CubaBrief: Cuba’s crisis today. The Christian Liberation Movement’s 33 year ongoing struggle for democracy. 60 Years of Our Lady of Charity with Cuban Exiles.

Today is the Feast Day for Cachita, Our Lady of Charity. In Santiago de Cuba, Cubans dressed in yellow, carrying sunflowers paid homage to the Virgin of Charity asking for “health and faith,” but this year was marked by more vigilance by regime authorities and restrictions in assembling publicly. Today, Cuban dissident, and former prisoner of conscience, Angel Moya Acosta was arbitrarily detained when he stepped outside at 10:05am.

Cuban opposition activist Angel Moya was arrested today. (Photo: Facebook)

Cuban opposition activist Angel Moya was arrested today. (Photo: Facebook)

In Miami, Cuban exiles will gather outside the National Shrine of Our Lady of Charity ( La Ermita de la Caridad) to attend an open air Solemn Mass presided over by Archbishop Thomas Wenski. The posters announcing this event were subtitled in Spanish: “Dios: Patria y Vida” which translates to English: “God: Homeland and Life.” Today’s events are being live streamed, Mass will be broadcast live 8pm to 10pm over Radio Paz 830 AM and to Cuba over Radio/TV Marti.

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60 years ago today the image of the Virgin of Charity that presides over the National Shrine on the shores of Biscayne Bay arrived in Miami for the first celebration in her honor. On September 8, 1961 Luis Gutiérrez Areces, then 24, arrived in exile with the replica of the Patron Saint of Cuba hidden in a suitcase. The Miami Archdiocese recognizing this anniversary has chosen the theme “60 Years of Our Lady of Charity with the Cuban Exile.”

Today also marks 33 years since Oswaldo Payá, Ramón Antúnez, Dagoberto Capote, Santiago Cárdenas and Fernando Avedo founded the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) in Havana, Cuba on September 8, 1988 to work for the democratization of Cuba, restore human rights for all Cubans and for national reconciliation between Cubans following decades of a divisive dictatorship. The Center has translated the statement MCL released today in English, and shared it below.

Christian Liberation Movement members in Velasco, Holguín, Cuba on September 8, 2021

Christian Liberation Movement members in Velasco, Holguín, Cuba on September 8, 2021

These two anniversaries land at a moment of crisis in Cuba.

The Castro regime’s abuses and incompetence before the pandemic generated a critical mass that exploded into nationwide, nonviolent protests over July 11, 12, and 13, 2021 demanding freedom and an end to the dictatorship. Havana’s response has been to double down with more repression, while taking actions that endanger Cuban lives in order to profit from more tourism, and their false image as a medical super power to sell vaccines that have not been peer reviewed.

Dr Eduardo Cardet, the MCL national coordinator, and former prisoner of conscience, in an interview with Radio y Televisión Martí stated the “government has demonstrated its inability to deal with the pandemic effectively, and was wrong to not close the borders or reduce mobility in time. Government cites statistics ‘that are not credible.'”

Havana Times on September 7th reported troubling news in the official press in Cuba. According to state news agency Prensa Latina (PL) there is a delegation from Havana currently attending a tourism fair in Moscow to promote more Russian tourism.

According to PL, the vice minister of tourism, Maria del Carmen Orellana, participated in the event and said her goal is to “contract a good winter season in the Russian market.”  To do so she is meeting with tour operators, businesspeople, tourist agencies, airline representatives and state institutions related to the industry. Juan Carlos Escalona, the Cuban tourism attaché in the island’s Moscow embassy said: “despite the limitations caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, at this time the Russian market is the leading sender of vacationers to Cuba having sent over 100,000 already this year.” Diario de Cuba noted that to make it easier for the tourists the Cuban officials will not require a negative PCR test to enter the country and will recognize traveler’s vaccination certificates.

BBC News, back on July 14, 2021, reported on Cubans venting their frustrations on the readers’ comments section in Cubadebate. Many comments expressed frustration about Russian tourists spreading COVID-19.

Many who posted comments were particularly incensed that the government had continued to allow thousands of Russian tourists weekly into the premier beach resort of Varadero, in Matanzas province. This province is now one of the worst Covid-19 hotspots on the island. Reader Carlos directly upbraided President Miguel Díaz-Canel, writing: “Mr president, this situation in Matanzas is because of the Delta strain coming from Russia. What were you [the government] thinking when a few months ago you re-established the flights from Russia? Weren’t you aware of the Covid situation in that country?” After being posted, and seen by BBC Monitoring, this comment was later removed from the site.

