Marissa Daniela talks to Startup Cuba about the protests, why they're so significant and where to go from here.
marissa daniela #soscuba at versailles
Marissa Daniela (@mimaincuba) and Yoel Díaz Cuní at Versailles in Miami. Photo: Marissa Daniela

#SOSCUBA: I took a nap on Sunday, July 11th and woke up two hours later to unprecedented events in Cuba; across the entire country. Not since the 1994 Maleconazo protests, which were pre-Internet and isolated to Havana, have we seen such large-scale, open protests on the island. And, in reality, not since 1959. But, you probably know that. What we really need to know, for those who aren’t up to speed, is what is happening and why. I interviewed Cuba’s most prolific Instagram influencer, Marissa Daniela, to get her take on that.

The full video interview is below; it summarizes her key takeaways about the weekend’s protests. And as I’ve stated before with our recent piece about #sosmatanzas, while we’re not a news organization, we do want to use our platform to keep you informed about what’s happening in Cuba and in the Cuban-American community during this historic, precarious time.

Cuba, as you know (right?), has had the same government for 62 years. It is a one-party (communist) government that has not been elected by the people. Its current president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, was put in place by the Communist Party and the outgoing Raul Castro. He is tasked with carrying the Revolutionary government and ideology into the next generation.

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The island nation’s government does not tolerate dissent. Again, this is probably not news to you. What is news though is that on July 11th, 2021, thousands upon thousands of Cuban citizens took to the streets in cities throughout the country to call out #SOSCUBA and… dissent. For the first time in decades, they’re publicly making it known that they disagree with the government and their handling of the economy and the pandemic. And, they’re not afraid. They’re literally not afraid.

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Cuba’s economy shrunk by 11% in 2020 – the result of the government’s management, US sanctions and the COVID-19 pandemic. The country’s leading economic driver –  tourism –  came to a complete halt. Lines for food, a lack of basic supplies, a recently exploding number of COVID-19 cases and an alleged turning away of assistance of outside help by the Cuban government, have increased pressure to the point of exploding. In a sense, the Cuban people feel that they have nothing left to lose and are crying out for help.

The Cuban government has since cut off the Internet and limited access to social media outlets. The word and photos coming out of Cuba now is that police and special forces units are on the streets in jeeps with guns. This is quite a statement to make in the normally non-violent island nation given that citizens don’t have guns and have no way to defend themselves.

The Cuban people are a sovereign people. If Cuba is to change and get through this successfully, they need to do it on their terms.

The next question is, “what happens now?”. Cuba has so much potential. It’s long past the time that everyone lets the country bloom. This includes the Cuban government respecting the basic needs of its citizens and the United States taking its foot off the gas of the embargo that does nothing but amplify the pain and suffering. The Cuban people are crying out #SOSCUBA and it’s because of governmental policy.

marissa daniela story about soscuba
Thousands protest in the streets of Havana, Cuba.

Here in the States, many conservatives are calling for US intervention. Marissa doesn’t believe that is the way to go. I agree with her. The Cuban people are a sovereign people. If Cuba is to change and get through this successfully, they need to do it on their terms. Forcing change from an outside military presence will rip off a bandaid only to plant the seed for more problems down the road. Let’s help Cuba but let’s do it so that the long term end result is positive. And, if the US were to go into Cuba and force its will upon the nation, many questions would go unanswered. First and foremost, what now? Who leads from here? Bad choice.

Democrat or Republican, it’s time for us to hear the sounds of Cuba. The Cuban people have a voice. Let’s listen to it, amplify it and use ours to support their #SOSCUBA calls.

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Ken Deckinger is the co-founder and CEO of Startup Cuba and the executive producer and host of its namesake docuseries. A native of South Florida, Ken has been an entrepreneur for his entire professional career. Previously he was co-founder and CEO of HurryDate, pioneering the global concept of speed dating to 45 cities throughout the US, UK and Canada. HurryDate eventually evolved into online dating and was acquired by Spark Networks, the parent company of ChristianMingle.com and JDate.com. Ken is a graduate of Boston College and the University of Florida, where he was honored with the University’s Alumni Entrepreneur of the Year Under 40 award and sits on the Board for the Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation. He actively advises entrepreneurs and is a two-time protagonist of a Harvard Business School case study. Ken’s filmmaking and journalistic journey is inspired by a love of travel and authentic connections with other cultures. He believes that the more we know about each other, through stories, the closer we can become — thus the mission of Startup Cuba: to amplify the voices of the people sharing stories in the Latinx space. After living in New York City for 15 years, he encouraged his wife to move their family to Miami to get back to his South Florida roots. Needless to say, it was a short discussion and he and his family now call Boston, where his wife grew up, their home.

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