As Cuba crushes dissent, national protest soars

Protesters largely stayed off the streets of Cuba on Monday in what had been a long-awaited national march, with police, state security ...


Protesters largely stayed off the streets of Cuba on Monday in what had been a long-awaited national march, with police, state security agents and even civilians crisscrossing the country for prevent dissidents from leaving their homes.

The show of force demonstrated the government’s extensive security apparatus to suppress dissent. He also highlighted the challenges facing the opposition in Cuba, where fear of repression often trumps activism.

For months before the planned protest, government critics had sought to rekindle popular discontent that had erupted in protests over the summer. But uniformed police officers, plainclothes state security agents and government supporters waving signs surrounded the homes of dissidents, human rights activists said.

“My house has been under siege for three days,” Manuel Guerra, a doctor in Holguín, eastern Cuba, said in a text message. “Cuba is in mourning.

In a highly unusual move, Cuban activists announced plans for a “Civic March for Change,” a nationwide rally scheduled for Monday afternoon to protest the lack of freedom of a Communist Party that has ruled the island for more. six decades.

The organizers, many of them young artists, had hoped to build on the momentum of the July marches in which thousands of Cubans demanded food, medicine and freedom. In recent days, fearing violence, they have softened their plans.

A leader of the movement, Yunior García Aguilera, had planned to march alone with a white rose on Sunday, but government supporters prevented him from leaving his home, according to videos posted on Facebook. At one point, he peeked through the shades of his apartment window with a white flower in his hand – until someone on an upper floor lowered a huge Cuban flag, blocking view.

“This community is not going to allow a media broadcast,” one of Mr. García’s neighbors shouted in his face, according to a video posted on Facebook.

For weeks, the government had denounced Mr. García in the state-run news media, obscuring the chances of others joining the protests, according to María Antonieta Colunga Olivera, a journalist. “They tore him to pieces on Cuban national television, and they discredited him in any way they could,” she said.

Ms. Colunga has also come under scrutiny by the government. She said a police car was parked outside her home in Havana all day Sunday, a practice the government has increasingly used as a bullying tactic. A state security agent surrendered on Monday, she said.

On Monday, dissidents shared videos and photographs of police officers and government supporters surrounding their homes. A few filmed themselves taking to the streets dressed in white in protest. At least 40 people have been arrested, according to Cynthia de la Cantera, a Cuban journalist who was helping two social justice organizations keep track.

In Santa Clara, activist Saily González posted a video of her hanging white sheets outside her home as a symbol of freedom, as people who support the Cuban revolution shouted insults at her, in what is known in Cuba as an “act of repudiation.”

Alexander Figueredo Izaguirre, a doctor at Bayamo, said security officials had been in his neighborhood since Sunday. Photographs taken that day showed an empty street with two police and military vehicles parked around the corner.

“Here in Bayamo, they have militarized everything,” said Dr Figueredo.

The Cuban government declared the protest illegal, and state media repeatedly called the dissidents Washington puppets.

“Cuba has never authorized and will never authorize the actions of a foreign government on our territory trying to destabilize the country,” Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez said last week.

State media focused on the country’s positive developments: the return of face-to-face classes and the reopening of tourism. The protest, according to government media, was “doomed to failure.”

“We are facing a manipulation of our reality,” state newspaper Granma said.

The plans for the protest come in a year marked by severe food shortages and a healthcare system strained by the coronavirus pandemic. The number of Cubans fleeing to the United States has also increased significantly. By early November, just one month after the start of the exercise, the US Coast Guard had already recovered 248 Cubans at sea, compared to 49 for the whole of last year.

But the government has made it clear that it is not in the mood for dissent.

Juan Pappier, a Cuban Human Rights Watch researcher who has closely followed the protests, said anyone caught participating could face up to a year in prison, while anyone accused of throwing a stone – even without evidence – could be sentenced to 10 years, he said. noted.

Hundreds of people remain in jail because of the protests that erupted in July.

“I think there is a strategy of total suppression – not even repression,” Pappier said.

Yoani Sánchez, blogger and activist, said the show of force illustrated how scared the Cuban government was of people demanding freedom of expression. But she wondered if the government could continue to devote considerable resources to street corners across the country.

“The fear has changed sides,” Ms. Sánchez said on her morning podcast. “How? Cuban officials have deployed an intense campaign of threats, surveillance and shutdowns on the Internet that demonstrate only one thing, Ladies and Gentlemen: the terror, the panic, they have at losing power.

Oscar Lopez contributed reports.

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Newsrust - US Top News: As Cuba crushes dissent, national protest soars
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