The Cuban government has unknowingly created a powerful symbol of its fear of a growing opposition movement led by young Cubans, after state security agents and government supporters prevented playwright Yunior García from leaving his apartment in a solo walk on Sunday with a white rose.
Instead, Garcia was forced to show the rose through his window blinds to journalists who were far away, creating an iconic image for the dissident movement.
The white rose is a powerful symbol in Cuban history, dating back to one of the most famous poems by the Cuban writer and independence war hero José Martí, who wrote that he would grow a white rose for friends and foes alike.
Fearing the images that swept the world on July 11, when thousands of Cubans unexpectedly took to the streets to call for a change in the system on the communist island, the government of Cuba has carried out a wave of arrests and intimidation to thwart the plans. of the opposition group Archipelago, which has called for a peaceful march on Monday to protest against state violence and advocate for the release of political prisoners
Early Monday morning, a pro-government mob made up exclusively of women gathered around the home of Saily González, a Cuban entrepreneur who has led the plans for the march in Santa Clara, central Cuba.
“None of these people are neighbors of mine. They were brought here from 5:30 in the morning, ”González told the Herald. “What they are trying to prevent is that I leave. Even so, I stand firm to go out at 3:00 in the afternoon, dressed in white, whatever happens ”.
In images that recall the acts of repudiation that preceded the Mariel exodus in 1980, the mob began to shout “Pin, put, out, down with the worm!” González replied: “No worm, butterfly.”
As the mob continued to shout insults, González went out to his garden to hang white sheets, another video shows. Archiélago, the group of young intellectuals, artists and activists who called for the march, urged supporters to be creative and find ways to show their discontent, such as hanging white sheets from windows and balconies. The group acknowledged that the government crackdown would likely prevent many from joining the protest, which was initially scheduled for 3:00 pm.
Cuban journalist Yoani Sánchez said that her apartment in Havana, which also functions as the newsroom for the 14ymedio news site, is surrounded by state security agents, members of the Communist Party and the Committees for the Defense of the Revolution. Luz Escobar, a 14ymedio reporter, and Cubanet reporter Camila Acosta are under house arrest.
On Sunday, state security agents surrounded the home of Yunior García, the actor and playwright who has served as the voice of the Archipelago group.
On Sunday morning, Garcia told el Nuevo Herald that he would attempt the walk alone the day before the so-called “march for change.” The plan seems to have so frightened the authorities that security agents and government supporters took you by bus to the impoverished La Coronela neighborhood, on the outskirts of the city of Havana, and not only prevented García from leaving his apartment They also blocked the window through which the young man showed the rose with a giant Cuban flag.
“At any moment they can knock down the door for me,” Garcia said.
At one point, Garcia exchanged words with supporters and government agents standing outside his apartment, according to a video that circulated Monday morning. An unidentified woman tells him: “You work for the enemies of our government.” When he denies it, she goes on to say: “I am defending my story, the story of my children.” Garcia then responded, “but you are doing it in front of my house.” She shrugs and continues: “Okay, and I’ll repeat it: we will not allow this activity.”
The scenes in Havana and Santa Clara show a generational clash at a time when younger Cubans, with little emotional attachment to revolutionary ideology and history, are pushing for change. The widespread protests on July 11 showed a significant fracture on an island that was once ruled with an iron fist by Fidel Castro.
Many artists, intellectuals, musicians and even former government supporters have joined the ranks of the opposition, have criticized the violence unleashed against protesters or have shown some public support for the Archipelago.
Once a symbol of the Cuban revolution, Cuban singer-songwriter Pablo Milanés posted a message of support for Garcia on Monday.
“My support for Yunior Garcia Aguilera and all the Cubans that he represents and who fight inside and outside of Cuba,” he said in a post on his official Facebook page. “My contempt for those mobs they use to ‘represent the best of the people.’ I am ashamed that people of my race lend themselves to be like the ancient hunters of maroons. Wake up! “
Videos posted by activists and promoters of the march show a wide deployment of police and special units known as “black berets” throughout the country. Santa Clara’s central park is packed with red-clad state security agents and pro-government supporters, some with sticks, according to an image shared in a private message chat and seen by the Herald. Another photo shared with the Herald shows several trucks parked on one of Holguín’s main streets. It is unclear if the trucks belonging to state-owned companies were used to transport workers who were to participate in acts of repudiation or if they are positioned in case the authorities want to block a street, said the person who shared the image.
The Herald granted anonymity to Cubans who have shared images and information and have requested it out of fear of retaliation from the government.
Multiple arrests and house arrests of long-standing dissidents such as Guillermo Fariñas, members of the Archipelago and promoters of the march have also been reported.
The extensive security operation as well as the time and space devoted to criticizing the march and its organizers in the state media, incidentally granting its main figures great internal notoriety, has suggested to the population that despite the triumphalist rhetoric and accusations about a The supposed intervention plan of the United States, the government of Miguel Díaz-Canel considers the march as a significant challenge to its legitimacy.
Even if the government cracks down on the march, activists say, it has already accomplished its goal of shaking up Cuban society.
“Whatever happens, the message has to be that the Cuban people must start thinking like citizens,” Garcia told the Herald on Sunday. “Civility is what will lead us to end this dictatorship.”
This is a developing story. Check back during the day for updates.
This story was originally published on November 15, 2021 8:33 am.