CubaBrief: Rejection of request to protest by Castro regime is yet another example of intolerance of freedom of expression. Protest leader say N15 civic march continues.

104 days ago today on July 11, 2021 tens of thousands of Cubans took to the streets across Cuba declaring that they were no longer afraid, and calling for an end to the dictatorship. The dictatorship’s response was public, swift, brutal, and sustained. The regime’s repression has not ended, but nor has the civic defiance and courage of Cubans.

Reuters reported on October 21st that Cuban prosecutors had summoned protest leaders (organized in a Facebook group called Archipelago, from across Cuba who are calling for protests on November 15th over curbs to civil rights in Cuba, and demanding an amnesty for jailed regime opponents) warning them against convening civic marches “under penalty of the law.”

Lexi Lonas reported in The Hill, on the same day that “a Cuban protest leader said Thursday his group will gather for a demonstration in November despite warnings from a prosecutor that doing so could have legal ramifications.” Lonas cited a quote by Yunior Garcia, leader of the Archipelago group, taken from Reuters stating, “we are not mercenaries, nor are we receiving orders from anyone.” … “We are openly demonstrating a difference of opinion.”

Expressing a difference of opinion with the Castro regime is a dangerous proposition in Cuba. Expressing a difference of opinion in Cuba is a criminal offense under the dictatorship’s legal code, and in practice. Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, with regards to the upcoming November 15th Civic March said:

“Groups of people from various provinces around the country have been submitting requests in recent weeks to different local governments asking for authorization to carry out peaceful marches, organized in a clearly defined way in a legitimate exercise of their right to freedom of expression. Instead of guaranteeing these rights, President Miguel Díaz-Canel’s government has declared these civil society marches ‘illegal’ and ‘unconstitutional’, once again violating the right to peaceful protest in Cuba.”

The spontaneous nonviolent protests that took place in Cuba in mid-July were met with deadly force and hundreds, if not thousands of Cubans jailed. Cuban human rights defenders addressed this matter to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) audience titled “Human rights situation in the context of protest in Cuba”. However Black human rights defender Manuel Cuesta Morua was blocked by Havana from speaking.

President Miguel Diaz Canel, handpicked by Raul Castro, told Cubans in a televised national public address on July 11th: “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 made explicit his demand for violent confrontation 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.” He concluded his address to the country declaring: “The order of combat is given, revolutionaries take to the streets.”

Regime agents dressed in black, and police officers fired their weapons on unarmed protesters, and some of the Cubans, who survived these encounters, showed where some of the rounds had passed through them. Not all survived these encounters with the dictatorship’s security forces. On July 12th, the second day of the uprising, Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, (age 36) was shot in the back by police. NGOs initially placed the number of extrajudicial killings at five during the protests, but the total number remains unknown. Video emerged on July 15th of the aftermath of Diubis being shot in the back and posted over Twitter.

Human Rights Watch in their October 19, 2021 report “Cuba: Peaceful Protesters Systematically Detained, Abused” describes in detail how the regime is still using arbitrary detention, ill-treatment (including gender-based violence), and summary trials that fall far short of international standards to directly impact hundreds of Cubans. According to Human Rights Watch there are 1,000 Cubans detained and 500 current political prisoners, but these are partial numbers painstakingly gathered by human rights observers such as CubaLex that have also been threatened for their work documenting human rights violations.

Cuban dissidents responding to this violent and ongoing crackdown have asked for help and solidarity.

Eileen Kinsella reported in ArtNet News, on October 19, 2021 in her article “Havana Biennial Boycott Gathers Support, With Hundreds Signing Open Letter Against Government Crackdown” that a long “list of Cuban and international artists and experts have signed an open letter that was posted on e-flux” that include artists Tania Bruguera and Coco Fusco, as well as Cecilia Fajardo-Hill, a British/Venezuelan art historian and curator of modern and contemporary art, calling for a boycott of the 14th Havana Biennial to protest “injustices committed by the Cuban government against its citizens, including harassment and wrongful imprisonment.” High profile names have already withdrawn from the event, including Swiss artist Ursula Biemann, French critic Nicolas Bourriaud, artists Nathalie Anguezomo Mba Bikoro and Aimee Joaristi Argüelles, and curator Maria Belén Saez de Ibarra, according to Hyperallergic.

