CubaBrief: Cuba’s nonviolent opposition calls for a nonviolent civic march on November 15, 2021 and an organizer sent a public message giving context

Cubans in Cuba in July 2021 demanding an end to dictatorship.

The Castro regime is trying to erase what happened on July 11, 12, and 13, 2021 across Cuba when tens of thousands of Cubans took to the streets chanting “freedom”, “homeland and life”, “down with the dictatorship” and “we are not afraid.” The dictatorship responded with a call for violence that was carried out by their repressive forces that fired on unarmed Cubans.

Voices from the diaspora are amplifying the message of Cubans in the island demanding freedom, and countering the Castro dictatorship’s false narrative. The reality is that Cubans in the island are tired of 62 years of communist dictatorship, and 71 years since the last time they were able to vote in a free election.

The ongoing repression in the aftermath of what many in the opposition are calling the 11J uprising needs to be known.

Hundreds have been placed on trial and subjected to summary trials. Havana does not release information on arrests, prison population size, and officials lie about it when asked, but other sources provide partial estimates along with concrete data. 14ymedio, the press outfit founded by Yoani Sanchez, estimates more than 5,000 detained. Cubalex, a human rights NGO, identified 1,125 detained or missing Cubans, related to the protests that began on July 11th, in their database as of October 18, 2021 at 3:00pm.

Cuban artist and dissident Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara , jailed since July 2021 during the 11J protests, contracted COVID-19 while jailed, and initiated a hunger strike on September 27, 2021 protesting his continuing unjust imprisonment. His health has worsened and after 16 days on hunger strike the prisoner of conscience ended the strike on October 12, 2021. Reports emerged afterwards that the aftermath of COVID-19, prison conditions, and the hunger strike have negatively impacted his health.

Despite the repression and terror of the regime, others are calling for a civic march on November 15th to defend freedom of expression, exercise the right to peacefully assemble, and call for the release of all Cuban prisoners of conscience. Reading through a list of the organizers, and you find a who’s who of democratic socialists who are dissidents. Nevertheless, the regime’s response has been to demonize the organizers as “right wingers”.

Click on the video below to watch on YouTube.

The young playwright Yunior García is speaking out both on video and in writing to set the record straight, and issuing a brave call to nonviolent civic action.

“On November 15 we will march without hatred. We are conquering a right that has never been respected in 62 years of dictatorship, but we are going to conquer it with civility. Everyone will be looking towards Cuba that day. We know that power plays dirty, that it gives orders to fight against its people, that it lies to our faces, that it would even be capable of infiltrating its paramilitaries in the march to generate violence and blame us. Each citizen must be responsible for their conduct and defend the peaceful and firm attitude that we have called for. November 15 can and should be a beautiful day. Wherever a Cuban lives, we know that his heart will be in Cuba. May the powerful not insist on behaving cowardly against their citizens. Do not repeat the crime of July 11. May officers and soldiers understand that there is no honor in obeying immoral orders. I also hope that no foreign power interferes in an issue that we must resolve with true sovereignty, that of the citizens. Let’s bet on courage, dignity, and frankness. It is time to say what we think aloud.”

This has not gone unnoticed and The Washington Post in an October 15 editorial described this initiative as a comeback by the nonviolent opposition, and issued an explicit call for solidarity: “Cubans seem to be preparing to act on that courage, again. Everyone outside of Cuba should be preparing to support them.”

The Washington Post, October 15, 2021

The Post’s View

Opinion: Cuba’s peaceful opposition mounts a comeback

Yunior Garcia, a member of a Cuban opposition group, in Havana on Oct. 12. (Yander Zamora/EPA-EFE/REX/Shutterstock)

Opinion by the Editorial Board

It has been three months since thousands of Cubans spontaneously surged into the streets to protest the lack of freedom and opportunity in their country, an unprecedented popular eruption that the 62-year-old Communist regime met with ferocious and, at the time, effective repression. Cuba and its nonviolent struggle for democracy have faded from the headlines since that day, July 11.

The government suffocated dissent; it did not solve the profound political or economic ills that cause it. To the contrary: Cuba’s jails still house more than 500 people arrested for taking part in the July 11 protests. The political prisoners include a man threatened with up to 12 years behind bars for helping a crowd tear up a portrait of the late dictator Fidel Castro, and another facing eight years for making and sharing a video of the demonstrations that inspired others to join in. Thousands of desperate Cubans are fleeing the island, often via the perilous route that leads through the Darien Gap jungle of Panama to the U.S.-Mexico border. Just the other day, 12 members of Cuba’s national under-23 baseball team defected from a tournament in Mexico.

While these Cubans, understandably, seek freedom abroad, many, many others have chosen to stay home and fight for it. Tensions are mounting on the island over the authorities’ efforts to thwart the democracy movement’s pursuit of yet another day of nationwide demonstrations — planned this time. The opposition group Archipelago, spearheaded by a young playwright, Yunior Garcia, recently asked local government authorities to permit a series of coordinated gatherings in towns across Cuba on Nov. 20, arguing, correctly, that the Cuban constitution purports to guarantee their right to demonstrate. The proposed Civic March for Change would have lasted three hours and culminated with the laying of flowers at the bases of statues of Cuban national heroes José Martí and Calixto García. Communist officials not only denied the permit but announced three days of military exercises for Nov. 18-20.

