the embargo. The website borgenproject.org/help-people-in-cuba/ mentions the importance of being invested in the topic by writing: “it is high time for more U.S. citizens to become involved in the relationship.” As teenagers, we can bring awareness to the issues through the use of petitions, social media, donations, and important conversations to catch the eye of willing adults who can make a difference.