Thus far, this example of solidarity has not been replicated in the Paris Club. Marc Frank reported for Reuters on October 20th that the Castro regime “reached a deal with the Paris Club of creditor nations to postpone an annual debt payment due in November until next year, according to diplomats from five of the governments involved, the latest sign the Communist-run country is suffering a grave foreign exchange crisis. The historic 2015 Paris Club agreement with Havana forgave $8.5 billion of $11.1 billion in sovereign debt Cuba defaulted on in 1986, plus charges. Cuba agreed to repay the remainder in annual installments through 2033, but only partially met its obligations in 2019 and defaulted last year.” The Economic Eye on Cuba, the blog of the New York based U.S.-Cuba Trade and Economic Council, Inc. reported on this deal with an important note reproduced below.

NOTE: Individuals participating in the negotiations shared on background that the group of creditor countries have no expectation that the Republic of Cuba will maintain the terms of a newly-termed debt repayment agreement. The altering of debt repayment terms was pro forma as the Republic of Cuba continues to be in arrears for hundreds of millions of dollars of private sector commercial debt including to joint venture partners, and continues to seek debt forgiveness and debt restructuring of private sector commercial debt. There is an expectation that long-term government-to-government financing programs for infrastructure and durable products will become donations.

These “donations” to the dictatorship in Cuba are assisting in the repression of the Cubans. The Assembly of the Cuban Resistance, a coalition of pro-democracy and human rights groups inside and outside Cuba, issued a press release condemning the deal reached by the Paris Club and the Castro regime and explained how “this concession to the Cuban regime will serve to subsidize repression in Cuba, as the regime continues to buy military equipment to crack down on civil society and peaceful demonstrations. On June 10, 2021, 240 Cuban leaders and activists signed a letter, asking the Paris Club to not collaborate with repression in Cuba. Their fears were confirmed on July 11, 2021, and unfortunately Cubans expect to see the same levels of violence and military and police deployment on November 15, 2021, as the Cuban Prosecutor’s Office has threatened the organizers of the upcoming peaceful demonstration.”

The Christian Liberation Movement, based in Cuba that led the Varela Project which over 35,000 Cubans in the island signed, called for the isolation of the Castro dictatorship with the following proposal that contains eleven measures that includes the ongoing and successful boycott of the 14th Havana Biennial, but also not granting the Cuban regime lines of credit, and placing an arms embargo on the dictatorship.

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 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.

Dictatorship’s like the one in Havana understand only one thing, force, but it can impact them in many ways and the list above demonstrates the power of nonviolent, civic action.

Amnesty International, October 22, 2021

Cuba: Rejection of request to protest is yet another example of intolerance of freedom of expression

In light of the Cuban government’s negative response to requests from civil society to hold a Civic March for Change, planned for 15 November, to call for the release of activists detained for exercising their rights, including following the historic protests of 11 July, as well for human rights to be respected and for differences to be resolved through dialogue, Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, said:

“Groups of people from various provinces around the country have been submitting requests in recent weeks to different local governments asking for authorization to carry out peaceful marches, organized in a clearly defined way in a legitimate exercise of their right to freedom of expression. Instead of guaranteeing these rights, President Miguel Díaz-Canel’s government has declared these civil society marches ‘illegal’ and ‘unconstitutional’, once again violating the right to peaceful protest in Cuba.”

The international community must not forget the hundreds of people detained during the historic protests on 11 July 2021 simply for peacefully exercising their right, as well as the six people named prisoner of conscience by Amnesty International shortly afterwards

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International

“Amnesty International has received reports that activists have been arbitrarily detained and that people who have responded to the Archipelago group’s calls to demonstrate have been harassed, intimidated and put under surveillance by members of the security forces. This response by the authorities is consistent with the policy of repression, applied for decades in Cuba, which criminalizes peaceful protest and imprisons and ill-treats Cubans from all walks of life solely for expressing their opinions. We will be monitoring the actions of the authorities, to denounce any act of repression against protesters.”

