CubaBrief: Whether Cubans will be victims of a bloody crackdown or enjoying a political opening on N15 is up to the int’l community, and holding Havana accountable

The Frankfurt based International Society for Human Rights released a statement six days before the N15 protests announcing their concern “that the one-party government of the Cuban communists, which has ruled for 62 years, will follow the negative example of the Chinese communists and use massive violence to suppress the civil demonstrations.” China got away with its June 4, 1989 Tiananmen Square bloodbath because the international community was complicit. Although pro-forma protests were made against the massacre by most governments, business continued as usual. The world is paying the price for that immoral act in both blood and treasure today.

Dictatorship arming supporters with AK-47s and clubs to terrorize non-violent protesters

The question is not what the Castro regime wants to do, but what consequences the dictatorship in Havana will face if they unleash massive violence on peaceful protesters?

Martin Lessenthin, spokesman of ISHR Germany and René Gómez Manzano, president of ISHR Cuba are both right “Germany and the EU partners must use the time until November 15th. They should make it clear to the rulers in Havana that violence against peaceful demonstrators will lead to the termination of all economic cooperation with the island nation. Every Cuban has a right to freedom of expression!”

Reporting by both The Wall Street Journal, and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation are grim. The Castro dictatorship is already cracking down providing its familiar trifecta for dissidents to choose from: prison, exile, or death. The first two are openly on the table and discussed, and the third is understood, but unsaid.

Equally troubling is the analysis by Cuban journalist and scholar Carlos Alberto Montaner about the reappearance of the disgraced former Vice President Carlos Lage as a message to Miguel Díaz-Canel that his future is not secure. He called for violence on camera back on July 11, 2021 and could be used as a scapegoat for the repression unleashed in the days leading up to, and on November 15th. The Cuban president should be sanctioned and held accountable for his crimes against humanity, but there are many others in the dictatorship that should be with him in the dock for their crimes.

Cuba has armed its local Committees for the Defence of the Revolution in preparation for the Civic March. “CBC (Twitter)

The regime will sacrifice all to hang on to power, but if they understand that they will become international pariahs, their wealth overseas confiscated, and the international criminal court a real possibility may give them pause, but that depends on the will of the community of democracies.

Now is the time for international solidarity with Cuban democrats, and condemnation of the dictatorship with both words and actions.

International Society for Human Rights, November 9, 2021

The head of the Cuban regime, President Miguel Díaz-Canel (left) and the Cuban Communist Party reacted with brutal oppression against the Cuban people after the peaceful protests of July 11. Thousands of Cubans took the streets of several cities demanding freedom, democracy and the end of the dictatorship and thousands remain behind bars unfairly. New manifestations have been scheduled on November 15, ISHR Cuba supports them and demands respect for the rights of freedom of speech and assembly for all Cuban citizens.

DECLARATION OF THE I.S.H.R. CUBA’S SECTION

November 15th will show whether Diaz Chanel is going the “Chinese way”

Frankfurt am Main/Havana, November 9, 2021 – Six days before the expected new protests against the dictatorship in Cuba, the regime threatens to “crack down” the democratic movements. What this means is the violent prevention of any peaceful protest, denounces the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR), which is represented by a section in Cuba. The ISHR fears that the one-party government of the Cuban communists, which has ruled for 62 years, will follow the negative example of the Chinese communists and use massive violence to suppress the civil demonstrations. Martin Lessenthin, spokesman for the ISHR Germany board, explains: “Cuba’s leadership under Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel is afraid of the Cuban people and wants dead silence instead of peaceful protests on November 15th. Therefore, Germany and the EU partners must use the time until November 15th. They should make it clear to the rulers in Havana that violence against peaceful demonstrators will lead to the termination of all economic cooperation with the island nation. Every Cuban has a right to freedom of expression!”

