Reinaldo Rodriguez, who is standing on a street corner in Montreal, has a message for Canadians. Rodriguez was part of a wave of protests that has shaken Canada’s 30,000-strong Cuban community since July 11, when unrest erupted throughout the island. “People don’t see (the money),” he explained. “The same thing happens with the money that the government receives from its physicians who work abroad. Cuban hospitals are filthy, and citizens lack access to medications.”
Felix Blanco, another participant, brandished a sign that said, “All-inclusive resort in Cuba: 51% tyranny, 49% foreign business, 0% Cuban people.” Blanco grew up in the country’s sun-and-sand capital, Varadero. “That money is used for repression by the dictatorship,” he told. “We can see how many police cars they have and how effectively they are prepared to suppress. However, we do not have ambulances.” (Cuban officials have stated that they do not have enough fuel for ambulances.)
Many Canadians, according to Cuban-Canadian activists, are unaware of how much the existence of Cuba’s one-party dictatorship is dependent on the foreign cash visitors bring into the country, or the lengths the Cuban government would go to keep Canadians visiting.
Even fewer understand how much of their money is going to a handful of firms controlled by a tiny group of well-connected generals in Cuba’s Revolutionary Armed Forces, rather than to Cuba’s undemocratic government.