CubaBrief: One month after the start of the July 11, 2021 uprising in Cuba. A look back and a concrete call for action.

August 11, 2021 marks one month since the historic nationwide July 11th protests that rocked the Castro dictatorship, exposed the repressive nature of the regime to the international community along with its unpopularity with the majority of Cubans. Over the past month the Cuban regime engaged in a nationwide crackdown in which thousands were taken, and 812 identified by Cubalex on their database as of August 11, 2021 at 4:12pm. Cubans in the diaspora have protestedprayed, and organized on behalf of their counterparts in the island.

Protest Sunday July 11, 2021, in San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba. Screenshot of a live broadcast. (El Toque)

Protest Sunday July 11, 2021, in San Antonio de los Baños, Cuba. Screenshot of a live broadcast. (El Toque)

What happened

According to a protester from San Antonio de los Baños to BBC Mundo, the initial protest was organized on Saturday[July 10, 2021] through social networks for Sunday [July 11, 2021] at 11:30 AM (local time), reported BBC Mundo on July 12, 2021. Reuters on August 9th reported in more detail on the social network used, and its background confirming the initial reporting. On Sunday in the late morning hundreds of Cubans took to the streets of San Antonio de los Baños and were soon joined by thousands.

Thinking that this would be a replay of the August 5, 1994 Maleconazo the Castro regime sent out its repressive forces to quell the protest in in San Antonio de los Baños, and President Diaz-Canel arrived to the protest site to claim that all had been returned to normal, but it was too late the protests had been seen through social media and multiplied across Cuba.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in San Antonio de los Baños , Cuba, on July 11, 2021. [ YAMIL LAGE/AFP | AFP ]

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in San Antonio de los Baños , Cuba, on July 11, 2021. [ YAMIL LAGE/AFP | AFP ]

The non-violent protests continued and spread across Cuba with chants of ” the streets belong to the people”, “Homeland and Life”, “Freedom”, “We are not afraid”, and “Down with Communism“. Tens of thousands of Cubans marched in over 50 cities and towns in the island nation beginning on July 11, 2021 and were met with violence, mass arrests, and deadly force.

President Miguel Diaz Canel, handpicked by Raul Castro, threatened Cubans in a  televised national public address: “They [protesters] would have to pass over our dead bodies if they want to confront the revolution, and we are willing to resort to anything.”

Diaz-Canel was explicit in his demand for confrontation and violence stating: “We are calling on all the revolutionaries of the country, all the communists, to take to the streets and go to the places where these provocations are going to take place today from now on, and in all these days and face it decisively, firmly, with courage.”

This was made manifest with images that appeared of regime agents dressed in black firing on unarmed protesters, and Cubans showing where some of the rounds had passed through them.

Other images demonstrated how Cubans were brought in on buses and armed with large sticks to beat up protesters. We received anecdotal reports of workers being told they had to go and beat up protesters to fulfill their work duties.

This is not new. In 1980 during the Mariel exodus Fidel Castro began insulting those seeking refuge as “scum” and “worms”, and he took children and youth out of school to take part in acts of repudiation. According to Carlos Alberto Montaner, the students killed a teacher that they had discovered running away.

Act of repudiation in Cuba in 1980

Act of repudiation in Cuba in 1980

This was the first time that acts of repudiation were seen on a mass scale, when Cubans who simply wanted to leave the country were brutally assaulted and forty lost their lives in lynchings. A refugee at the time of Mariel Mirta Ojito, now a journalist, Pulitzer prize winner and author, described what she had seen and experienced in an opinion piece for The New York Times titled “You are going to El Norte”:

Mariel marked the first-time socialist Cuba turned against itself. The government staged riots called actos de repudio — street rallies in which neighbors turned against neighbors, harassing and tormenting those who wanted to leave the country. The victims were often pelted with rocks, tomatoes and eggs. Windows were shattered. Doors were knocked down. Some people were killed, dragged through the streets as trophies to intolerance and hate. Sometimes people trapped inside their homes chose to kill themselves rather than face their tormentors.

Granma, the Communist Party’s daily paper, compiled a list of 100 insults to scream at those who wanted to leave. This time was worse because Cubans weren’t just trying to leave, they wanted the dictatorship to leave, and unlike 1980 or 1994 cameras and the means to transmit images made it more difficult to cover up, and despite the dangers Cubans spoke up about the violence visited upon them.

Show trials are underway where Cubans do not have defense attorneys, or evidence against them, but that does not prevent being prosecuted and sentenced to prison. These poor simulations of a judicial proceeding have been rebranded “‘exemplary’ trials“, according to independent journalist Cynthia de la Cantera reporting to the New York Post because the sentences are less than a year. Family members are told to be quiet, not publicize what is going on, or to appeal the case because the penalty will only be higher.

Angel Troya (age 25) jailed for filming protests and repression

Angel Troya (age 25) jailed for filming protests and repression

You need not be a protester to get locked up. “25-year-old photographer Angelo Troya, was given a year in prison for filming the protests, according to independent journalist Claudia Padrón Cueto. ‘Angelo went out to film the protests, to document them. Only that,’ Cueto tweeted July 21. ‘They did not forgive him for filming … They did not forgive him for filming the demonstrations and repression’,” reported the New York Post.

Felix Navarro Rodriguez (age 68) jailed for inquiring about detainees

Felix Navarro Rodriguez (age 68) jailed for inquiring about detainees

You need not have been in the vicinity of the protests, but only inquired about their well being afterwards to be locked up. 68-year-old Felix Navarro Rodriguez was arrested and charged with public disorder while inquiring about detainees the day after the protests in the city of Matanzas, 55 miles east of Havana. Full disclosure, Mr. Navarro Rodriguez is a Cuban human rights defender, and the Castro regime does not recognize that category as legal.

