The road ahead: Cuba after the July 11 protests

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By William M. LeoGrande, John M. Kirk and Philip Brenner

November 11, 2021  — Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal reposted from Center for Latin American & Latino Studies — Fifteen months before the island-wide protests that rocked Cuba on July 11, 2021, Rowman and Littlefield published Cuba at the Crossroads, which we edited. The book explored several challenges the country was facing—though at the time of writing COVID-19 was not among them—and anticipated that change would be inevitable. Contrary to a common narrative that Cuba is mired in the twentieth century unable to adapt to new circumstances, Cuba at the Crossroads highlighted changes that had occurred in the six years since we had edited A Contemporary Cuba Reader: The Revolution under Raúl Castro. But most observers did not appreciate how angry many Cubans have become over the slow pace of change and the government’s seeming lack of understanding of the suffering Cubans were experiencing. The unprecedented outpouring of protests on July 11 surprised analysts and even the protest organizers themselves. 

The July 11th demonstrations elicited a variety of analyses and commentaries that have attempted to explain the significance of events that day. Were these protests a sign that the revolutionary government was widely unpopular with the Cuban masses? Was this the harbinger of a Cuban version of the Arab Spring? Were we witnessing profound social change, or temporary frustration in the face of an ongoing pandemic and food shortages? Or was this merely the result of U.S. manipulation of social media?

As long-time observers of Cuban politics and history, we were immediately aware of the significance of events that day. July 11 was more than just a single day of protests, but instead signaled major challenges for the Cuban revolutionary process. As a result, we invited some of the foremost Cuba specialists from various countries to offer their interpretations of the meaning of “11-J,” as it is widely known. Our objective is to provide an empirically and analytically grounded account of these unprecedented protests.

This virtual Symposium presents a series of essays examining key aspects of the events that day, reviewing the various background conditions, and contributing factors that led to the protests. Together they help to complete the picture of what occurred that day, why it happened, and what it may portend for the future.

The Symposium consists of several components, beginning with the original invited contributions. The Additional Analysis section includes links to some of the most insightful reflections on 11-J published elsewhere, many of them by Cubans on the island, representing a range of viewpoints. This is followed by the Further Readings section which provides links to a wide variety of statements and analyses on 11-J, including statements from the U.S. and Cuban governments, third countries and international organizations, as well as analyses by independent commentators.

Finally, we would like to express our appreciation to our contributors who crafted in-depth analyses in record time, and to American University’s Center for Latin American and Latino Studies for hosting this symposium.

Original Contributions

Additional Analyses

Domingo Amuchastegui
Cambiamos o nos hundimosLa Joven Cuba, July 26, 2021.

Jesús Arboleya
A Political X-Ray for Possible Dialogue in Cuba
Progreso Weekly, August 4, 2021. Spanish version

Lorena Cantó
Padura: Cuba’s problems must be resolved among Cubans
OnCuba News, August 4, 2021. Spanish version  

Edilberto Carmona Tamayo and Ana Álvarez Guerrero
Debate en torno a los hechos del 11 de julio: Desafíos sociales y políticos
Cubadebate, August 12, 2021. 

Julio Antonio Fernández Estrada
Hemos perdido el sueño
El Toque, July 18, 2021.

René González Sehwerert
Carta a un primo o las siete plagas de Cuba
Cubadebate, July 31, 2021.

Julio César Guanche
Cuba Today: Homeland, People, and Sovereignty
NACLA Report on the Americas, July 16, 2021. Spanish version

Rafael Hernández
Conflicto, consenso, crisis: Tres notas mínimas sobre las protestas
OnCuba News, July 21, 2021. 

La Tizza
O Guisa o Praga
La Tizza Editorial, October 1, 2021.

Arturo López-Levy
Protestas en Cuba, causas y consecuencias para un debate desde América Latina
The Clinic, July 21, 2021.

Emilio Santiago Muiño
El estallido social cubano: Motivaciones inmediatas (I)
El estallido social cubano: Motivaciones de fondo (II)
CTXT, No. 274, July 2021.

Leonardo Padura
Cuba: Un alarido
NODAL, July 17, 2021. English version  

Andrés Pertierra
The Meaning of the Protests in Cuba
Dissent Magazine, August 13, 2021. 

Margaret Randall
Cuba’s Crisis, Our Response
NACLA Report on the Americas, August 11, 2021. 

Silvio Rodríguez Domínguez
Preguntas y respuestas del 30 de julio de 2021
Segunda Cita, July 31, 2021.

Denis Rogatyuk
René González of the Cuban Five on Cuba’s Challenge and Washington’s Hypocrisy
Jacobin, August 6, 2021.

Laura Seguera Lio and Armando Franco Senén
Desafíos del Consenso: Política
Alma Mater, August 25, 2021.

Ailynn Torres Santana and Julio César Guanche
Adaptable Cuba?
New Left Review, September 10, 2021. Spanish version