Latin America Notes: September-October 2021

September 21, 2021

From the September-October 2021 issue of News & Letters

by Eugene Walker

Cubans in revolt

The mass demonstrations of July 11 began in San Antonio de los Baños outside of Havana and spread like wildfire through more than 40 cities and towns, including Havana. The causes were food and medicine shortages in the midst of the country’s COVID-19 crisis, with thousands infected and hundreds dying. As well there were long-standing grievances in relation to the economy and human rights. The gatherings were generally peaceful; however, the government response was often not.

Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel went to San Antonio de los Baños, didn’t like how he was greeted, and issued a “call to combat.” Soon police broke up many demonstrations. Over 700 have been arrested, and summary trials have taken place.

After more than six decades of the U.S. blockade—which is contributing to COVID-19 deaths, due to shortages of syringes and materials for the Cuban-made vaccine—U.S. government pontification about “freedom” for Cuba is hypocrisy. President Biden continues to apply Trump’s intensification of sanctions against Cuba. Meanwhile the narrow anti-U.S. imperialism of much of the global Left has closed them to any objective examination of the meaning of the July 11 events.

The student magazine Alma Mater interviewed several students who participated in the July 11 revolt ( They shed light on the reasons for the uprising:

Denis Matienzo AlonsoFor true change to occur, there must be a change in the system. The inclusion of all voices in the construction of a new Cuba is necessary. The intellect and creativity of Cubans is well known. So why not demonstrate it in our country? I can only find one answer: hindrance by the Cuban rulers subject to an ideology from another century, which stimulates the flight of talent, since we do not find development and the freedom to grow.

Carolina García SalasThe inhabitants of the most vulnerable territories and communities in the country took to the streets. I see in many of these actions a legitimate gesture of rebellion, despair, defiance. Socialism cannot postpone the democracy it has promised. I think it has already been put off too long.

The origins of the July revolt reside within the greatness and contradictions of the 1959 Cuban Revolution finally winning independence from under the boot-heel of U.S. imperialism. “What Happens After the Revolution?”—that is, the construction of the new, authentic socialism—is key. It is where the contradictions arose under Fidel Castro, with his determination that there be only one leader and one party, and alignment with Russian state-capitalism claiming to be Marxism.

State-capitalist direction began early following the Revolution. There have been many important achievements in Cuba since the Revolution. But they occurred within the economic-political-social framework of a state-capitalism which put severe limits on the Cuban masses and repressed their self-determination and their drive for the freedom of an authentic socialism.


Latin America and global warming

Latin America is projected as one of the regions of the world where the impact of climate change—such as heat waves, decreased crop yields, forest fires, the depletion of coral reefs, extreme  weather events, rising sea level—will all be more intense.

That future is already here. The worst drought in 50 years in southern Amazonia and the record number of hurricanes and floods in Central America during 2020 are the new normal for Latin America, according to a report on “Climate in Latin America and the Caribbean 2020” by the World Meteorological Organization, a UN agency.

The research indicates that Latin America and the Caribbean is one of the world’s regions most affected by climate change and external meteorological phenomena that are causing serious damage to health, life, food, water, energy and the socio-economic development of the region.

The report highlights that 2020 was one of the three warmest years in Central America and the Caribbean, and the second warmest year in South America. Thus:

  • The Amazon River basin, which stretches across nine South American countries and stores 73 billion tons of carbon, experienced increased deforestation in the past four years due to logging to create pasture for livestock and degradation from fires. While still a net carbon sink, the Amazon is reeling and could become a carbon source if forest loss continues at the current rate.
  • In Central America extreme weather events affected more than eight million people, exacerbating food shortages in countries already crippled by economic crises, COVID-19 restrictions and conflict. In Guatemala, for example, climatic conditions have contributed to the loss of close to 80% of the corn crop.
  • In Mexico the municipality of Cerritos suffered a 50% drop in crops due to drought. Sorghum, sunflower and corn were among the most affected crops.

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