The goal here is not justice, but the imposition of fear to teach another generation that if they want to “avoid trouble” that they self-censor and do as they are told.

Yoel Suárez, with his wife who has also been targeted by secret police

Yoel Suárez, with his wife who has also been targeted by secret police

BELatina news interviewed Yoel Suárez, a Cuban journalist on the ground in Cuba who is able to cut through and get to the essence of the problem. This can be seen in how he responded to the following question by Guisell Gomez.

BELatina News: How can a history as complex as that of Cuba be explained?

Yoel Suárez: I like to divide Cuba into three parts: When it was a colony of the Spanish empire when we were a Republic, and now where there has been a socialist tyranny in the country for sixty-two years. And I am going to tell you, the way to explain it is that there is currently a tyranny in Cuba where you can’t talk about what the government doesn’t like because it becomes a political problem and basically destroys your life.

There are people here who have been imprisoned for posting about communism on their social media or reporting it through videos that they themselves took on their phone, even before the events of July 11th. 

Tania Bruguera

Tania Bruguera

Cuban artist Tania Bruguera, a self-described leftist, in a July 21, 2021 interview in Politico asks some tough questions that are congruent with the points raised by Yoel.

I’m part of the left and let me tell you — this isn’t socialism. This is neoliberal state capitalism.

The American left needs to understand that Cuba is no longer the paradise of social justice. It’s a dictatorship. And the U.S. government should be on the side of the Cuban people. I would say to the American politicians, to be on the side of the people and to not believe the fake news and the stories the government is creating.

Because, look, the Cuban people have endured 60 or 61 years of embargo and none of this happened before. So, what does the embargo have to do with this? Nothing.

What does the embargo have to do with policemen beating a young kid? What does the embargo have to do with the special forces shooting unarmed Cubans? What does the embargo have to do with [President Miguel Diaz-Canel’s] order for people to go defend the revolution on the streets? These are the questions I have.

Ruhama Fernández. R. FERNÁNDEZ / TWITTER

Ruhama Fernández. R. FERNÁNDEZ / TWITTER

The political terror has not stopped. Cuban officers arrested Ruhama Fernández, a YouTube influencer from the Cuban city of Palma Soriano, in the province of Santiago de Cuba on August 10, 2021 at eight in the morning. Thankfully due to high profile outrage at her arbitrary detention she has been released. There is no due process or rule of law, but the limited protection that vigilance and international solidarity can provide to Cubans.

Political terror is decades old. Cubans chanting we are not afraid is new.

The past months political terror and repression are not new, but the nationwide demand for freedom, an end to the communist dictatorship, and thousands of Cubans chanting “we are not afraid” is new, and needs to be defended from the forces of repression that seek to violently silence them.

Concrete call to action

The Center for a Free Cuba has made its position plain over the past month, and joined with other international human rights organizations in defending the rights of the Cuban people, challenged and exposed misinformation, and denounced those complicit with the dictatorship. Cuban artist Tania Bruguera is right when she says “the world has to stop seeing the Cuban government as a victim. The Cuban government is the aggressor.” It is the Cuban people that are the victims of the Castro dictatorship. Time for the international community to listen to Cubans, and not the dictatorship terrorizing them. The Liberation Christian Movement that is based in Cuba and led the Varela Project, that over 35,000 Cubans inside the island signed, are calling for the isolation of the Castro dictatorship with the following eleven measures.

We propose that until the dictatorship unconditionally releases all those arrested for the peaceful demonstrations and all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, and holds free and plural elections:

– The Cuban regime should be excluded from participating in any international forum, Summit and event.

– Cuba should be investigated and condemned for its human rights violations by the U.N. Human Rights Council.

– All economic and military cooperation agreements with the Cuban dictatorship, like the EU-Cuba cooperation agreement, should be suspended.

– Lines of credit should not be granted to the Cuban regime.

– Foreign investments and tourism to Cuba should be discouraged.

– All products exported from Cuba, either directly by the regime or through foreign companies associated with Cuban tyranny, should be boycotted.

– An international arms and repression equipment embargo on Cuba should be imposed

– Cuba should be banned from all international sporting, cultural and academic events.

– Visas to military junta officials and relatives, and to members of the Cuba’s Communist Party and all organizations and institutions who take part in repressive actions or support the repression, should not be granted or should be revoked.

– Channels to send humanitarian aid should be facilitated as part of this campaign to isolate the regime and in solidarity with the Cuban people.

– An international commission to support democracy in Cuba should be created. It should promote that these and other measures are executed, and should watch over its implementation.

Now is the time for democracies to show their solidarity with the Cuban people before it is too late and another generation is lost to this terrible dictatorship.

New York Post, August 10, 2021

‘There is a terrible fear’: Inside Cuba’s crackdown after dramatic protests

By Samuel Chamberlain

August 10, 2021

https://players.brightcove.net/4137224153001/6aIMRO3kiI_default/index.html?videoId=6263525676001

In the wake of the July 11 street protests that rocked Cuba’s Communist regime, the Havana government has moved to reassert control by arresting hundreds of their own citizens, more than three dozen of whom are suspected of having been “forced disappearances” 

Beginning the week after the demonstrations, Cubans who had been swept up by the authorities were judged in summary trials in groups of 10 or 12 at a time, independent journalist Cynthia de la Cantera told The Post. She explained that Cuban law allows for such swift disposition of cases involving purportedly minor crimes, where the punishment is less than one year in prison.

“They are making what we call ‘exemplary’ trials, with many people who are being prosecuted without evidence,” she said.

“Many defendants don’t have lawyers, they [the authorities] don’t allow their relatives in court or their relatives are not notified,” Cantera added. “In some cases, the relatives were told the trial would be held at a certain place and when they arrived, it turned out the trial was being held elsewhere, they arrived late and therefore couldn’t enter. In short, there are many irregularities in this process.”