Comments can be erased, but the underlying reality continues to be a sore spot. Russia COVID deaths hit a new high in July 2021 with 50,421 fatalities, and the situation does not appear to be improving. Russians do not trust the Sputnik V vaccine, and only 24% of Russians are fully vaccinated according to John Hopkins versus 53% of the U.S. population.

Also troubling is that “Cuba on [September 6, 2021] became the first country in the world to vaccinate children from the age of two against Covid-19, using home-grown jabs not recognized by the World Health Organization,” reported Agence France-Presse.

There is reason to be concerned about Havana’s response to this public health crisis, and vaccinating toddlers with unproven vaccines, and that is seen in how they treat non-violent dissidents who need medical care.

Irán Almaguer Labrada granted a precautionary measure by IACHR

Irán Almaguer Labrada granted a precautionary measure by IACHR

Irán Almaguer Labrada, brother of Cuban political prisoner Yandier García Labrada, was granted a precautionary measure by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on August 28, 2021 stating that “he is in a serious and urgent situation, as his rights to life and personal integrity are at risk of irreparable harm in Cuba.” Both Irán and Yandier are members of the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL).

Irán suffers from retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye condition, and requires permanent treatment for his vision. Every five months he should receive corresponding care, but over the past year and a half he has been denied treatment despite his medical need. State Security agents have warned him that, “if he continues with his activism, they would deny him medical treatment.” Last time he went to a clinic to request treatment was early February 2021. The head of the ward “told him that they were not working and asked him not to continue insisting.” It was evident that the clinic was providing attention to the public, but just not to the dissident. Harassment against Irán has increased since the jailing of his brother Yandier on October 7, 2020, and because he has spoken up for his brother’s freedom, and denounced mistreatment against Yandier by regime officials.

How can one rely on a healthcare system that uses the denial of medical care to punish a nonviolent dissident to silence him from defending his own imprisoned brother?

The question is not “if” mass protests will break out again in Cuba, but “when”?

Christian Liberation Movement, September 8, 2021

DECLARATION OF THE CHRISTIAN LIBERATION MOVEMENT 

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September 8 is a very important date for Cuba. It is the day of the Virgen de la Caridad del Cobre, the National Patron. It is a day that gathers many Cubans, all over the world, regardless of their religious faith or ideology. It is a day of Cubanidad.

And today also marks 33 years since Oswaldo Payá, Ramón Antúnez, Dagoberto Capote, Santiago Cárdenas and Fernando Avedo founded the Christian Liberation Movement (MCL) to work for the democratization of Cuba, to achieve all rights for all Cubans and for national reconciliation.

33 years at the service of Cuba and the people, of which we are also part, working for their Liberation and promoting their leadership to achieve the changes they want and need.

It has been 33 years with proposals and initiatives aimed at achieving the immediate and unconditional release of all political prisoners and prisoners of conscience, the institutionalization of rights, and the holding of free and fair elections. For this reason we have suffered harassment, jail, exile and even the extrajudicial murder of Oswaldo Payá and the youth leader Harold Cepero.

The Cuban totalitarian dictatorship has no project for the country, neither present nor future. It is only interested in staying in power at all costs and at all costs. That is why the only thing that it offers to those who do not share the communist ideology on which it is ideologically sustained and who do not support the system of marginalization and exclusion of rights that have been imposed on it for more than six decades, is more segregation, repression and censorship.

The political-military junta in power has played with the lives of several generations of Cubans. It has divided families and has caused that today a fifth of the Cuban population lives outside of Cuba. It has manipulated language to cover up both its oppressive and segregationist system and its ineptitude and inefficiency. It calls a totalitarian dictatorship “revolution”. Frequent socio-economic crises are “special periods in times of peace” or “conjunctural” situations that become eternal. And it lives parasitically on external aid and donations, and on recharges and remittances from those whom it has disparagingly called “ex-Cubans” or “bastards in Cuba.”

The nomenklatura of the communist regime has implemented the “process of rectification of errors,” an “update of the socioeconomic system,” “ordering task” and a few other social experiments. But none have solved anything, rather they have aggravated the problems because they do not seek the well-being of the people, but rather how to make the dictatorship efficient so that it can be sustained longer. To the deep systemic crisis that our country suffers as a result of that order of non-rights that they call “socialism” and of the exclusion and marginalization of the people, the disastrous and irresponsible handling of the confrontation with the Covid-19 pandemic has been added. The inept political-military oligarchy, which believes itself superior to the rest of society, denied the seriousness of the epidemiological situation and even made fun of the requests for help from many Cubans on social networks, has prioritized trying to uphold the myth of the medical power that it is not and its desire to obtain hard currency over the protection of the health of Cubans. Its arrogance, coupled with the collapse, due to the magnitude of the pandemic, of the inefficient Cuban health system, has already cost several thousand lives.