“The international community must not forget the hundreds of people detained during the historic protests on 11 July 2021 simply for peacefully exercising their right, as well as the six people named prisoners of conscience by Amnesty International shortly afterwards, as a symbolic gesture towards the many hundreds more who likely deserve this designation, who must be released immediately and unconditionally.”

https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2021/10/cuba-rejection-request-protest-another-example-intolerance-freedom-expression/


The Hill, October 21, 2021

Cuban protest leader says group will gather in November despite warning from prosecutor

By Lexi Lonas – 10/21/21

A Cuban protest leader said Thursday his group will gather for a demonstration in November despite warnings from a prosecutor that doing so could have legal ramifications.

“We are not mercenaries, nor are we receiving orders from anyone,” Yunior Garcia, leader of the Archipelago group, said after a meeting with prosecutors, Reuters reported. “We are openly demonstrating a difference of opinion.”

Cuban prosecutors called protests leaders to a meeting after the Archipelago group said they were going to protest the government over curbing civil rights on Nov. 15.

Cuban vice-prosecutor, Yaumara Angulo González, said the protest leaders were warned the demonstrations would be against the law, highlighting the group has ignored the government’s previous warning, according to Reuters.

Archipelago is organized as a Facebook group with around 20,000 members. 

The group legally requested to hold the civil rights protest but was denied by the government last week.

“The protesters … as well as their links with some subversive organizations … have the open intention of changing the political system in Cuba,” a letter from the government said.

Garcia said his protest will be “peaceful, civic, with nothing to do with violence.”

“This is my personal decision, beyond the threats that I have received today in this building,” he added.

The group said they were holding the protest despite the government’s warnings after the Human Rights Watch released a report detailing the systematic abuse Cubans faced for protests over the summer.

https://thehill.com/latino/577850-cuban-protest-leader-says-group-will-gather-in-november-despite-warning-from

Reuters, October 21, 2021

Cuban prosecutor warns dissident leaders against November protests

By Nelson Acosta

HAVANA, Oct 21 (Reuters) – Cuban prosecutors on Thursday summoned dissident leaders from across the country who have called for protests on Nov. 15 over curbs to civil rights, warning them against convening the rallies under penalty of the law.

The protest leaders, organized by a Facebook group called Archipelago, have called on Cubans to demonstrate for the right to peaceful protest and an amnesty for imprisoned government opponents. The group says it has some 20,000 members, many of whom live outside the country.

The Cuban government last week denied permission for the protest, saying Archipelago had links with “subversive organizations” and an “open intention of changing the political system in Cuba.”

A Cuban vice-prosecutor, Yaumara Angulo González, told reporters on Thursday that officials issued the fresh warning because the protest leaders had ignored the government and publicly renewed calls for the marches.

Yunior Garcia, the group’s leader, told reporters outside the prosecutor’s office in Havana that he still planned to march himself on Nov. 15.

“We are not mercenaries, nor are we receiving orders from anyone,” said Garcia. “We are openly demonstrating a difference of opinion.”

Since Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution, dissident protests have been forbidden on grounds that they were fomented by the United States, but Cuba’s new constitution, approved three years ago, opened a space for “legitimate” demonstrations.

Garcia said his march will be “peaceful, civic, with nothing to do with violence.”

“This is my personal decision, beyond the threats that I have received today in this building,” he said.

The latest tensions come three months after two days of the biggest anti-government demonstrations in decades rocked the Communist-run country in July. They resulted in a flurry of arrests, and well-known government opponents are among those who remain behind bars, some facing long sentences.

Cuban authorities said those arrested were guilty of crimes including public disorder, resisting arrest, and vandalism.

Archipelago’s planned protest on Nov. 15 falls on the same day Cuba, an island nation of white sand beaches and coral reefs, plans to reopen to tourism after two years in which it says the all-important industry was hobbled by the coronavirus pandemic and fresh U.S. sanctions.

The protesters had initially planned demonstrations across the country for Nov. 20, but switched the date to Nov. 15 after authorities declared the 20th a “National Defense Day” during which citizens practice preparedness for a U.S. invasion. (Reporting by Nelson Acosta; Writing by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Daniel Wallis)

https://news.trust.org/item/20211021173300-788og/

Assembly of the Cuban Resistance, October 21, 2021

THE ASSEMBLY OF THE CUBAN RESISTANCE CONDEMNS PARIS CLUB’S DEAL WITH CUBAN REGIME

Miami, Florida – October 21, 2021 – Assembly of the Cuban Resistance-The Assembly of the Cuban Resistance, a coalition of pro-democracy and human rights groups inside and outside Cuba, condemns the deal reached by the Paris Club and the Cuban regime that would postpone the regime’s 2021 debt payments until next year.