A man is arrested during a demonstration against the government of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana, on July 11, 2021.YAMIL LAGE/AFP via Getty Images

A man is arrested during a demonstration against the government of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana, on July 11, 2021.YAMIL LAGE/AFP via Getty Images

According to Cantera, relatives of defendants who do have access to legal representation are being told to keep quiet about their loved ones’ cases so that they may receive a lighter sentence. She notes that private legal practice is illegal on the island, leaving the accused to stand alone against a rigged system.

“Many lawyers are recommending to the relatives not to divulge the cases on social networks, not to make the case visible, not to talk to the independent press, not to talk to the foreign press,” she said, adding that “some have even told them not to go through an appeal process because the penalty may be higher.”

“There is also a lack of legal culture in Cuba,” she went on, “and right now it puts many families in a very vulnerable situation.”

In an effort to break the code of silence, Cantera and other independent journalists and activists are working to catalogue information about their arrested compatriots.

As of late Tuesday, a Google document contained the names of 805 people who had been arrested or are otherwise unaccounted for in the aftermath of the demonstrations, the intensity of which Cantera described as unprecedented since the ascension of Fidel Castro to power in 1959. The list has been slowly built out despite the best efforts of the Cuban government to limit the spread of information about their actions.

“You have to realize that all this is functionally illegal and blocked by the Cuban government, so they’re trying to hack it as best they can while some among them are getting detained, disappeared, etc. and the internet is shutting off all the time,” said author Antonio Garcia Martinez, who shared the list with The Post. “So, it’s a scramble on their side.”

The document, which is entitled “List of detainees and disappeared Cuba July 2021,” includes each person’s name, the place they were last seen, the time and date of their detention if known, the latest report on their status and their age if known. Only a select few can update the document, in order to prevent pro-regime propagandists from deleting the information or spreading falsehoods.

The youngest person on the list is 14-year-old Christopher Lleonart Santana of Havana. At last report, he was arrested July 17 at 3 a.m., accused of throwing stones and held in a detention center for minors.

“His mother reports that he has been beaten,” the document reads.

Glenda Marrero Matanzas

Glenda Marrero Matanzas

Another name on the list is 15-year-old Glenda de la Caridad Marrero Cartaya, described as a computer student accused of “inciting riots” in the town of Jovellanos, about 100 miles east of Havana. She faces up to 60 days in prison.

Nearly two dozen people on the list have already been tried and sentenced to between 8 and 12 months in prison. One of them is 17-year-old Katherine Martin, who was arrested along with her mother and her sister Miriam. The document records that Katherine was sentenced to a year in prison after a summary trial on July 20 and was “badly beaten” while in jail.

“Katty is a very brave girl,” the document records the testimony of a fellow detainee. “We called her ‘The Colombian’ because she imitates the Colombian accent to perfection and made us laugh a lot. Katty is only 17 and has had to live in prison because she doesn’t agree, because she doesn’t conform.”

Katherine’s mother, Myra Taquechel, has been sentenced to eight months in prison while sister Miriam has been released on bail.

Anyelo Troya

Anyelo Troya

Another name on the list, 25-year-old photographer Angelo Troya, was given a year in prison for filming the protests, according to independent journalist Claudia Padrón Cueto.

“Angelo went out to film the protests, to document them. Only that,” Cueto tweeted July 21. “They did not forgive him for filming … They did not forgive him for filming the demonstrations and repression”.

The oldest person on the list is 68-year-old Felix Navarro Rodriguez, who was reportedly arrested and charged with public disorder while inquiring about other detainees the day after the protests in the city of Matanzas, 55 miles east of Havana.

Felix Navarro Rodriguez

Felix Navarro Rodriguez

“The list is based on reports from family members and friends,” Cantera explained. “They’re either public reports that are posted on social networks or from people who contact us through our internal channels and ask us to please add their family member to the list, who believe that it is necessary for them to be there to make that case visible, so we do it.”

Once a person is reported detained, Cantera says, a group of women is tasked with verifying they actually have lost their freedom.

“They contact other family members, other friends, they check Facebook, they check social media pages to confirm the last time they posted, what has been known about that person, what has been published about that person, they contact other family members and friends to verify in fact that the information reported is real,” she said. “This process is quite slow compared to the number of reports that come in, because there are other relatives who do not want to talk, relatives who are afraid.”

Cantera adds that regular internet outages, which she calls “a government tool for censorship”, also make the verification process slow going, but “we hope at some point to get to verify all of them.”

Of the 805 detainees, 373 are confirmed as being detained at a known location. A further 248 are listed as “En excarcelación” or released, though activists say that number includes people who are under house arrest.

A further 173 people described as being “en proceso de verificación,” meaning their current whereabouts are unknown. The vast majority in this category have been reported detained in connection with the protests, while some are described as having been caught up in “criminal investigations.”

Ominously, 39 people included on the list are confirmed or suspected of being “desapariciónes forzadas” — forced disappearances.

“The people who are in enforced disappearance are people whose whereabouts are still unknown,” Cantera says. “That means that that person has not been allowed to make a call, or that person is detained in a place and we don’t know where they are because he or she does not appear in the records … We are not trying to say that these people have died, [but] they are people whom to this day we do not know where they are.”

The Cuban government has remained tight-lipped about the exact numbers of people who have been detained, missing or charged following the protests. The regime did disclose that one person had died as a result of the protests, but the opposition group Cuba Decide estimate the number of deaths is at least five.

Havana has also blamed the protests on supposed agitators from the Cuban diaspora in South Florida, as well as the US government. While the list of detainees includes opposition activists, others are described as “unemployed” or “housewife”. Katherine Martin is listed as a “student and model”, while her sister Miriam is described as a manicurist.

