CubaBrief: Three nonviolent initiatives underway in Cuba. Trials continue targeting Cubans who streamed protests. Venezuelan removes Castro display at Penn State

Cuban dissidents and opposition activists long ago decided on a nonviolent strategy to confront the Castro regime. Time and again it has been demonstrated that while the regime is expert in warfare, torture, and terrorism it does not have the same expertise in the realm of nonviolent resistance.

This is again being put to the test.

Non-violent activists in Cuba have petitioned the government over the past few weeks, in different parts of the island, to permit nonviolent “nationwide demonstrations calling for civil liberties, including the right to peaceful protest and an amnesty for imprisoned government opponents” on November 20, 2021.

Screen Shot 2021-10-08 at 5.00.50 PM.png

Cubans demonstrating in Cuba on July 11, 2021

The dictatorship’s response, reported in Al Jazeera, and Reuters today, is to further militarize Cuban society by announcing  “it will conduct annual military exercises on the date of planned human rights protests around the country.”

This sends a message of fear and weakness by regime officials to Cuban citizens peacefully assembling to redress grievances. The need to mobilize troops in a military display indicates a profound lack of confidence in their ability to maintain order.

There has also been a call for a national strike on Sunday, October 10, 2021 across the island that calls on Cubans to engage in a day of prayer and fasting to observe the “Grito de Yara”, Cuba’s cry for independence and freedom on October 10, 1868, and more broadly withdrawing from regime events, reported EFE on October 7th. This is an act of non-cooperation.

Screen Shot 2021-10-08 at 5.00.54 PM.png

Tania Bruguera calls for boycott of the Havana Biennial with hashtag #ImmoralBiennial

Cuban artist and activist Tania Bruguera said on social media yesterday that the Cuban dictatorship is using the 14th edition of the Havana Biennial, which opens in mid-November, to “erase…the suffering of the Cuban people.” She is calling on people of goodwill to use “the hashtag #ImmoralBiennial, Bruguera urged visitors to boycott the 2021 show, the island’s largest visual arts event,” reported Valentina di Liscia in Hyperallergic on October 7th.

These three acts of civil disobedience are a nonviolent challenge that exposes the tyrannical nature of the Castro regime, and places the dictatorship on the defensive on a terrain in which they have less experience.

Screen Shot 2021-10-08 at 5.00.59 PM.png

Maykel González Vivero

In the aftermath of the nonviolent protests of July 11-13, 2021 the dictatorship continues to prosecute Cubans for having simply videotaped, or live streamed the protests. This exposes the extremely repressive nature of the Castro regime. Washington Blade highlights the cases of Yoan de la Cruz who on July 11 used Facebook Live to livestream a protest in San Antonio de los Baños, and now faces an eight year prison sentence for “disrespect” and ” Maykel González Vivero, editor of Tremenda Nota, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Cuba” who was also detained.

Screen Shot 2021-10-08 at 5.01.04 PM.png

Yoan de la Cruz faces eight year prison sentence for live streaming protest

It is disturbing that on too many campuses around the United States there are images, and spaces to celebrate the dictatorship in Cuba. Erik Suarez in an OpEd published today in USA Today reported that while protests were underway in mid July 2021 he “saw a quote by the infamous Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro, prominently displayed at [his] university, Penn State.”

The Castro quote on the wall of the Paul Robeson Cultural Center read: “The equal right of all citizens to health, education, work, food, security, culture, science, and wellbeing – that is, the same rights we proclaimed when we began our struggle, in addition to those which emerge from our dreams of justice and equality for all inhabitants of our world – is what I wish for all.”

Screen Shot 2021-10-08 at 5.01.09 PM.png

Penn State’s pro-Castro quote was prominently displayed

Penn State is not alone in these outrages. According to Suarez, “the University of California, San Diego, has housed a Che Cafe for more than 50 years as a ‘revolutionary’ space for students. The cafe is registered as a student organization for the fall of 2021. Che Guevara oversaw firing squads and organized forced labor camps, so if that is the kind of revolutionary experimentation the university hopes to foster, the cafe picked the right namesake. If not, it needs to change the name and tell students why rather than perpetuate a false, dangerous narrative.”

Erik Suarez knew he had to take action at Penn State and he took to social media to start his campaign to remove the quote, as Cubans were pouring into the streets to demand freedom from that communist dictatorship. “Still,” according to Erik, “a fellow student reached out to me and recommended that I speak to an expert to help me get informed and understand the reality of Cuba. Maybe this was an opportunity to learn and understand rather than just vilify what I clearly didn’t know, the student told me.”

Erick didn’t need to have an “expert” explain Castroism to him, because he had lived it in Venezuela. He warns that “so much of the American higher education system has been teaching a false, positive image of communism and socialism for decades, 40% of Americans now have a favorable view of socialism, according to the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation – with 49% of Generation Z (my generation) viewing socialism favorably!”