That lethal combination produced the perfect storm that led thousands of Cubans, tired of enduring everything in silence and their own fatigue, on July 11, 12 and 13, spontaneously taking to the streets of almost the entire country, to protest and nonviolently demand freedom. Several members of the MCL, like many in the democratic opposition, were prevented from leaving their homes, but others managed to do so and joined the people.

On the other hand, the person who occupies the highest position in the Cuban state, irresponsibly and criminally, publicly called on national television for a confrontation between Cubans, ordering the communists to come out to repress the people. Everyone in the world has seen the videos and images of the repressive forces of the dictatorship and the mobs organized and led by the Communist Party beating peaceful protesters. Hundreds of Cubans were arrested during the demonstrations. Others were later picked up by the regime, house to house. Many have already been tried or are awaiting summary trials. We express our solidarity with all of them. They are the true heroes and we will not forget them.

That is why the Christian Liberation Movement has started the Campaign for Solidarity with the Freedom of Cubans, which seeks that the world let the Cuban dictatorship know that its repressive actions are intolerable and will not go unpunished. To this end, we have proposed to the international community 11 concrete actions to isolate diplomatically, commercially and financially the political-military junta in power, as was done with the segregationist apartheid regime in South Africa.

We seek international solidarity with the efforts of the Cuban people to achieve freedom, not that they do what only we Cubans should do. Cuban society, and this includes both those who live in Cuba and those who live abroad, cannot continue to place its hope that others will solve our problems. Neither the political-military junta that generated them, nor caudillos who create the saving messiahs, nor decisions made by other countries or groups of countries, nor agreements or negotiations between elites and power groups.

We want hope to be reborn in Cuba. We want Cubans, and especially the youngest, not to have to leave our land to seek their happiness and achieve their legitimate dreams. But we must recognize that an act of collective catharsis is not enough. It is not enough to vent one or several days and then return to the routine of quiet submission and existential emptiness, until the situation becomes unbearable again and boredom makes us tired again.

We must be aware that the situation that all Cubans suffer will only be solved when we determine to civically and firmly claim our rights. Consciously and intentionally, without going around the bush but by solving the problem from its roots. And it won’t happen overnight. It will take time and it will require constancy. But if we don’t start down that road, we will never get there.

We believe there are reasons for optimism. Since July 11, Cuba is not and will never be the same. The Cubans, and especially the younger ones, proved themselves. They discovered that “nothing can be done” is nothing more than a myth, and like all myths, false. They discovered the strength of their voice, and especially the value of those voices united by the same longing for freedom.

33 years after its founding, the Christian Liberation Movement is still alive and exists in its own right. Out of coherence and fidelity to the principles and values on which it was founded, the MCL proclaims that it will continue working together with the Cuban people to achieve the definitive Liberation of our society, which in the current context means achieving all rights for all Cubans and recover popular sovereignty, so that the people can speak and decide for themselves, at the polls, their present and their future. And we will continue to demand that the international community stand alongside the Cuban people and not the tyranny that oppresses them.

Freedom and Life!

All Cubans, all brothers, and now, freedom.

September 8, 2021

XXXIII Anniversary of the founding of the MCL

Christian Liberation Movement

https://mcliberacion.org/2021/09/movimiento-cristiano-liberacion-33-anos-trabajando-junto-al-pueblo/


Havana Times, September 7, 2021

Cuba’s Tourist Industry Seeks Russians to Replace Canadians

Cuba’s vice minister of tourism, Maria del Carmen Orellana at the tourism fair in Moscow. Photo: Prensa Latina

Cuba’s vice minister of tourism, Maria del Carmen Orellana at the tourism fair in Moscow. Photo: Prensa Latina

HAVANA TIMES – For decades Canada has been the leading sender of vacationers to Cuba, ahead of Europeans, the US and Latin Americans. Before the pandemic Cuba received over a million Canadians a year. Today, with flight restrictions due to Covid-19, the only country actually increasing its sending of tourists to the island is Russia.

Tourist agencies from Russia book trips mainly to the beach resorts of Varadero and Cayo Coco and seem little concerned about Cuba facing its worst spike of Covid cases and deaths this summer.