The efforts of Cantera and her cohorts have drawn the attention of Cuba’s security state. While neither she nor her colleagues have been detained or arrested, Cantera told The Post that one of the “verification girls,” as she calls them, has been placed under police surveillance.

“What they do is that they put a police patrol outside her house and don’t let her out, and that person is still under police surveillance to this day,” she said. “We also know that some officers have been visiting some of the detainees who have already been released, asking them about lists, we know that in some interrogations of detainees inside the facilities, they asked about the list, and who was making the list.

Mayra Taquechel

Mayra Taquechel

“So we know that, yes, it is a subject that has come out of the interrogations; but, well, to this day none of us has been detained or called for a summons, nor have we been summoned for this work,” Cantera added, saying that such a summons was “something that we do not rule out happening at some point, either.”

Meanwhile, the Cuban regime has sought to loosen restrictions in an effort to tamp down public unrest. Three days after the protests, the government announced it was lifting caps on the amount of food and medicine travelers could bring into the country, a move Cantera called “a small Band-Aid for all the problems we have here.”

“The Government of Cuba is denying access to human rights observers and is counting on the world to turn a blind eye to its repression. But we will not look away. This is repression,” a State Department spokesperson told The Post Tuesday. “We join the families who are suffering and scared, Cuba’s human rights defenders, and people around the world in calling for the immediate release of all those detained or missing for merely exercising their human rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly and demanding freedom. We are also joining efforts to catalogue and raise awareness about specific instances of abuses against peaceful protestors.

“Violence and detentions of Cuban protesters and missing independent activists remind us that Cubans pay dearly for freedom and dignity,” the spokesperson added. “We call for the immediate release of those wrongfully detained.”

Katherine Martin

Katherine Martin

The Cuban Embassy in Washington, DC, did not return requests for comment by The Post.

One month after the July 11 protests, Cantera says the overwhelming feeling in Cuba is “a lot of fear” among people who worry about the consequences of speaking out.

“I have a friend who had never had any kind of behavior on social networks and she posted something, as she was quite outraged about what had happened,” she recounted. “But afterwards, she was very afraid of having written that, in fear for her own well-being and that of her family. So, there is fear even of writing a post on Facebook.”

Cantera said her friend’s fears were well-founded, as the Cuban government has gotten into the habit of checking people’s Facebook pages in order to ascertain their “social and moral behavior” during the protests and their aftermath.

“One of the things everybody thought after July 11 was that that would be it, that the government was going to come to its end, that the totalitarian system was going to fall,” she says. “But the reality is that days have gone by and that, well, has not happened and I don’t believe that it will happen as soon as we were expecting it to.”

Meanwhile, those who took part in the protests, were arrested, and were either released on bail or to house arrest, have suffered what Cantera calls “a terrible trauma from the violence they experienced, either in the protests or in the prisons and in the police stations.

“So, there is a terrible fear,” she said.

Filed under communism , cuba , dictators , havana , protests , social media , state department , torture , 8/10/21

https://nypost.com/2021/08/10/inside-cubas-crackdown-after-dramatic-protests/

BELatina, August 10, 2021

A Conversation With Cuban Independent Journalist Yoel Suárez About the True Reality in Cuba

By Guisell Gomez

August 10, 2021

Photo courtesy of belatina.com/ Yoel Suárez

Photo courtesy of belatina.com/ Yoel Suárez

BELatina News speaks to Yoel Suarez, an independent Cuban journalist who has been blacklisted by Cuba’s regime.

Wednesday marks one month since a historic wave of protests erupted in various Cuban cities and captured international attention.  

Fed-up Cubans made history when they flooded the streets with chants of “Libertad” and “Patria y Vida” and were heard beyond the waters of the Caribbean island. Exiled Cubans and their allies joined the protests from cities across the world. 

The pandemic underlined the Cuban government’s negligence of its people — COVID-19 infections soared, and uncertainty took over, further destabilizing the Cuban economy and deepening the hardships of an impoverished nation. 

It led Cubans to say “¡Ya Basta!” and voice their dissatisfaction, willing to bear the consequences.  

These events illustrated the pent-up anger of the Cuban people with the mistreatment and injustices of the island’s authoritarian government.  

However, many non-Cubans, and those who have never experienced the grip of oppression, are portraying the island’s recent unrest as unrelated to the authoritarian system, not doing any justice to those living it.

A situation as complex as the one Cuba is experiencing should not be diluted by political agendas.   

Truth be told: only Cubans should be in charge of the narrative revolving around Cuba. 

This is why we spoke with Yoel Suárez*, a Cuban journalist on the ground in Cuba. He lives and breathes what many of us can’t even fathom from the safe havens of our privileged environments. 

For those still resting on the laurels of Castro’s romanticism, how we conversed with Yoel Suarez may give them an idea of the reality of life on the island. Yoel’s work as a freelance journalist forced him to have an impersonal conversation via WhatsApp voice notes, made possible by a few waves of a lagging WiFi connection.

Suárez, who can’t travel outside of the island as punishment for his journalism, described Cuba to BELatina as an oversized jail.

BELatina News: How can a history as complex as that of Cuba be explained?

Yoel Suárez: I like to divide Cuba into three parts: When it was a colony of the Spanish empire when we were a Republic, and now where there has been a socialist tyranny in the country for sixty-two years. And I am going to tell you, the way to explain it is that there is currently a tyranny in Cuba where you can’t talk about what the government doesn’t like because it becomes a political problem and basically destroys your life.

There are people here who have been imprisoned for posting about communism on their social media or reporting it through videos that they themselves took on their phone, even before the events of July 11th. 

BELatina News: How do you feel knowing that your opinions about Cuba may have negative consequences?