Here is the statement done by ISHR Cuba:

Havana, November 8th, 2021 – The Great Anticommunist National Uprising which took place in Cuba past July 11th  constitutes a watershed in recent Cuban history. That day, tens of thousands of citizens spontaneously took to the streets in more than fifty cities and villages of the whole country demanding freedom and the end of the Communist régime. The answer given by the government was the usual one: brutal repression.

Recently a new organization named Archipelago convened new demonstrations for next November 15th in different cities. Several other important and much older dissident groups have announced their support. The Cuban government has refused its authorization. They argue that the intended demonstrations are violent, in spite of the declarations of the organizers, who declare their peaceful intentions. The authorities affirm that the objective of the protest is to overthrow the government and change the existing Socialist system, although the organizers declare that they will only ask for the necessary changes.

In face of this situation, Cuba’s Section of the I.S.H.R. expresses its support for all the Cubans who want to publicly speak their minds, and demands from the Cuban government to fulfill its obligation to respect the right of their subjects to hold public demonstrations, according to the Universal Declaration on Human Rights and even the present Cuban Constitution.

On behalf of the I.S.H.R. Cuba’s Section:

René Gómez Manzano

President

Martin Lessenthin, spokesman of ISHR Germany

René Gómez Manzano, president of ISHR Cuba

https://ishr.org/declaration-of-ishr-cuba/

The Wall Street Journal, November 8, 2021

Latin America

Cuba’s Dissidents Dig In Despite Government Crackdown

Activists, artists and professionals challenge the Communist regime even as hundreds of protesters face contempt, sedition and sabotage charges

‘I think many young people have more dignity than fear,’ says Yunior García, founder of a rights group in Cuba calling for democratic change. Government officials have vowed to prosecute protesters.Ramon Espinosa/Associated Press

By Jose de Cordoba and Santiago Perez

Nov. 8, 2021 10:00 am ET

Four months after a wave of spontaneous demonstrations against Cuba’s 62-year-old Communist regime, civic groups and dissidents are defying authorities with protests inside high-security prisons and plans for peaceful rallies across the nation to demand democracy.

Despite facing a crackdown that includes forced exile, summary trials and prison sentences of as much as 25 years, government critics ranging from artists to doctors have openly expressed discontent on social media. They have boycotted international events sponsored by the government and denounced labor and human-rights violations, posing challenges to the totalitarian regime.

In late October, imprisoned members of the San Isidro Movement, an art collective from a crumbling neighborhood in Havana that has confronted the regime, staged hunger strikes to demand freedom and due process. Many of them have been held in prison without trial after being detained in May on public disorder and contempt charges.

In a high-security prison in western Pinar del Río province, inmates began to chant “Patria y Vida!” or “Fatherland and Life” in September as word spread that political prisoner and fellow inmate Maykel Castillo was nominated for a Latin Grammy award as co-writer of “Patria y Vida,” said Eliexer “El Funky” Márquez, who recently left the island to attend the awards ceremony in the U.S. He is also co-writer of the song.

Patria y Vida” is a confrontational rap song that has become an anthem for the island’s disaffected. During July’s mass protests, thousands had chanted “Patria y Vida,” a challenge to the regime’s decades-old motto of “Patria o Muerte,” or “Fatherland or Death.”

Since the island’s biggest demonstrations in decades broke out in mid-July, close to 1,200 people have been arrested. About half are in prison awaiting trial, while others were fined, given house arrest or sentenced to as much as a year in prison on charges such as public disorder.

Close to 200 detainees face longer sentences of between five and 25 years on criminal charges that include sabotage and sedition, according to Cubalex, a rights group.

But the arrests have done seemingly little to discourage an increasingly organized and determined opposition movement, fueled by a wave of anger in the island nation over its lack of freedom and the government’s handling of the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the country’s sharpest economic contraction since the early 1990s.

Last month, dissidents requested permission from authorities to hold a peaceful, nationwide demonstration on Nov. 15 for democratic change. In a nation where even asking for permission to protest can be met with prison or intimidation, it represented a direct challenge to the regime. It was denied, and Cuban officials, who say the planned protests are part of a U.S. attempt to destabilize Cuba, have vowed to prosecute protesters.

