15-N: Police pressure deters the march for change in Cuba | International

Policemen walk the Paseo del Prado in Havana.
Policemen walk the Paseo del Prado in Havana.YAMIL LAGE (AFP)

Cuba lives this Monday a day of protests very different from the one that its organizers devised. The main leaders of the march for change woke up on Monday with their houses under police surveillance and the express prohibition of going out into the street, as happened the day before with the main leader of the protest, Yunior García, who was still on November 15 in the same situation. Opposition sources reported that several historical dissidents were arrested as they left their homes to demonstrate. In the streets of Havana, especially in the hottest neighborhoods and public spaces that have been marked since the July 11 demonstrations, including the Malecón, Paseo del Prado and the Capitol, the police presence was notable, both in uniform and in uniform. civil, and the feeling was that any incident that might occur would be short-lived. During the day, very few white shirts as a sign of identification with the cause were seen in the street, as the organizers had requested.

The Government focused on strengthening the image of absolute normality by organizing various events to celebrate the restart of the school year, the reopening of borders to international tourism after a year and a half of pandemic, and for the celebrations of the 502 years of the founding of La Havana this November 16. The Cuban president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, attended the central ceremony in the morning for the restart of classes, supporting the idea of ​​a festive and peaceful day. “This is how Cuba dawns on November 15, with more than 700,000 pioneers in the classrooms, receiving friends, family and tourists, reactivating the productive work, reducing the cases of covid,” he wrote on his Twitter account.

Trucks with policemen were observed on the main avenues of Havana.
Trucks with policemen were observed on the main avenues of Havana. YAMIL LAGE (AFP)

The liturgy chosen for the protest made it difficult to measure real support for the opposition convocation, widely disseminated on social media and abroad. To avoid violence or acts of repression against the protesters, the archipelago opposition platform suddenly changed its strategy last week by deactivating the marches along specific routes; People have been asked to simply go out onto the streets wearing white clothes and head to public spaces, depositing floral offerings in front of statues or monuments of national heroes. It was also proposed to applaud at three in the afternoon and caceroladas on Sunday and Monday at eight at night, but for now, very little or nothing of this.

“I do not know what is going to happen. I do not doubt that because of the repression we have seen these days, or because of fear, people stay at home. But if they don’t come out today, they will come out another day. This is the beginning of something else, ”said José Carlos Melo González, 26, a self-employed worker who signed a letter of support for the demonstration and publicly expressed his decision to march. After several hours of arrests last week and pressure to desist from his intention, both on himself and on his family, since Sunday his apartment in the Havana neighborhood of Vedado woke up under surveillance by security agents. “I went down to throw out the garbage and they told me that I could not leave and that they did not know until when the measure would be maintained.”

In the same situation were the main promoters of the protest in Havana and the rest of the country, and also Yunior García – who is now allowed to receive visits, but not leave home – and other people who, without being leaders, had openly expressed their desire to participate. “They are afraid of a town with flowers that wants to go out and demonstrate … But more and more people realize what is happening and begin to wake up,” says José Carlos, and sets an example. From having some political concerns, he has become a committed activist after the artist protests on 27-N and the events of 11-J. “Now, in my environment, after seeing that they take me prisoner and threaten me just for saying what I think, without me being a criminal, people become more radical.” José Carlos thinks that what happens on 15-N is the least of it. “This is just another step, as was the 27-N or the 11-J. Other dates will come, and people will continue to gain awareness… the change in Cuba has no going backwards ”.

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Less than two kilometers from his house, in the popular neighborhood of Centro Habana, a hustler named Michel made his own diagnosis an hour later in front of a queue of fear: “To think that this was going to be was going to be another 11- J is for shit eaters. That surprised them, now they have had a month to prepare the response. Out of fear, or because one has enough with the tails, or because – although some believe that not – there are still many people who support, here a birdseed does not move. In this neighborhood that is candela, a saucepan has not been heard ”.

The house of the opposition Yunior García covered with Cuban flags.

Except for isolated incidents or last minute acts of violence, the muscle of political control exhibited this 15-N by the authorities is great. Until tonight, there were no known images of streets full of protesters or of police violence unleashed as in the events of last July. Either because of the tight police siege on the main promoters of the protest, or because of the intense official campaign to discredit the march and the accusations to the United States of being behind their organization, Monday was a “festive day” with the return from international tourism and from children to schools, according to the Cuban Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodríguez, on Facebook. The protest called by the opposition was a “failed operation that has been tried to articulate” from the United States and “it has been a resounding failure,” Rodríguez said in an unusual transmission on Facebook.

Cuban intellectuals and academics point out that the authorities would do wrong if they presented this 15-N as a victory. “The Cuban government can no longer evade the obligation to deal publicly with political dissent. It is not something that is possible. With what he is doing, he may be able to contain 15-N, but what he will not contain is 11-J, which will continue to express itself in a thousand ways until it inevitably becomes a choir again and with the very high costs that that it has for the nation, “said psychologist Ailynn Torres days before the march. Along the same lines, historian Alaina Bárbara, coordinator of the portal The Young Cuba, stated that the Government should not boast of “greater consensus than it really has” without reading the real context and understanding that discontent is great and the country has to open democratic spaces for participation, since henceforth “immobility it will no longer be an acceptable option for citizens ”.

The United States factor

M. Vicent

For the Cuban government, the most recent statements in support of the march for the change of senior officials of the Biden administration, including Secretary of State Antony Blinken, are the confirmation of its accusations that Washington intends to destabilize the country by encouraging “this type of subversive maneuvers ”. Blinken congratulated the Cuban people last week for their “willingness to go out and speak out” in the streets, and asked the Government of Havana to “listen to the Cuban people during the 15N demonstrations and show respect for human rights.” He did so days after asking the Organization of American States to rule on the “abusive actions of the Cuban regime against its people,” and after his National Security adviser, Juan González, warned Cuba that if there were acts of repression The US could respond with sanctions. On Monday it became known that the opposition activist Rosa María Payá had asked to travel to Cuba together with two European MEPs and the Miami presenter Álex Otaola to participate in the march and “visit political prisoners in jails and hospitals.” From official media, they responded. “And we are also going to prepare a trip to Varadero”. Sources close to the organizers of the march, who have always denied any type of link with Washington, pointed out that both the attitude of the United States and that of the promoters of this type of initiative, instead of helping, seems to serve the interests of state security.

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