Suárez: Well, the truth is that my opinions,  the ones that have negative consequences, are rather those that refer to the Cuban socialist state, the socialist dictatorship, and how it oppresses the Cuban people. And, in the general sense, it makes me feel proud because the applause is coming from the right place — because I feel that I’m on the right side of history. For me, it would be devastating if tyranny applauded something I did.

Of course, on the other hand, there is fear because my family is also involved in this. 

Police stations have summoned my mother to threaten her due to my work, to question and pressure her, so she pressures me in return to quit journalism. My wife has also suffered that fate.

Photo courtesy of Yoel Suarez

Photo courtesy of Yoel Suarez

BELatina News: In what ways is the international media mistaken?

Suárez: I believe that some are wrong, especially liberal and left-wing media when they try to naturalize or normalize what is happening in Cuba. For example, some compare what happens in Cuba with what [unfortunately] happens in other places in Latin America, and that generates a false equivalence. It is true. In other countries, there is terrible organized crime, but Cuba also has it. But the State itself is organized crime. 

The reality is that Latin America isn’t like Cuba. In Cuba, there is no freedom of association. There is no freedom of assembly; there is no freedom of movement. In fact, there are 250 people right now on a black list that the government has to regulate them. 

I’ve also heard some say that in such and such country, 12 families control the entire country, and Cuba is different. Here in Cuba, there is a family that controls the entire island, which is the Castro family and its acolytes. The acolytes of that communist court are basically the generals, the so-called historical commanders, Ramiro Valdez, Guillermo García Frías, or current generals, such as General López Callejas, among others. — that is Cuba. 

BELatina News: In your previous answer, you mentioned something about regulating people. What does that mean? 

Suárez: That means limiting their freedom of movement for political reasons. In other words, these people cannot leave Cuba. They cannot take a plane. If you arrive at the airport, they tell you that you cannot travel even if you purchased the air ticket. I, for example, have been on that list for a year and a half or so. You are basically a prisoner in your own country.

BELatina News: How do you Cubans see the coverage of the island, and how close is it to reality?

 Suárez: Three types of media operate in Cuba. First, the state media is related to the Cuban propaganda machine, a Leviathan of communication. It is a completely vertical antediluvian monster, which only obeys orders from the Communist Party and refers to that Soviet communication model — it is probably a species of dinosaur that still lives. This is the centralized model of the Communist Party of media.

The other group is the independent media to which I belong. They are more of a private media type similar to those that existed before 1959 in Cuba. Private media of all kinds are now forbidden. They are often followed and strongly persecuted. This one provides a better report of Cuba. 

And then there are the accredited media of Cuba. This third group of media also offers a limited vision of Cuban reality because they are mostly restricted by the very office that accredits that they are legal in Cuba. This media is basically full of liberals and people from the left who are permissive of the regime somehow. They must do it either out of fear or out of affinity with tyranny. This media also offers an incomplete view of reality.

BELatina News: What would you recommend to people who really want to help Cuba’s situation abroad?

Suárez: First, denounce all the arbitrariness that the Cuban regime commits with those of us inside Cuba, which, by the way, when we try to denounce it ourselves, they persecute us, threaten us, push us into exile, or torture us here. They hit or threaten the family or get them fired from their workplace. That is something that commonly happens here. In other words, those who denounce are often victims of the regime, and they themselves become the cause for the complaint. It is a kind of spiral. I say that the Cuban Revolution is an expert in creating its own enemies. So, denounce and call it out as much as you can. 

BELatina News: In terms of donations, what would be the best route? 

Suárez: I know people with very good intentions say they want to send a shipment of clothes or medicines to Cuba, but that’s a tough situation. 

For instance, if the supplies enter the country and the recipient is a Cuban institution or the regime’s hands, then the regime arbitrarily distributes those drugs, goods, products, whatever was sent to the people, keeping it in the hands of the regime’s nomenclature instead. Many times those well-intentioned supplies do not reach the population. So, my recommendation is that, if you want to send something to Cuba, do it within the citizens — from Cuban to Cuban. 

Try to give donations through the support networks of churches, for example, civil society organizations that, although they have been pressured and continue to be pressured by the regime, have not agreed with the regime. There are organizations like Cáritas Cuba. Evangelical churches organizations also offer these networks in communities throughout the country, such as in rural communities, in the highest mountains, in cities, and where the need is.

***

At some point during the interview, Suárez asked the following question as he provided one of his answers: “If freedom of expression were limited, to the level of Cuba, how would you feel?” 

So, how would you feel?

The interview has been translated from Spanish and lightly edited for brevity and clarity.

Photo courtesy: Yoel Suárez

Photo courtesy: Yoel Suárez

*About Yoel: Yoel Suárez obtained his journalism degree from the Universidad de La Habana. He has worked with independent Cuban sources, for example, Diario de Cuba. He has also written for international publications, such as El Español from Spain, El Espectador from Colombia, VICE, and Univision. He’s also an author, scriptwriter, and producer of documentaries.

https://belatina.com/a-conversation-with-yoel-suarez-reality-in-cuba/

CatholicPhilly.com, August 10, 2021

Archbishop leads prayers in support of Cuban people

Archbishop Nelson J. Perez celebrated a Mass of solidarity for Cuba and the Cuban people on Sunday, Aug. 8 at Holy Innocents Church in Philadelphia.

Archbishop Nelson J. Perez celebrated a Mass of solidarity for Cuba and the Cuban people on Sunday, Aug. 8 at Holy Innocents Church in Philadelphia.

Following protests last month on the island nation, the archbishop joined fellow Cuban-American bishops in expressing “solidarity with the Cuban people in their quest for responses to their human rights and needs. We are deeply troubled by the aggressive reaction of the government to the peaceful manifestations, recognizing that ‘violence engenders violence.’”