Undaunted, Archipelago has rescheduled the protest for Nov. 15 and announced on Facebook that, notwithstanding the government’s refusal to grant official permission, “our personal decision will be to march peacefully and with civility for our rights. In the face of authoritarianism, we will respond with civility and more civility.” Cuban independent journalists report that rapid reaction brigades, the regime’s plainclothes enforcers, are already being deployed on strategic street corners in Havana.

The Biden administration has denounced the military exercises, with the State Department calling them a “flagrant attempt to intimidate Cubans.” No doubt this is correct. Yet the regime’s resort to such a heavy-handed preemptive move against the protests suggests it may be losing confidence in its usual methods. Something changed, perhaps permanently, in Cuba on July 11. Protesters shouted out what that was: “We are not afraid,” they chanted. It’s the kind of courage that comes when opponents of a repressive state discover that they are not isolated individuals, but a huge, defiant, majority. Cubans seem to be preparing to act on that courage, again. Everyone outside of Cuba should be preparing to support them.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/10/15/cuba-protests-comeback-yunior-garcia/

Diario las Américas, October 15, 2021

Cuba: 15N protest organizer sends public message

October 15, 2021

Yunior García, a organizer of the November 15 march responds to the repressive and manipulative strategies of the Castro regime

In 2022, the country in which we were born will enter its 71st year without democracy. My parents have never been able to freely choose their ideology, their party or their president. They have had to resign themselves to the decision of others and have had to ratify those decisions to avoid looking for trouble. In Cuba, unfortunately, keeping quiet about what we think is seen by many as a sign of intelligence. They always ask us to wait for a “moment” and a “place” that never really comes.

Almost my entire generation grew up hearing the phrase: “for your sake, speak softly.” Most of my friends have already left the country and others dream of doing so soon. I don’t want my phone to be recharged or a pair of shoes sent. I want Cuba to be the nation that everyone can return to whenever they want, think how they think, and from which no one else wants to leave. 

The Revolution promised rights, justice, freedom and free elections, but instead we became a Soviet appendage. It promised to be green as the palms, but it wrapped itself in a red cloak with a hammer and sickle guarding the lone star. Single thought, censorship and political persecution have been the daily bread for any Cuban who does not submit to the control of the foremen. And the end of the Cold War only increased our misery. We are survivors of an unfinished war, in which we were neither victors nor defeated, only hostages of an obsolete dogma, of a clan of officials clinging to power and its privileges, of a whim propped up with Russian-made rifles.

It is true that there were some achievements and conquests, not everything is gray. But what good are gratuities if later they are going to blackmail me with them. What value is my education if later I am forbidden to think with my own mind? Many slaves also learned to read. And they did not pay with money for their little corner in the barracks or their lunch, they paid for it with obedience and with the sweat of their backs. If any of them happened to demand a change of regime, the whip, the stocks and the shackle would certainly await them.

I already paid for all my studies. Know it. I went to all the schools in the countryside, cut sugarcane, collected potatoes in Artemisa and coffee in Pinares de Mayarí. I completed two years of social service receiving a salary of “little mirrors”. I owe a lot to my teachers, but I have already paid off my debts with the State. Do not throw it in my face anymore. Also, do not continue to use my work with cultural institutions as blackmail. Working is a right, not a privilege. And I have given as much or more than what I have received.

I write these words under a cowardly campaign of lies against me and against the organizers of the march. The lowliness is such that they have cut our Internet services so that we cannot even defend ourselves from our networks. But I’m not going to victimize myself. Cuban ingenuity also knows how to circumvent these internal blocks. My only concern was my parents. I know how much it hurts them, I know how much they fear, but I also know that they know their son. They both got over the fear and called me just to tell me to be strong, and that they are proud. 

It is obvious that nobody pays us a penny. No one would be such an idiot to face all this (and the fury to come) for money. We do it out of convictions, and that has desperate power. Nor does anyone give us orders from anywhere. There are wonderful minds in this country and we are already learning to debate and find consensus, without false unanimities or top leaders. What they call “alliances” is nothing more than an honest dialogue with all Cubans, without discriminating against anyone. No regime will ever tell us again which Cuban we can talk to and which we cannot. We are not going to reproduce their scheme of prejudice, stigma, and demonization. 

I am infinitely grateful for the enormous solidarity we have received. If there were justice and we had 15 minutes on national television, all the lies that power has manufactured would collapse instantly. I respectfully ask that the lynching against any Cuban who honestly defends his principles, regardless of political color, ceases. When we say “with everyone and for the good of all”, we mean business.

On November 15 we will march without hatred. We are conquering a right that has never been respected in 62 years of dictatorship, but we are going to conquer it with civility. Everyone will be looking towards Cuba that day. We know that power plays dirty, that it gives orders to fight against its people, that it lies to our faces, that it would even be capable of infiltrating its paramilitaries in the march to generate violence and blame us. Each citizen must be responsible for their conduct and defend the peaceful and firm attitude that we have called for.

November 15 can and should be a beautiful day. Wherever a Cuban lives, we know that his heart will be in Cuba. May the powerful not insist on behaving cowardly against their citizens. Do not repeat the crime of July 11. May officers and soldiers understand that there is no honor in obeying immoral orders. I also hope that no foreign power interferes in an issue that we must resolve with true sovereignty, that of the citizens.

Let’s bet on courage, dignity, and frankness. It is time to say what we think aloud.

Best wishes,

Yunior García

Source: https://www.diariolasamericas.com/america-latina/cuba-organizador-protesta-del-15n-envia-mensaje-publico-n4234448