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A demonstration for the release of political prisoners scheduled for Monday in Cuba did not finally take place. Several dissidents have in fact been arrested or prevented from traveling by the authorities who mocked a “failed operation” by the United States.
Cuban dissidents were ultimately unable to carry out their demonstration on Monday, November 15. At around 3 p.m. (8 p.m. GMT), the scheduled time of the rally in Havana and six provinces, the streets of the capital were quiet, with many police officers in uniform and in civilian clothes. On social networks, some Cubans posted photos of them, dressed in white in the street as the order said, but the call did not seem to have been followed overall.
Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez mocked a “failed operation” when the Communist government accused the United States of wanting to destabilize Cuba through this demonstration for the release of political prisoners.
“Apparently some of my colleagues in Washington dressed for nothing, for their party which did not take place,” he quipped in a video posted via Facebook, because “the script was not good and the even worse staging “. The minister described Monday as “festive: today dozens of flights have arrived (in Cuba), international tourism has resumed”.
The call to protest coincided with the island’s reopening to tourism and the return of students to school after months of closure due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Campaign against Cuba”
President Miguel Diaz-Canel, who attended the start of the school year in western Havana, denounced Sunday a desire to “disrupt internal order” and a “media campaign against Cuba”.
The authorities had banned the demonstration and threatened the organizers – the Facebook political debate group Archipiélago, which has 37,000 members in Cuba and abroad – with criminal sanctions.
On Monday, several dissidence leaders were arrested including Manuel Cuesta Morua, vice-president of the Council for the Democratic Transition. The leader of the Ladies in White movement, Berta Soler, and her husband, ex-political prisoner Angel Moya, have also been arrested, dissident Martha Beatriz Roque announced on Twitter. Art historian and activist Carolina Barrero, who has been prevented from leaving her home for 200 days, has also been arrested, the dissident movement 27N of which she is a member said. Another opposition figure, Guillermo Fariñas, has been in detention since Friday.
Many dissidents, protest promoters and independent journalists said they were blocked in their homes by the police. Several of them said they had been subjected to acts of repudiation – these gatherings of residents used for decades to curse dissidents – or having the internet cut.
The playwright Yunior Garcia, 39, founder of Archipiélago and spearhead of a new generation of dissidents stimulated by the rise of social networks, was also prevented from leaving his home on Monday by plainclothes agents, noted a journalist from AFP. The day before, his plan to parade alone, a white rose in his hand, had been stopped by the presence of the police around his building.
The call to protest came four months after the spontaneous and historic protests of July 11, which left one dead and dozens injured. Of the 1,270 people arrested, 658 remain imprisoned, according to the NGO Cubalex, Cuban independent media citing the required sentences of up to 30 years in prison.
The country is experiencing its worst economic crisis in almost 30 years, with severe shortages of food and medicine. Social discontent is growing and confrontation is at its height between defenders and critics of the government.
On Monday, France asked the government to “guarantee the right of the Cuban people to assemble and demonstrate peacefully”. The day before, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken had called on him “to respect the rights of Cubans, by letting them assemble peacefully”.
For his part, Mexican President Andrés Manuel Lopez Obrador expressed his admiration for the “arrogance” of Cuba, a “free and independent” country.