Not wanting to lose the hard currency revenue from another high season (November to April) the Cuban authorities promise to be more flexible about health protocols for Russians planning to vacation on the island, noted Diario de Cuba.

The state news agency Prensa Latina reported on a delegation currently attending a tourism fair in Moscow to promote the coming season.

According to PL, the vice minister of tourism, Maria del Carmen Orellana, participated in the event and said her goal is to “contract a good winter season in the Russian market.”  To do so she is meeting with tour operators, businesspeople, tourist agencies, airline representatives and state institutions related to the industry.

Juan Carlos Escalona, the Cuban tourism attaché in the island’s Moscow embassy said: “despite the limitations caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, at this time the Russian market is the leading sender of vacationers to Cuba having sent over 100,000 already this year.”

Diario de Cuba noted that to make it easier for the tourists the Cuban officials will not require a negative PCR test to enter the country and will recognize traveler’s vaccination certificates.

https://havanatimes.org/news/cubas-tourist-industry-seeks-russians-to-replace-canadians/

France24, September 6, 2021

In world first, Cuba starts Covid jabs for toddlers

The Cuban government has announced schools will reopen gradually, in October and November, but only after all children have been vaccinated ADALBERTO ROQUE AFP/File

The Cuban government has announced schools will reopen gradually, in October and November, but only after all children have been vaccinated ADALBERTO ROQUE AFP/File

Havana (AFP) Cuba on Monday became the first country in the world to vaccinate children from the age of two against Covid-19, using home-grown jabs not recognized by the World Health Organization.

The communist island of 11.2 million people aims to inoculate all its children before reopening schools that have been closed for the most part since March 2020.

The new school year started on Monday, but from home via television programs, as most Cuban homes do not have internet access.

Having completed clinical trials on minors with its Abdala and Soberana vaccines, Cuba kicked off its inoculation campaign for children on Friday, starting with those 12 and older.

On Monday, it started distributing jabs in the 2-11 age group in the central province of Cienfuegos.

Several other countries in the world are vaccinating children from the age of 12, and some are conducting trials in younger kids.

Countries such as China, the United Arab Emirates and Venezuela have announced they plan to vaccinate younger children, but Cuba is the first to do so.

Chile on Monday approved the Chinese Sinovac vaccines for children between six and 12.

The Cuban vaccines, the first developed in Latin America, have not undergone international, scientific peer review.

They are based on recombinant protein technology — the same used by the United States’ Novavax and France’s Sanofi jabs also awaiting WHO approval.

Unlike many other shots in use, recombinant vaccines do not require extreme refrigeration.

The majority of schools in Cuba have been closed since March 2020, reopening for a few weeks at the end of last year before closing again in January.

UN agency UNICEF has called for schools worldwide to reopen as soon as possible, as “the long-term costs of closures are too high and hard to justify.”

Cuba has seen an explosion in coronavirus infections in recent months, putting pressure on its health system.

Of the 5,700 coronavirus deaths recorded since the outbreak started, nearly half were in the last month alone, as were almost a third of all reported cases.

© 2021 AFP

https://www.france24.com/en/live-news/20210906-in-world-first-cuba-starts-covid-jabs-for-toddlers

INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS, August 28, 2021

INTER-AMERICAN COMMISSION ON HUMAN RIGHTS
RESOLUTION 68/2021

Precautionary Measures No. 1068-20
Irán Almaguer Labrada regarding Cuba
August 28, 2021
(Extension)
Original: Spanish

On August 28, 2021, the IACHR decided to extend precautionary measures in favor of Irán Almaguer Labrada, member of the Movimiento Cristiano Liberación (MCL in Spanish), after finding that he is in a serious and urgent situation, as his rights to life and personal integrity are at risk of irreparable harm in Cuba.

‘The IACHR identified that the proposed beneficiary is being threatened, intimidated and held incommunicado by State agents. Upon analyzing the allegations of fact and law provided by the applicant, the Commission considers that the available information shows prima facie that Mr. Almaguer Labrada is in a serious and urgent situation, since his rights to life and personal integrity are at risk of irreparable harm.