Erik Suarez’s campaign to remove the Castro quote succeeded, and Penn State issued a statement apologizing “because it unintentionally created an ‘unwelcoming environment.’” This was a nonviolent victory in a democratic society, and example for others to pursue.

Al Jazeera, October 8, 2021

Cuba calls National Defence Day on date of planned protests

Organisers say the government is militarising the country for the upcoming civil liberties demonstrations.

Screen Shot 2021-10-08 at 5.01.13 PM.png

Extremely rare anti-government protests broke out in Cuba for two days in July [File: Yamil Lage/AFP]

Cuba has announced it will conduct annual military exercises on the date of planned human rights protests around the country.

A brief armed forces communique published in state-run media on Friday has said the country will conduct annual military exercises on November 18 to 19, leading up to a day of civilian defence preparedness on November 20.

That is the same date dissident groups are planning nationwide demonstrations calling for civil liberties, including the right to peaceful protest and an amnesty for imprisoned government opponents.

The largest protests the island nation had seen in decades broke out for two days in July, resulting in hundreds of arrests, one death and calls for US intervention by some Cuban Americans.

Well-known government opponents are among those who remain behind bars following the July 11-12 unrest, with some facing long sentences.

The upcoming protests are being planned on Facebook by the Archipelago group, which says it has some 20,000 members, many of whom live outside the country.

The government’s defence preparations are part of a military doctrine known as the “War of the Whole People” designed to respond to a US invasion.

The last day features thousands of civilians conducting exercises including evacuating work centres, tending to the wounded, engaging in weapons training, and training in logistical support such as making bullets and cooking.

‘Further militarise the country’

Playwright Yunior Garcia, administrator of Archipelago and leader of the planned protests, tweeted that the date of the military exercises showed the government intended to “to further militarise the country” for November 20.

Unlike during the July unrest, which was largely spontaneous, the group has requested permission for marches in various cities on November 20, to which the government has yet to respond.

“Faced with the civility of our march, they respond with the threat of arms. Why so afraid that people will speak their minds?” Garcia said.

Authorities in Cuba have accused protesters and opponents of working with the US, which has imposed a 20-year embargo on the island in hopes of overthrowing the government.

But many who took to the streets in July said they were spurred by domestic issues.

Residents have faced food, medicine and other shortages amid coronavirus lockdowns and a severe blow to the tourism industry. Many have also endured long lines, high prices and power blackouts in recent years.

Source: News Agencies

https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2021/10/8/cuba-calls-national-defence-day-on-date-of-planned-protests


USA Today, October 8, 2021

Venezuelan student: I know what real socialism is. I lived it. US colleges bury the truth.

Erik Suarez

Fri., October 8, 2021

I was born in Caracas, Venezuela, in May of 1999, just three months after Hugo Chavez became president and started what’s known as his “revolution for 21st century socialism.”

At the beginning, Venezuela experienced an economic boom and funded many social programs. I saw Chavez go on live TV, receiving callers – like a talk show – and offering gifts like houses, cars and other goodies to the people. I remember Chavez’s multiple-hour speeches – which we were essentially forced to watch because the state blocked all other channels – announcing new nationalizations, new “missions,” or simply denouncing the press and political adversaries as traitors.

At the time, it was hard to imagine the dark future ahead for Venezuela, as money seemed never ending. But the country’s centralized control of the economy was heavily dependent on oil.

When the oil markets crashed in 2014, shrinking government revenue, these social programs became unsustainable, and Venezuela’s economy collapsed.

Millions of Venezuelans plunged into extreme poverty, and violence spiked – murders, kidnappings and political violence on the street became normal.

American colleges celebrate dictators

In short, I know what real socialism is because I grew up in a country that was destroyed by the totalitarian rule of the Socialist Party.

Then this summer I saw a quote by the infamous Cuban dictator, Fidel Castro, prominently displayed at my university, Penn State. I knew I had to act. Just as I took to social media to start my campaign to remove the quote, Cubans were pouring into the streets to demand freedom from that authoritarian regime.

Screen Shot 2021-10-08 at 5.01.20 PM.png

A woman walks by a mural of the Cuban flag and an image of revolutionary leader Ernesto Che Guevara in Havana.

Still, a fellow student reached out to me and recommended that I speak to an expert to help me get informed and understand the reality of Cuba. Maybe this was an opportunity to learn and understand rather than just vilify what I clearly didn’t know, the student told me.

The Castro quote on the wall of the Paul Robeson Cultural Center read: “The equal right of all citizens to health, education, work, food, security, culture, science, and wellbeing – that is, the same rights we proclaimed when we began our struggle, in addition to those which emerge from our dreams of justice and equality for all inhabitants of our world – is what I wish for all.”

