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VICTOR JOECKS: Lessons Americans can learn from Cuban protesters

Many of the people living under the Cuban dictatorship have a much different opinion about it than Sen. Bernie Sanders and some other American leftists.

On Sunday, thousands of Cubans marched in the streets demanding things Americans take for granted. Shouts of “Freedom” and “Enough” echoed through the crowd. At least one viral video showed protesters flying the American flag as they marched.

The Cuban people are angry over a lack of food and medical care. People wait hours each day to buy food. Families have posted videos online decrying the shortage of doctors and medicine.

There’s a deeper undercurrent to these protests. Cubans are crying out for freedom. For more than six decades, they’ve lived under a brutal authoritarian regime. Demonstrations are rare because the government ruthlessly imprisons — or worse — those who oppose it.

That’s already happening. More than 100 protesters have been arrested or are missing, according to to news reports. Cuban police arrested one journalist while she was giving a live interview. They attacked and bloodied an AP photographer. There are reports that Cuban police forces have murdered protesters. Information is spotty because it appears the Cuban government cut internet access in an attempt to stop the riots from spreading.

That’s a far cry from the Cuba one would envision from listening to prominent American socialists. In the late 1980s, Sanders visited Cuba. He praised it for “providing their people with free health care, free education (and) free housing.” Even during his 2020 presidential run, he continued to defend the communist dictatorship.

He’s not alone. After Fidel Castro died in 2016, the Rev. and now-Sen. Raphael Warnock, D-Ga., gave him a sympathetic eulogy, calling him a “political prisoner.” Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Calif., praised his revolution “that led social improvements for his people.”

In one of his movies, left-wing filmmaker Michael Moore glorified Cuba’s government-run health care system.

The protesters — who are risking their lives — disagree.

Along with admiring their courage, there are lessons Americans can learn from these protesters. For one, communist propagandists and their gullible U.S. sympathizers who benefit from the capitalism they decry shouldn’t be trusted. They especially shouldn’t be given political power to run major sectors of the economy.

Another is that trading freedom for promises of greater material wealth produces less of both. Communist tyranny hasn’t produced a worker’s paradise, but grinding poverty and oppression for those who aren’t part of the ruling elite. In contrast, the spread of capitalism has lifted hundreds of millions of people out of extreme poverty.

Also, private firearm ownership is a check against tyranny. Despite their bravery, the protesters’ sticks and stones are little match for semi-automatic weapons. Little wonder that Castro confiscated privately owned firearms early in his “revolution.” One reason a Castro-style tyrant seems unimaginable here is that tens of millions of Americans own firearms. It’s much harder to subdue and oppress an armed people.

Finally, it’s a reminder that freedom isn’t inevitable but must be continually defended once it exists.

Americans enjoy the blessings of liberty. May the Cuban people enjoy those same blessings very soon.

Contact Victor Joecks at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

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