This concession to the Cuban regime will serve to subsidize repression in Cuba, as the regime continues to buy military equipment to crack down on civil society and peaceful demonstrations. On June 10, 2021, 240 Cuban leaders and activists signed a letter, asking the Paris Club to not collaborate with repression in Cuba. Their fears were confirmed on July 11, 2021, and unfortunately Cubans expect to see the same levels of violence and military and police deployment on November 15, 2021, as the Cuban Prosecutor’s Office has threatened the organizers of the upcoming peaceful demonstration.

This agreement does not take into account the will and demands of the Cuban population, who have massively denounced the illegitimacy of the Cuban regime, and its inefficiency to develop the country and contain the COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of Cubans are currently being tortured in prison, threatened in arbitrary police interrogations, harassed in the streets, fired from their jobs, and placed under long-term house arrests. Any agreement with the Cuban regime as the population is being repressed is not legitimate.

###

Reuters, October 20, 2021

EXCLUSIVE Cuba, Paris Club reach deal to skip 2021 debt payment – diplomats

By Marc Frank

People walk under a Cuban flag at a commercial area amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Havana, Cuba, August 3, 2021. Picture taken August 3, 2021. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini/FilesReuters

HAVANA, Oct 20 (Reuters) – Cuba has reached a deal with the Paris Club of creditor nations to postpone an annual debt payment due in November until next year, according to diplomats from five of the governments involved, the latest sign the Communist-run country is suffering a grave foreign exchange crisis.

The historic 2015 Paris Club agreement with Havana forgave $8.5 billion of $11.1 billion in sovereign debt Cuba defaulted on in 1986, plus charges. Cuba agreed to repay the remainder in annual installments through 2033, but only partially met its obligations in 2019 and defaulted last year.

The outlines of an amended deal, worked out between the parties in June and not previously reported, calls for resumption of payments in 2022 and adjustment of the payment schedule, the diplomats said, requesting anonymity to comment.

The Cuban government and Paris Club had no comment on the matter.

The parties in June said in a statement that “this agreement provides more time to the Republic of Cuba to honor several payments due under the 2015 Arrangement, while maintaining the present value of these amounts.”

Cuba has now fallen behind by around $200 million on payments, including this year, the diplomats estimated.

It is not clear if penalties will apply as the pandemic crunch has led lenders to waive fees on other debtor nations.

Cuba said this week it had vaccinated 99.2% of its population with at least one dose of its locally developed COVID-19 vaccines, and plans to reopen its borders to international tourism by mid-November after nearly two years of coronavirus-induced stagnation.

The Caribbean island nation depends heavily on tourism to inject much-needed foreign exchange into its otherwise inefficient state-run economy, and for the cash it needs to repay lenders.

“I expect a fairly robust return of tourists impacting other activities and that should improve the outlook somewhat for payment in 2022,” one of the diplomats said.

Over the last decade, Cuba also restructured debt with Russia, China, Germany, Mexico and Japanese commercial debt holders.

“Its my understanding most of those payments are also on hold,” another diplomat said, with a colleague seconding that view.

Harsh U.S. sanctions on vital foreign exchange earners such as tourism, remittances and foreign investment, many implemented under then-U.S. President Donald Trump and maintained under his successor, Joe Biden, also complicate inflows.

Foreign exchange revenues fell by some $4 billion beginning in 2020 and the import of basic goods and inputs for agriculture and production in general plunged nearly 40% as a result, the government reported.

The economy contracted 10.9% last year and another 2% through June, compared with the same period in 2020, resulting in shortages of food, medicine and other basic goods.

The government this year predicts the economy to grow 2%, just barely beginning to recoup last year’s downturn.

Under the original Paris Club agreement, seen by Reuters, interest was forgiven through 2020, and after that was just 1.5% of the total debt still due. Some of that money due was allocated to funds for investments in Cuba.