The bishops voiced support for “those detained because they have voiced their opinions. We pray for their families and call for their immediate release.” (Photos by Gina Christian)

The bishops voiced support for “those detained because they have voiced their opinions. We pray for their families and call for their immediate release.” (Photos by Gina Christian)

Clara Montes de Oca proclaims a reading from Scripture during the Mass.https://catholicphilly.com/2021/08/photo-features/archbishop-leads-prayers-in-support-of-cuban-people/

Clara Montes de Oca proclaims a reading from Scripture during the Mass.

https://catholicphilly.com/2021/08/photo-features/archbishop-leads-prayers-in-support-of-cuban-people/

 Local 10 News, August 10, 2021

Miami nonprofit’s team of volunteer lawyers advocates for SOS Cuba detainees, prisoners

Trent Kelly, Reporter

Andrea Torres, Digital Reporter/Producer

Ramón Saúl Sánchez, leader of the Democracy Movement, talks to reporters at the Rivero/Mestre Law Firm in Coral Gables. (Copyright 2020 WPLG Local10.com )

Ramón Saúl Sánchez, leader of the Democracy Movement, talks to reporters at the Rivero/Mestre Law Firm in Coral Gables. (Copyright 2020 WPLG Local10.com )

MIAMI – A Miami nonprofit organization assembled a new legal team to advocate for the Cubans who continue to be punished for demonstrating against the communist-run island’s government. Besieged by COVID, Cubans are facing shortages of food and medicines, intermittent power outages, repression, and death.

Movimiento Democracia, or Democracy Movement, is helping to file petitions to the Organization of American States’ Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, on behalf of the new generation of political prisoners. The group’s various efforts also include sending an envoy to the Vatican with a request to intercede.

“We are here to maintain the identity and the physical presence of those who have disappeared,” said Augustin “Gus” Garcia, the co-founder of the Democracy Movement.

Santiago Alpízar, who has practiced law on the island and Florida; Nicolas J. Gutiérrez, the former chairman of the South Florida Water Management District, and Edgar Mili met with the leaders of the Democracy Movement during a news conference at the Rivero/Mestre Law Firm in Coral Gables.

Alpízar, who was born in Placetas, Cuba, has law degrees from the Central University “Marta Abreu” of Las Villas and the Florida Coastal School of Law. He said that under the new Cuban Constitution every Cuban who is living outside of the island has the right to present petitions to “the powers of the State” and there have been about 2,015 so far this year.

Garcia and Ramón Saúl Sánchez, the Cuban exiled leader of the Democracy Movement, announced the team of 23 lawyers is the largest since the organization’s inception in the 1990s. Sánchez said it’s also the beginning of an ambitious humanitarian plan for more volunteers to step in “when the collapse of the dictatorship begins” in order to help avoid chaos.

“We are here not just to shout Cuba Libre, but to make Cuba Libre,” Garcia said.

Sánchez said the call to join the effort is urgent. He said he is worried about the wellbeing of two Cuban dissidents: José Daniel Ferrer, 51, of Palma Soriano, a city in the Santiago de Cuba province, and Félix Navarro, 68, of Perico, a city in the Matanzas province.

“Those who are inside Cuba are being repressed, some of them are incommunicado, or unaccounted for,” Sánchez said. “Some of them have been killed in very grotesque manners.”

Despite witnesses who had videos alleging otherwise, the Cuban government denied there were reports of arbitrary arrests, police brutality, or extrajudicial killings. Officials on state-run television questioned the reliability of reports from human rights organizations on the number of SOS Cuba protesters arrested.

Cubalex, a nongovernmental organization based in the U.S., estimates 770 people were arrested in connection to the July protests and 550 are in prison. Garcia said some of them are Cubans with dual nationalities from Spain and Italy.

ARRESTS CONTINUE

Human rights activists reported summary trials and arrests related to demands for political change continued this month. Cuban officers arrested Ruhama Fernández, a YouTube influencer from the Cuban city of Palma Soriano, in the province of Santiago de Cuba, Cubalex reported on Tuesday.

U.S. based NGO, Cubalex, reported on Tuesday Cuban officers arrested YouTube influencer Ruhama Fernández, also known as “ruhsantiago” (YouTube Ruhama Fernández & Google Maps)

U.S. based NGO, Cubalex, reported on Tuesday Cuban officers arrested YouTube influencer Ruhama Fernández, also known as “ruhsantiago” (YouTube Ruhama Fernández & Google Maps)

The 22-year-old dissident has said her parents live in the United States, Communist Party members don’t allow her to get a college education, to travel out of the island, and regularly harass her.

“It is very exhausting and that is why we need freedom because I do not want my children to have this fight tomorrow,” Fernández said in one of her recent videos in Spanish.

On Monday, Fernández published a brazen “Do not insult our intelligence” editorial to criticize Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, his “damn socialism” and the biased treatment of pro-government demonstrations during the pandemic. On Sunday, she published “Santiago took to the streets and this is how I lived it.”

“We did not vandalize … We absolutely did not hit anyone. On the contrary, we were beaten and we were repressed,“ Fernández said, adding she felt ill during a march on July 11 in Palma Soriano.

AFTERMATH OF PROTESTS

In response to the SOS Cuba protests and the Cuban government’s crackdown, President Joe Biden added more sanctions to the ones former President Donald Trump imposed. His administration promised to find ways to circumvent the Cuban government to provide uncensored internet service and a system for remittances, money sent by U.S. relatives to Cuba.

Officials in Cuba started to allow travelers to bring food and medicine without paying import duties, legalized enterprises with up to 100 employees and pushed a vaccination campaign with the Abdala and Soberana 2 vaccines. Mexico, Canada, Bolivia, and a few activists in the U.S. sent aid, including boxes of syringes.