Therefore, Cuba is requested to:

a) adopt the necessary measures to protect the rights to life and personal integrity of the beneficiary. To this end, the State must both ensure that its agents respect the life and personal integrity of the beneficiary, and protect his rights in relation to harmful acts attributable to third parties, in accordance with the standards established by international human rights law;

b) adopt the necessary measures so that the beneficiary can carry out his activities without being subjected to threats, intimidation, harassment and acts of violence in the exercise of his work;

c) agree on the measures to be adopted with the beneficiaries and their representatives; and,

d) report on the actions taken to investigate the alleged facts that gave rise to the adoption of this precautionary measure to prevent such incidents from reoccurring.

https://www.oas.org/en/iachr/decisions/mc/2021/res_68-21_mc_1068-20_cu_en.pdf

In case you missed it.

BBC News, July 14, 2021

Cuba protests: Frustration at government runs deep

By Pascal Fletcher
BBC Monitoring

Many Cubans had been voicing their anger on state media websites long before Sunday's nationwide protests

Many Cubans had been voicing their anger on state media websites long before Sunday’s nationwide protests

Cuba’s communist rulers and state-controlled media are alleging that anti-government protests that swept across the island on Sunday were “organised and financed” from the United States, and egged on by a “perverse” and co-ordinated communications campaign on social media.

“There was no social uprising,” Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez was quoted by the Communist Party daily Granma as saying.

“There were riots, disorder, caused by a communications operation that has been prepared for some time, to which multi-million dollar resources have been destined: laboratories, technological platforms [backed] with funds of the United States government.”

However, monitoring of state media websites prior to the protests shows that Cubans had been voicing deep frustration, despair and anger online long before they took to the streets in their thousands to complain about shortages of food and medicines, power and water interruptions and an apparently faltering government response to surging Covid-19 cases.

In fact, they had been venting these feelings precisely on official online pages in Cuba, particularly on the readers’ comments section of the government news website Cubadebate.

This section, though undoubtedly controlled and monitored, has become something of a sounding-board of public opinion on the island in recent years.

As Covid-19 cases and deaths announced by health authorities rose sharply recently, Cubans posted hundreds of comments on the site, with some openly criticising the health authorities and the government.

“Let’s leave pride aside, the health system is collapsed, it’s the moment to ask for international help, for how long are people going to carry on dying, there are no resources [to fight] this resurgence [of Covid-19],” reader Padrino said.

Danilo wrote: “We need medicines of all kinds and urgently”.

The comments will not have gone unnoticed by the ruling Communist Party, which has a dedicated polling unit to track public opinion. The government – for all its efforts to characterise the protests as a “communications operation” driven from the US – was well aware of the existing levels of frustration and anger among the population.

‘We’ve been begging for months’

Some readers also berated authorities about living conditions, complaining about everything from power outages to the difficulties in obtaining food, with citizens often having to queue for hours at state shops to obtain supplies.

“Lord, without water, or electricity, or food, that’s how we all are,” Dra J wrote.

Reader Alheli took aim at the government’s exhortations for the population to show “resistance”: “So how long is this resistance planned for? What happens to those who can no longer resist?… We’ve been begging for months for a change of strategy towards the pandemic and they’ve told us that no, that everything was under control.”

“This is worse every day, and why wouldn’t it be, if the conditions are less favourable every day,” a reader called China wrote. “How can you pretend to control the virus if we can’t comply with the basic things like the hygiene measures?”

Many readers repeated complaints – long made by citizens during the pandemic – that the food shortages meant that most people had to spend long periods outside of their homes, in crowded queues, just to obtain basic necessities, and were thereby exposed to increased risks of infection.

“This isn’t just indiscipline, this is out of control, we have to go out into the street to be able to eat, queuing up for three and four hours,” Carmen wrote.

Many who posted comments were particularly incensed that the government had continued to allow thousands of Russian tourists weekly into the premier beach resort of Varadero, in Matanzas province. This province is now one of the worst Covid-19 hotspots on the island.

Reader Carlos directly upbraided President Miguel Díaz-Canel, writing: “Mr president, this situation in Matanzas is because of the Delta strain coming from Russia. What were you [the government] thinking when a few months ago you re-established the flights from Russia? Weren’t you aware of the Covid situation in that country?”

After being posted, and seen by BBC Monitoring, this comment was later removed from the site.

Several readers, like Cuba’s government, laid the blame for the crisis on US sanctions, which have contributed to the island’s dire economic situation and shortages. Marcia said: “The only help that Cuba needs to ask for is for them [the US] to take away the blockade [sanctions]”.

But there were many others too who no longer wanted to hear this argument.

“I just want to point out that the indiscipline and the lack of responsibility and oversight is not the fault of the blockade or the Yankees. It is ours alone,” reader Rafael said.

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-57823130