The diplomats who spoke to Reuters said they did not expect any significant changes to that portion of the agreement.

Cuba last reported foreign debt of $18.5 billion in 2018, and experts believe it has risen since then, especially to suppliers and investment partners who reported serious payment issues as early as 2018. The country is not a member of the International Monetary Fund or the World Bank.

The Cuba group of the 22-member Paris Club comprises Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Britain, Italy, Japan, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

(Reporting by Marc Frank; additional reporting by Leigh Thomas in Paris, Editing by Dave Sherwood and Alistair Bell)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.

https://www.reuters.com/business/exclusive-cuba-paris-club-reach-deal-skip-2021-debt-payment-diplomats-2021-10-20/

ArtNet News, October 19, 2021

Politics

Havana Biennial Boycott Gathers Support, With Hundreds Signing Open Letter Against Government Crackdown

More than 400 culture workers have called on colleagues not to participate in the exhibition because of injustices committed by the Cuban regime

By Eileen Kinsella

Hundreds of artists and cultural workers are boycotting the Havana Biennial to protest what they describe as injustices committed by the Cuban government against its citizens, including harassment and wrongful imprisonment.

While a lengthy list of Cuban and international artists and experts have signed an open letter that was posted on e-flux, several high-profile names have already withdrawn from the event, including Swiss artist Ursula Biemann and French critic Nicolas Bourriaud. At least five in total have withdrawn according to Hyperallergic, including the artists Nathalie Anguezomo Mba Bikoro and Aimee Joaristi Argüelles, and curator Maria Belén Saez de Ibarra.

“We are Cuban cultural workers who have asked our colleagues NOT to participate in the 14th Havana Biennial. Some might find it surprising or even shocking that we would reject the most important art event in our country—an event that has given so many Cuban artists the opportunity to share their art with the rest of the world,” the letter states.

Among the dozens of signatures appearing on the letter are artists Tania Bruguera and Coco Fusco, as well as Cecilia Fajardo-Hill, a British/Venezuelan art historian and curator of modern and contemporary art.

Bruguera did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but she told Hyperallergic that a boycott was the only option. The artist recently agreed to leave the country in exchange for the release of 25 prisoners. “I think it’s important not to participate because the Cuban people rose up on July 11 to demand their rights, and they have been thrown in prison and threatened,” Bruguera said.

Fusco told Artnet News in an email: “The Cuban Minister of Culture Alpidio Alonso has alleged that the #noalabienaldelahabana campaign is paying Cubans to participate in a boycott. His accusation is unfounded. The decision not to participate is an ethical one and a personal one. We have no power to coerce anyone. On the other hand, the Cuban government does have the power to intimidate its citizens, to punish them unlawfully for expressing their opinions and reward those that cooperate with the state with a host of privileges and protections. The Minister’s wild allegations are part of a disinformation campaign orchestrated by Cuban state security.”

Alonso could not immediately be reached for comment.

According to posts on Bruguera and Fusco’s social media accounts, both Biemann and Bourriaud have also said no to the Havana Biennial, but their names have not yet been removed the official line-up. Biennial organisers did not immediately respond to Artnet News’s request for comment.

The open letter continues: “We say NO to participating in the 14th Havana Biennial because of the injustices being committed by the Cuban government against Cuban cultural workers, and against Cuban citizens who seek to exercise their constitutional rights.”

It also states that Cuban artists have been imprisoned for months, with dozens of cultural workers under house arrest and another 1,000 people arrested at mass protests that took place in July. An estimated 500 individuals are still in jail, the letter states.

The signatories said they have exhausted other means to help free colleagues, including writing letters and circulating petitions, as well as staged actions such as fasting and prayers.

According to the letter: “The institutions and functionaries that organize the 14th Havana Biennial are the same ones that have refused to listen to us,” and instead have “condoned and participated in the violence.”

Among the international supporters who have signed the open letter are writer Juno Díaz, artists Heman Chong, Sam Durant, Pablo Helguera, and Carlos Motta, former museum director Helen Molesworth, former Queens Museum director Laura Raicovich, and former museum director Olga Viso.

https://news.artnet.com/art-world/boycott-havana-biennial-quickly-gathering-support-2022604