The so-called Civic March for Change was called for this Monday, November 15, in Havana and other Cuban cities. After the promoters, the archipelago opposition platform, announced the date, the island’s government declared the demonstration illegal and considered it a “destabilizing provocation.” One of the main promoters of the protest, the playwright Yunior García, then warned that he would march alone this Sunday “on behalf of all citizens who the regime has deprived of their right to demonstrate.” But the department of García woke up this Sunday surrounded by people related to the Government and plainclothes agents who have prevented him from demonstrating. What will happen this Monday in Cuba is anyone’s guess. These are some of the keys.
The march of 15-N cannot be understood without the dates of 27-N and 11-J. The protest of 300 young artists at the gates of the Ministry of Culture on November 27, 2020, demanding freedom of expression and the cessation of harassment against creators critical of the Government, occurred after the arrest of several members of the dissident Movement San Isidro. That sit-in, accompanied by the request for an inclusive dialogue that never took place, shook up the debate on the need for political changes on the island, but very limited to the world of culture and developed on social media. But the protests in more than fifty Cuban cities on J 11, motivated by the economic hardships experienced, were popular and massive. Then came the images of police violence and the arrest of hundreds of people, and from all these sources he drinks the 15-N.
The Archipiélago digital platform was created after the events of 11-J by the playwright Yunior García and a group of young people, mostly artists, who had participated in the demonstration on 27-N. It already has 33,000 members on its Facebook page. Garcia says: “It constitutes a plural space in which the existence of diverse ideas is important, where we learn to reach consensus, at least what unites us within that diversity, but respecting the difference, the possibility that the other has its part of truth and that we can extract a collective truth, let’s say, without canceling that difference that characterizes us ”. According to Leonardo Fernández Otaño, another of its founders, “it is a citizen platform that aims to articulate and reach a minimum of understanding with civil society to move towards a democratic transition in Cuba.” She is the convenor of the civic march for change this 15-N.
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What are the objectives of the march?
Formally, it was summoned on August 9 to demand the “end of violence, the release of all political prisoners [fundamentalmente los de las masivas protestas del 11 de julio], that all the rights of all Cubans are respected and the solution of differences through democratic and peaceful means ”. But its purposes go beyond a simple protest demonstration, as the Archipelago leader acknowledged this week in an interview with the Efe agency. According to García, what is intended is “to shake a country, make people aware, generate a debate that causes changes.”
The US factor
The Cuban government accuses the United States of being behind 15-N and considers its promoters “political operators” in the service of Washington. This week, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bruno Rodríguez, was blunt in declaring before the diplomatic corps accredited on the island that the Government would not tolerate in any way a march that it considers a subversive provocation, forged, organized and financed by the United States. ” Cuba has the right to protect itself against the aggression of the United States and the duty to safeguard the peace, stability and tranquility that the United States wishes to alter ”, assured Rodríguez. In the last month, US government officials have supported the march on several occasions and have threatened new sanctions on Havana if the protesters are repressed.
The convocation of this unprecedented march – never before had official permission been requested to hold an openly opposition demonstration – was originally scheduled for November 20. But after the date was announced, the Government announced military exercises between November 18 and 20 throughout the country. Archipelago interpreted the movement as an indirect message and “a threat”, and changed the protest to the 15th. Days later the authorities declared the march illegal and the Prosecutor’s Office warned its promoters that if they took to the streets that day everything would fall on them the weight of the law. Keeping the pulse of the Government, the organizers announced their decision to maintain the call and march on November 15.
A new strategy
The 15-N demonstration was initially called to take place in Havana and various cities in the country on a predetermined route. The one in the capital was to run at three in the afternoon on Monday from the boardwalk to Central Park, where the dealers would deposit a wreath before the statue of the national hero, José Martí. On Thursday, unexpectedly, the leader of the Archipelago changed his strategy after denouncing numerous pressures and acts of intimidation from the authorities. He announced that, to prevent violence against the protesters, or that they were sent to jail, he would march only on November 14 “on behalf of all citizens who the regime has deprived of their right to demonstrate.” This Sunday, García’s house was surrounded all day by government loyalists and plainclothes agents, preventing him from leaving. The same could happen this Monday with the main organizers of the protest.
The new 15-N
The initial liturgy of the 15-N march was modified by the organizers to avoid incidents or acts of repression: now people are asked to wear white and go out into the streets without parading along a specific route, heading to the parks and public places to deposit floral offerings in front of the statues and monuments of the national heroes. The authorities, for their part, have convened various recreational activities in squares and main avenues to celebrate the restart of the school year and the opening of the country’s airports to international tourism after a year and a half of the pandemic.
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