What's Going On In Cuba?

In mid-July 2021, unrest began in the streets of most Cuban cities. As a political scientist living in Miami, I’m waiting with bated breath to see what happens. In the meantime, this can be a learning moment for us all.

In this piece, I’ll try my best to explain what’s going on in Cuba as of this moment. To do so, I’ll walk through a brief history that gives you some context, as well as explaining the importance of Cuban to Americans. Once that’s done, I’ll briefly cover the events as best I know them, and then offer some of my analysis of what may, and should, happen.

Cuban history is long, rich, and I don’t think I can do it justice here. Instead, I’ll give the high points from the American perspective. After the Spanish-American war ended in 1898 Cuba becomes independent….sort of.

At the end of that war, the US effectively wrote the Cuban constitution and maintained a military base at Guantanamo Bay: we still run it as a military installation and less-than-secret, secret prison. This marks the strategic importance of Cuba to the US: it’s 90 miles from Key West, and we’ve been interested in the island for well over a century.

The new constitution and political system saw a period of relative prosperity for the island if you were looking at it from the perspective of the wealthy. Owners of sugar and tobacco plantations, or hotels in Havana, were having a wonderful time under various constitutions. The pooer classes, on the other hand, struggled.

These struggles ultimately came to a head in 1952, when Batista, a former president living in exile in Florida, threw a coup and became a dictator- the first of several awful strokes of luck of the Cuban people.

The military government was overthrown in 1959 when the communist guerillas under the leadership of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro took the capital and instituted a quasi-democratic government.

These early days under Castro were met with support from the international community, including the US: the previous government had not done much to support the Cuban economy, and civil rights were limited. Though the US was deeply concerned about the rising tide of communism in Latin America, any change from Batista was seen as likely positive and had a small chance of keeping the peace on the island.

The real issue here was the Soviet Union. Seeing a quasi-communist government less than 100 miles from Florida provided a great strategic opportunity for the Soviets. Without firing a shot, some diplomatic, military, and economic aid could prove to put an egg on Uncle Sam’s face: thus, Cuba quickly became a client state of the USSR.
About author
Garrett is a writer and commentator based in the South. His areas of expertise lie in cooking, fashion, and the outdoors among others. He has been writing and educating professionally for years, and enjoys creating online discourses around positively masculine spaces.


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