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Is This the Beginning of the End for Communists in Cuba or is It Just a Caribbean Storm in a Teacup?

© AP Photo / Eliana AponteAnti-government protesters march in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, July 11, 2021
Anti-government protesters march in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, July 11, 2021 - Sputnik International, 1920, 14.07.2021
Cuba has been ruled over since 1959 by a Communist Party which was led for decades by Fidel Castro. But in recent days it has seen big demonstrations against the government. Could things be about to change in Havana?  
The Cuban government has confirmed one man died during "disturbances" on the outskirts of the capital, Havana, on Monday, 12 July.
Diubis Laurencio Tejeda was the first death during protests which began at the weekend. The protesters criticised food and medicine shortages, price increases and the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The San Isidro protest movement said 144 people had been detained around the country on Monday.
​President Miguel Diaz-Canel met with his predecessor Raul Castro and the Communist Party politburo on Sunday but there has been no sign of any willingness to respond to the anti-government protesters.
There have also been pro-government demonstrations in Cuba and on Tuesday, 13 July, the foreign minister Bruno Rodriguez said the majority of people on the island still support "the revolution and their government."
Cuba has been under sanctions from the United States since 1962 and an attempt to thaw out relations, under Barack Obama, came to nothing and was reversed by his successor Donald Trump.
​Cuba claims the US is pursuing a "policy of economic suffocation to provoke social unrest in the country."
The US government in turn claims Cubans have suffered "decades of repression" in a one-party state.
So what could happen next?
The Fall of Communism in Europe
​Communist rule in eastern Europe came crashing down in 1989 with the fall of the Berlin Wall and the disintegration of totalitarian governments in Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Bulgaria.
Most of those revolutions were non-violent but in Romania a group of snipers from the Securitate secret police put up stiff resistance in the capital Bucharest but it ended after the President, Nicolae Ceausescu, was executed on Christmas Day 1989.
In the Soviet Union a group of communist hardliners staged a coup in August 1991 in an attempt to reverse Mikhail Gorbachev’s reforms but it backfired and ultimately led to a non-communist, Boris Yeltsin, taking over.
The Chinese Communist Party crushed an attempted uprising in June 1989 - hundreds of pro-democracy protesters were killed in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square when the party’s upper echelons sent in tanks.
But while the communists in China retained an iron grip on political power, they deregulated the economy and encouraged private enterprise, leading to an economic boom in the 1990s.
Rising levels of prosperity ever since have meant protests have been rare, except in Hong Kong, which returned to Chinese control in 1997.
​Vietnam’s Communist Party has also been successful with a similar policy of economic liberalisation, accompanied by a refusal to accept western-style democracy.
Only North Korea - officially the Democratic Republic of Korea - has eschewed economic liberalisation and has retained communism in the way Stalin or Mao would have recognised.
Cuba has been moving slowly towards the Chinese model, with some economic liberalisation policies introduced since Fidel Castro stepped down, but the US sanctions make it hard for the economy to flourish.
If the protests continue and get bigger, President Diaz-Canel may eventually have to accept democratic elections, hoping that his Communist Party would retain power against a US-based opposition which could be painted as being in the pocket of Uncle Sam.
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