Sánchez is among the Cuban exiles who don’t think any of this is enough. They want communism eradicated from Cuba and for Biden to have a more aggressive intervention to make that happen. The Democracy Movement’s new legal team also counts on William Sanchez, an attorney who is not related to Sánchez. He has an immigration practice in Miami-Dade County and wants to run against Sen. Marco Rubio next year.

For more information about how to join the effort, contact the members of the Democracy Movement at movimientodemocracia@gmail.com.

https://www.local10.com/news/local/2021/08/10/miami-nonprofits-team-of-volunteer-lawyers-advocates-for-sos-cuba-detainees-prisoners/

Politico, July 21, 2021

primary source

‘There’s No Turning Back’: A Cuban Dissident on What’s Really Happening in Cuba

Cuban artist and dissident Tania Bruguera has been on house arrest for eight months. Shortly before being arrested by Cuban security forces, she spoke with POLITICO about this month’s unprecedented protests.

Tania Bruguera is a Cuban installation and performance artist. She’s lived and worked between New York and Havana and her work is in the permanent collections of many institutions, including the Museum of Modern Art and Bronx Museum of the Arts and the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes de La Habana.

Police detain an anti-government demonstrator during a protest in Havana, Cuba on July 11, 2021. | AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa

Police detain an anti-government demonstrator during a protest in Havana, Cuba on July 11, 2021. | AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa

On Tuesday, Cuban security forces surrounded the house of Tania Bruguera, an artist and noted dissident. They took her to Villa Marista, a Cuban state security prison known for its detention of political prisoners, where they interrogated her for trying to undermine the government in Havana.

After 11 hours, she was released with three charges against her, which accused her of plotting against the government through protests and performance — and an injunction to remain at home.

The arrest came amid an unprecedented wave of protests sweeping Cuba, in which thousands of people took to the streets in more than 40 cities — undeterred by police crackdowns and the government’s shutdown of the internet — calling for freedom and an end to the 62-year-old dictatorship.

In Washington, the protests pose an unexpected challenge for President Joe Biden, who has gestured at liberalizing relations, but risks further losing Cuban voters in Florida if he’s seen as anything but hard line on its communist government.

Bruguera, a renowned installation and performance artist, didn’t join the protests. She remained at home, where she has been largely confined the past eight months with near-constant police presence posted outside her apartment in Havana.

Twice this week, however, she spoke to POLITICO, offering a longtime dissident’s view on what’s happening in Cuba, why these protests are so different from what has come before — and what Americans on both the left and right are getting wrong about Cuba.

This conversation was condensed and edited from interviews, in both Spanish and English, with Sabrina Rodriguez and Teresa Wiltz of the POLITICO staff.

On Tuesday, shortly before Cuban security forces arrested her, Tania Bruguera took this picture of herself. It was later posted on Instagram.

On Tuesday, shortly before Cuban security forces arrested her, Tania Bruguera took this picture of herself. It was later posted on Instagram.

What prompted the protests and what’s going on now:

Why is it happening? It’s an accumulation. It’s not just Covid-19. People have been believing in the revolution, following the government’s mandate to sacrifice. But people are tired of the government’s abuse.

Cubans are doing eight hours in line just to get a piece of bread. And at the same time, the housing situation is worse. People said, “Enough.” …. They see people in power and their kids living the great life. A few months ago, the grandson of Fidel [Castro] did a video in a Mercedes Benz, very arrogantly showing off his life while the people are starving.

[The day the protests started], a friend messaged me and said, “You have to see this.” And then another friend called, saying: “Look at this.” That’s when I saw the scene in San Antonio de los Baños [a town about 20 miles southwest of Havana, where the islandwide protests began]. And that’s how the news spread: People calling each other in different provinces, telling each other what was happening.

Then, the government quickly cut out the internet. And hand in hand with the blackout, they started putting out fake news.

But I had already seen it: It was just surreal. It was very, very, very powerful to see people screaming, saying, “I have no fear.”

The truth is, I was fairly calm at first. But when I started to get internet access and saw all the videos coming in of the beatings, police hitting and shooting at people, that really hit hard. Because those are images you’d never imagine coming out of Cuba. It’s something you never expect to see from Cuba.

We have seen 10 policemen beating a young kid. We have seen special forces enter a neighborhood, shooting when everyone is unarmed.

How the Cuban government is responding:

The government has created a very sophisticated disinformation process. They start by saying the people who protested were revolutionaries who were confused. Later, they said [the protesters] were delinquents. Now, they say [the protesters] are people who want the U.S. government to invade Cuba.

And now, they’re desperate to find leaders [of the protests]. They want to blame someone who is useful to them, who they can say was paid by the CIA. They have gone house by house detaining [people]. They’re desperate to find a leader to blame for everything. They need to find an enemy. But this time it doesn’t work. You can’t say that the young 16-year-old in the protest was paid off by the CIA. He probably doesn’t even know what the CIA is, come on.

There are 500 people that have been identified who are missing. Missing means that we don’t know in which prison they are, where they are detained.

There are mothers that don’t know where their children are. [Some have been able to find] out where they are — gone to the jails — and they won’t let them see their children. I heard from a friend that saw one of our friends being held in a jail. His nose was broken and his ribs were bruised. His mother went and they wouldn’t let her see him.

Also, the government has been looking at the videos online and locating where they were taken and going to these peoples homes to take them, harass them and pressure them to delete the videos. I was talking to an activist today that told me she’s spoken to several mothers who say government officials have told them that their sons aren’t going to be released until they delete [the] Facebook photos and videos they’ve uploaded. All this does is make everything worse.

Those in power don’t want to take responsibility. The government doesn’t want to take responsibility … for the consequences of the decisions it has made. So, they’re trying to find an external enemy.