Screen Shot 2021-10-08 at 5.01.25 PM.png

Eric Suarez in State College, Pittsburgh, in 2019.

Anyone who is aware that Castro is responsible for the deaths of thousands of Cuban people and other human rights abuses knows what this quote is: communist propaganda.

But the problem is, my generation doesn’t know – and posting the quote prominently in such a heavily trafficked area sends the message that the leader who spoke these words is someone worthy of the honor. Nothing could be further from the truth. I know because I’ve lived the horrors of totalitarianism.

But I’ve come to learn that U.S. campuses of higher education are part of the problem, and while I feel blessed to study at Penn State, I am distressed by the ignorance and misinformation circulating about socialism and communism, not just at my school but at college and university campuses across the United States.

Since I began my successful campaign to have the quote removed, I’ve come to learn how much higher education has contributed to the erroneous views of socialism and communism.

I’ve learned of many distressing examples of misinformation about my home country, including:

►Scripps College holding a lecture series on Venezuela, hosting multiple speakers supportive of current dictator Nicolás Maduro.

►A Marxist student club at Columbia University scoffing at “scare stories” about Venezuela.

Screen Shot 2021-10-08 at 5.01.30 PM.png

Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez, the socialist leader who assailed U.S. influence in Latin America in his campaign against capitalism and democratic freedoms, died in 2013. He was 58.

►And a human rights professor at the University of Pittsburgh Law School who said poor Venezuelans are “better off” now than they were before the socialist coup.

Young people ignorant to evil of socialism

Trust me, Venezuelans are not better off under socialism. I didn’t study it; I lived it. So much of the American higher education system has been teaching a false, positive image of communism and socialism for decades, 40% of Americans now have a favorable view of socialism, according to the Victims of Communism Memorial Foundation – with 49% of Generation Z (my generation) viewing socialism favorably!

This isn’t surprising given the false impressions my peers have of top-down systems of government and their so-called heroes.

Screen Shot 2021-10-08 at 5.01.35 PM.png

Eric Suarez with other Venezuelans in Orlando, Fla., in July 2021

The University of California, San Diego, has housed a Che Cafe for more than 50 years as a “revolutionary” space for students. The cafe is registered as a student organization for the fall of 2021. Che Guevara oversaw firing squads and organized forced labor camps, so if that is the kind of revolutionary experimentation the university hopes to foster, the cafe picked the right namesake. If not, it needs to change the name and tell students why rather than perpetuate a false, dangerous narrative.

It has become my personal mission to stop the spread of socialism by educating my peers about what it truly is through the narrative on my personal experience. I am dedicated to teaching anyone who will listen about the dangers of these regimes, and the effects they have on their people.

Through my story and the stories of other victims of totalitarian regimes, I will do everything I can to turn the tide when it comes to support for socialism.

Erik Suarez is a Campus Reform correspondent and student at Penn State University. Follow him on Twitter: @eriksuarezn

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Venezuelan student: Americans don’t know the truth about socialism

https://ca.news.yahoo.com/venezuelan-student-know-real-socialism-090132684.html


Hyperallergic, October 7, 2021

News

Tania Bruguera Agreed to Leave Cuba in Exchange for Release of 25 Prisoners

The artist also called for a boycott of the Havana Biennial.

Screen Shot 2021-10-08 at 5.01.40 PM.png

The artist and activist Tania Bruguera (photo via Tania Bruguera’s Facebook, used with permission)

by Valentina Di Liscia

The Cuban government is using the 14th edition of the Havana Biennial, slated to open in mid-November, to “erase…the suffering of the Cuban people,” artist and activist Tania Bruguera said on social media today. Using the hashtag #ImmoralBiennial, Bruguera urged visitors to boycott the 2021 show, the island’s largest visual arts event.

Bruguera also disclosed this week that she agreed to leave the country in exchange for the release of 25 prisoners, including Hamlet Lavastida, the Cuban artist who had been held in a maximum-security prison in Havana for the last three months. In an interview with Radio Martí this Tuesday, Bruguera said she accepted an offer to join Harvard University as a senior lecturer in media and performance and used the opportunity to barter with the Cuban regime, which had been pressing her to leave the island.

“I said, ‘Look, you want me to leave, well now you have an opportunity,’” Bruguera explained. “But I’ll leave on the condition that you release [them], and I handed a list of several people.” She named artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, Lavastida, rapper Maykel Osorbo, and Luis Robles, who was arrested in March for holding up a placard on a street corner in Havana. She also requested that members of the 27N Movement, a loose collective fighting censorship on the island, as well as youth detained during this summer’s protests, be freed.

