Another threat for Habanos? Less than a week ago, we published a story on the massive shortages that Habanos is facing. And down the pipeline, the exclusive Habanos distributors, retailers, and consumers as well. As a large retailer said to us in a response to the article “if we order 100 boxes, we are lucky to get 5”. And instead of light at the end of the tunnel, it looks like there is another threat upcoming.
Since the revolution of 1959, political protests in Cuba are rare. And are dealt with in a way that every dictatorship deals with protests. Violence by police, paramilitary groups, and other heavily armed groups in support of the regime. It takes a lot of courage to protest against these kinds of governments as the consequences are severe. Cuba doesn’t stand alone in this though, it is a trade of any dictatorial regime.
But on Sunday, at least two spontaneous demonstrations emerged in San Antonio de Los Baños, near Havana, and Palma Soriano, in the province of Santiago de Cuba. Protesters were singing the song Patria y Vida, which has become iconic for the opposition of Castroism. Videos of protesters singing slogans of “Freedom”, “Down with communism” and “We are not afraid” were broadcast on social networks. When the Cuban regime killed one live stream, another started. Other sources speak of at least 15 different protests in different locations in Cuba. And the protests spread globally, as Cuban exiles in Madrid (Spain) & Chile marched to the Cuban embassy in solidarity with the protesters.
Besides more freedom and a free market economy, the protesters also demand covid vaccines for the Cuban population. The incapability of the communist regime to provide the vaccines was the flame that ignited the powder keg. There are hour-long power outages every day, and people struggle to find food.
The last large-scale protest against the communist regime was in 1994. On August 5 of that year, people went to the street as a result of an economic crisis. Cuba’s biggest trade partner, the Soviet Union’s fall, did a number on Cuba’s economy. Protesters were screaming for freedom. There were riots and the Cuban police and military forces used violence to disperse the protests.
But many Cubans fled the country as a result. By boats, most of them stolen, and by rafts. The Maleconazo protests led to 35,000 Cuban refugees, or ‘counter revolutionaries’ as dictator Fidel Castro called them.
Why could this be a treat?
The treat of the current protests can be two-fold. Either the protests get out of hand, with riots and possibly a civil war. Anti-Castro groups, mostly in the United States, have been ready to take action for years. It is not unthinkable that these groups, with their funds, could arm the protesters in Cuba. That could lead to a bloody civil war, stopping everyday life in Cuba for a period of time. And that means that cigar factories will have to close temporarily.
The other possibility is that these protests have the same result as the protests in 1994. Another mass exodus of Cubans to Central and North America. And usually, the people that are fit and strong enough to flee, are also the ones that are an important part of the workforce. That will lead to a lack of cigar rollers, box makers, and other hands in Cuba’s cigar production.
But let’s hope it doesn’t come to that. Let’s hope that the protests, and the response of the Cuban officials, remain peaceful. And that these protests lead to change, that the Cuban people can be free. It’s been too long that Cuba has enjoyed freedom. After centuries as a Spanish colony, a short term under American occupation, Cuba only had freedom from 1902 to 1952. Since then, the country has been under dictatorship. First, it was the corrupt and ruthless Fulgencio Batista. In 1959, he was overthrown by the equally ruthless communist forces under the leadership of Fidel Castro. Cuba has not been free since. Our heart is with the people of Cuba, and we wish for them to live in freedom and peace.
header photo credit Reuters