Why this moment is different for the Cuban people:

Right now, everyone — all 11 million of us — knows someone that went to the protests, or knows someone that knows someone that went to the protests. Everyone has had an opportunity to verify stories and not believe what’s being said on TV.

Every person that has been unjustly detained, every person that has felt for the first time that feeling of freedom, every person that has now felt what it’s like at a protest to yell what you want, what you feel, what you’ve held back — there’s no turning back.

Today, there are thousands of Cubans who can’t turn back. Yes, the government is going to threaten and do what they always do — scare, process them legally, make them feel like they can’t leave their home. But in my experience, this was a step forward that I don’t see turning back.

The protest is bigger than anything that Raul and Fidel Castro were able to organize. But this was completely spontaneous. There is no leader, no opposition group that is able to do something like this. You can see it. And they were peaceful. Of course, there were some people who broke into food stores and also turned some police cars.

Still, the message from the people was very clear: [Vandalizing] the food stores means they are hungry and there is no way they have access to food. And turning over the police cars is saying they have enough of the police abuse. The people have spoken very clearly.

What the people want is to live a prosperous life with rights.

I think the older generation got used to living in a cage and, maybe, if you take away the cage, they don’t know anything else. But the younger people are clear that there are two options: Either they fight for their rights or it’s another lost generation. And it’s been very moving to see these people.

The majority of those arrested are young, many under 21. They’re saying: “Well, before I give up, I’m going to fight.”

And I think that’s what people want: Prosperity. To be able to think about more than, “What am I going to eat today?” or that “I have to stand in line for eight hours to buy bread.” People want to do more with their lives.

What Americans don’t understand about Cuba:

I’m part of the left and let me tell you — this isn’t socialism. This is neoliberal state capitalism.

The American left needs to understand that Cuba is no longer the paradise of social justice. It’s a dictatorship. And the U.S. government should be on the side of the Cuban people. I would say to the American politicians, to be on the side of the people and to not believe the fake news and the stories the government is creating.

Because, look, the Cuban people have endured 60 or 61 years of embargo and none of this happened before. So, what does the embargo have to do with this? Nothing.

What does the embargo have to do with policemen beating a young kid? What does the embargo have to do with the special forces shooting unarmed Cubans? What does the embargo have to do with [President Miguel Diaz-Canel’s] order for people to go defend the revolution on the streets? These are the questions I have.

Yes, of course, the embargo has had an impact. But the situation we are in today is caused by the Cuban government.

Now, on the opposite side, a U.S. military intervention is not a good response. The destiny of the Cuban people is in the Cuban people’s hands. And the second that a second country — and intervention, specifically — is in the picture, that’s not going to help.

First of all, [a military intervention] would back up some of the Cuban government’s claims. And second, I know, incredibly, it could sway people. That means many of those that today may be against the government would close ranks and come together with the government [to stand against U.S. intervention].

I don’t see it as a good solution. I think what has to be done is pressure the Cuban government so that it doesn’t have another alternative than to give Cubans rights.

And I do believe that other countries can help, by telling the Cuban government there’s certain conditions it must meet to do business. Because the Cuban government is very good at making itself seem like the victim internationally — the victim of the embargo, the victim of — air quotes — mercenaries in Cuba, the victim of everything to get sympathy that translates into money and aid. That has to end.

The world has to stop seeing the Cuban government as a victim. The Cuban government is the aggressor.

https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2021/07/21/cuba-protests-tania-bruguera-500421

Liberation Christian Movement, July 19, 2021

Screen Shot 2021-08-11 at 6.08.12 PM.png

For Solidarity with Freedom of Cubans Campaign.

Eleven concrete actions to isolate the regime.

The Liberation Christian Movement has begun a campaign to condemn and isolate the Cuban dictatorship. We believe the international community should have a strong answer to the Cuban regime’s repression. It is imperative to condemn the dictatorship in the strongest terms. But we also believe that these much needed condemnation statements are not enough to let the ruling military junta know that the international community would not tolerate the dictatorship’s impunity. That is why concrete international isolation measures, like those imposed upon the South African apartheid regime, are needed.

We propose that until the dictatorship unconditionally releases all those arrested for the peaceful demonstrations and all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, and holds free and plural elections:

– The Cuban regime should be excluded from participating in any international forum, Summit and event.

– Cuba should be investigated and condemned for its human rights violations by the U.N. Human Rights Council.

– All economic and military cooperation agreements with the Cuban dictatorship, like the EU-Cuba cooperation agreement, should be suspended.

– Lines of credit should not be granted to the Cuban regime.

– Foreign investments and tourism to Cuba should be discouraged.

– All products exported from Cuba, either directly by the regime or through foreign companies associated with Cuban tyranny, should be boycotted.

– An international arms and repression equipment embargo on Cuba should be imposed

– Cuba should be banned from all international sporting, cultural and academic events.

– Visas to military junta officials and relatives, and to members of the Cuba’s Communist Party and all organizations and institutions who take part in repressive actions or support the repression, should not be granted or should be revoked.

– Channels to send humanitarian aid should be facilitated as part of this campaign to isolate the regime and in solidarity with the Cuban people.

– An international commission to support democracy in Cuba should be created. It should promote that these and other measures are executed, and should watch over its implementation.

The Liberation Christian Movement invites governments and parliaments of all freedom loving countries, all international institutions and all people of goodwill, to join this campaign for solidarity with the freedom of Cubans.

All Cubans, all brothers, and now, freedom!

July 27th, 2021

On behalf of the Liberation Christian Movement,

Eduardo Cardet, National Coordinator

Antonio Diaz, General Secretary

Regis Iglesias, Spokesman

https://mcliberacion.org/2021/07/por-la-solidaridad-con-la-libertad-de-los-cubanos/