“This may be one of the first times in the history of Cuba that an activist negotiates the release of another activist,” Bruguera told Radio Martí. “Generally, this is done between governments, but in this case we were the intermediaries.”

In the end, the regime agreed to release some of the detainees, such as Lavastida, who was forcibly exiled to Poland with his partner writer Katherine Bisquet. The younger protesters were also freed, Tania’s sister Deborah Bruguera confirmed in a message to Hyperallergic.

“[Tania] was escorted to the airport by a dozen agents to ensure she left the country,” Deborah Bruguera added.

Screen Shot 2021-10-08 at 5.01.47 PM.png

Last month, the Cuban government decided to reopen the country to vaccinated visitors on November 15 — a move perfectly timed with the start of the Havana Biennial on the 21st, as writer and artist Coco Fusco pointed out in an op-ed for Artnet. But the intervention of artists and activists like Bruguera — whose wide recognition in the international art world offers both support and visibility — may have an impact on the outcome of the show and, more importantly, its ability to distract from the ongoing crisis in Cuba. In 2019, she penned an opinion article for Hyperallergic explaining her decisions to boycott the 13th edition of the show, citing the proposed Decree 349, a law severely curbing artistic liberties.

Amid a deepening economic crisis, food and medicine shortages, and the seemingly incessant persecution of dissidents and artists, skepticism around the art exhibition is growing. Fusco wrote that “it would be hard not to see the next biennial as something of a smokescreen.” Many of those who remain behind bars in Havana are peaceful protesters who participated in the largest anti-government demonstrations on the island in decades this summer.

Among them are Otero Alcántara, who has gone on hunger and thirst strikes to denounce artistic repression on the island, as well as Osorbo and photographer Anyelo Troya, who collaborated on the song and video “Patria y Vida” (“Homeland and Life”), an anthem for Cuban liberation.

“The Havana Biennial was previously suspended when there was a hurricane in a distant province, but now, with a pandemic, a public health crisis, and hundreds of political prisoners and artists like Luis Manuel [Otero Alcántara] and Maykel Osorbo still imprisoned, I find it immoral to move forward with an event like the Biennial,” Bruguera told El Nuevo Herald. The artist added that foreigners should not visit or participate in the event, and for the Cubans who live on the island, she leaves the decision “up to their conscience.”

“Tania speaks on something that I keep seeing in the history of Cuba: fear,” Christian Casas, a Cuban-American artist based in Columbus, Ohio, told Hyperallergic. “The regime is fearful of artists and activists because they know they have the power to fully revolt.”

https://hyperallergic.com/682889/tania-bruguera-agreed-to-leave-cuba-in-exchange-for-release-of-25-prisoners/

Washington Blade, October 7, 2021

Gay man who live-streamed Cuba anti-government protest faces 8-year prison sentence

Screen Shot 2021-10-08 at 5.01.52 PM.png

Yoan de la Cruz broadcast July 11 demonstration on Facebook

By Michael K. Lavers

A gay man who live-streamed an anti-government protest faces an 8-year prison sentence.

Yoan de la Cruz on July 11 used Facebook Live to livestream a protest in San Antonio de los Baños, a municipality in Artemisa province that is just west of Havana.

The San Antonio de los Baños protest was the first of dozens of anti-government demonstrations against mounting food shortages, the government’s response to the pandemic, a worsening economic crisis and human rights abuses that took place across Cuba on July 11.

De La Cruz is one of hundreds of protest participants who were arrested. Others include Maykel González Vivero, editor of Tremenda Nota, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Cuba.

14ymedio, an independent website founded by Yoani Sánchez, a prominent critic of the Cuban government, on Monday reported the country’s attorney general is seeking an 8-year prison sentence for De La Cruz. 14ymedio also notes Cuban authorities continue to hold De La Cruz “somewhat incommunicado” in a prison in Mayabeque province, which is east of Havana.

It is unclear when his trial will take place.

“The Cuban government is again intimidating Cubans to keep them from peacefully expressing themselves,” tweeted Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols on Thursday. “After initially sentencing many July 11 protestors to months of detention and fines, they now seek additional jail time for some of the 500+ detainees to 6-12 years.”

The tweet does not specifically mention De La Cruz.

Luis Ángel Adán Roble, a gay man who was once a member of Cuba’s National Assembly, is now a vocal critic of his country’s government and publicly supports De La Cruz. Adán on Thursday described the proposed sentence as “excessive and unjust.”

“The only thing about Yoan that I know is the charge of which they have accused him is contempt, and they are asking for eight years,” he told the Blade. “I don’t understand what live-streaming something has to do with contempt.”

https://www.washingtonblade.com/2021/10/07/gay-man-who-live-streamed-cuba-anti-government-protest-faces-8-year-prison-sentence/