Cubans and their fierce struggle for freedom is an example for the whole world to see

The images of Cubans protesting despite brutal repression remind us that freedom is not free and that we cannot give up the fight.

"In cruel, inhuman and degrading conditions. Under constant physical and psychological torture. She was only allowed to see José Daniel for two minutes. When she arrived at the isolation cell, she saw José Daniel lying on the floor, without even being able to sit on the very floor where he was lying."

Those are the statements made this week by José Daniel Ferrer's sister about the fleeting moment in which the daughter of the opposition leader was able to see her father and at least rule out rumors that the regime had assassinated him. Ferrer, one of the staunchest opponents, has been held hostage by the regime since August 14, 2021. Since the historic protests of July 2021, Castroism has used him as an example to frighten Cubans and show the punishment that awaits them if they take part in the mobilizations against the dictatorship.

Like him, many other Cubans are imprisoned for protesting, the figures are not exact because the dictatorship is not transparent about the actual situation in the regime's prisons, but it is known that there are more than a thousand political prisoners. Those who dare to confront the government not only run the risk of going to jail, but they can also be assassinated, as was the case of Oswaldo Payá, the brave opposition leader whose assassination was presented by the regime as a simple car accident.

In addition to the persecution, the threats, and the possibility of being kidnapped, tortured, and even murdered, there are the precarious conditions that Cubans live in on the island. Cubans do not live; they survive. Every day is a struggle as obtaining basic foodstuffs, such as milk or bread, is almost impossible nowadays. Having protein on the table is a privilege that few can afford. Inflation is skyrocketing and shortages are at unbearable levels. This is one of the worst crises the island has ever experienced and the country is in ruins.

The health system, one of the great myths that Castroism has sold to the world, is so poor that people on the island die of diseases easily curable with basic first aid care and essential medicines. The buildings, as well as the streets and transportation, look like a picture out of the fifties, although everything is practically useless. There are constant power outages; in fact, blackouts are one of the main causes of the protests occurring at the moment.

Despite all that torture, the daily struggle to survive, and the constant threat of ending up in jail or being killed, today Cubans are in the streets, defying the regime, risking their lives. Decades of attrition and living in the worst conditions have not been enough to suffocate the desire for freedom.

From inside the island and in other parts of the world, Cubans are an admirable example of a struggle towards freedom. Even the elderly in Little Havana hope to return to their island one day. You have to see how Cubans in exile maintain their customs and educate their children, letting them know that they are Cubans even though they were born elsewhere. They are very resilient people who do not lose hope and have long lists of heroes who have given their lives trying to overthrow the dictatorship.

Cubans have also become messengers traveling worldwide and proclaiming to the unsuspecting and the uninformed that communism equals misery and death. Nowadays, when so many Western countries flirt with the left, the images of Cubans overwhelmed by hunger and repression -but with strength enough to try to overthrow the communist dictatorship- should serve as a wake-up call for those who, from their comfortable lives, ask for the imposition in their countries of the ideology that has condemned millions to misery.

The images of Cubans confronting the regime should also be a reminder that freedom is not free, that those of us who understand its value must fight to the bitter end because no one wants to live in Cuba, no one wants to see their family beg for crumbs, and since the enemies of freedom do not rest, neither can we.