“The world watches #Cuba as the regime works to stifle peaceful protests on #15N,” Brian A. Nichols, assistant U.S. secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs, wrote on Twitter. “We ask the Cuban government to instead use this opportunity to listen to the voices of the Cuban people.”

The dissidents say they will try to demonstrate anyway.

“They have sicced prosecutors on us, and threatened us with expulsion from work and universities, but I think many young people have more dignity than fear,” said Yunior García, a playwright and founder of Archipiélago, a rights group with more than 31,000 members on Facebook that requested permission for the demonstration.

In response to groups such as Archipiélago, the government decreed over the summer that people using social media to “subvert public order” and “promote social misconduct” will face cyberterrorism and other criminal charges.

In a speech on Oct. 24, President Miguel Díaz-Canel called on supporters to close ranks. “We have sufficient revolutionaries to face…any sort of protest that seeks to destroy the Revolution,” he told Communist Party delegates.

Other dissidents and opponents of the regime face forced exile. Mr. Márquez said the regime won’t allow him to return to Cuba. Authorities also want Mr. Castillo and imprisoned visual artist Luis Manuel Otero to leave the island—permanently. Friends of Messrs. Castillo and Otero say the regime offered them an exit from prison in exchange for exile. They declined, friends say.

Tania Bruguera, a renowned visual artist, is also leading efforts to boycott this year’s Havana Art Biennial to protest Cuba’s growing repression of the country’s artists.

In recent days, Cubans have circulated video recordings of state-run neighborhood-watch committees in the western city of Cárdenas having mock battles where government supporters, armed with clubs, defend buildings from other civilians who represent protesters. The mock exercise ends when government supporters vanquish the invaders after a sword-fight battle.

“They try to intimidate us, but they look ridiculous,” said Archipiélago’s Mr. García.

Over a long, hot summer, the arrival of the Delta variant of Covid-19 strained the Communist country’s public-health system, as patients went without oxygen, drugs, antibiotics, syringes, Covid-19 test kits and medical equipment, according to healthcare workers.

In an unusual show of public criticism, doctors—long considered the pride of Cuba’s revolution—posted videos on social media complaining about dismal work conditions.

The pandemic has also further battered Cuba’s tourist-fueled economy. From January 2020 to August of this year, economic output has fallen 13%, according to senior government officials, as the island struggles to come up with hard currency to pay for imports.

The combination of events, said Mr. Díaz-Canel in late October, created “an environment prone to irritation and discontent.”

The long prison sentences being sought for some of the detainees from July’s protests are aimed at discouraging Cubans from further protests, said Laritza Diversent, director of Cubalex, which monitors Cuba’s judiciary from the U.S.

“These are severe and disproportionate sanctions which intimidate citizens from participating in protests such as the one called for Nov. 15,” she said.

Government officials didn’t respond to requests for comment. But in public comments referring to the planned protest after permission was denied, Mr. Díaz-Canel said: “A demonstration ceases to be peaceful as soon as people aim to disrupt community life, social peace, subvert the constitutional order and confront socialism.”

At least four other protesters from July will likely stand trial in military court on sedition and sabotage charges, according to people familiar with their cases. One is Lizandra Góngora, an impoverished mother of five whose videos complaining about the dismal quality of the milk in government-run bodegas went viral on social media earlier this year.

Military prosecutors are charging Ms. Góngora with sabotage for having participated in a protest that led to the looting of a store run by the armed forces that sells products in foreign currency, prices that are beyond reach of most Cubans. Friends of Ms. Góngora say she protested peacefully and wasn’t involved in looting.

Several other artists and dissidents have been under house arrest or permanent surveillance since July. Mr. García, the founder of the online forum Archipiélago that called for the protests, said he has a permanent detachment of Cuban secret police stationed outside his home in Havana. He said he woke up one day recently to find two doves, their necks wrung and their feathers plucked, their blood and guts smeared across the door of his home. He posted photos of the gory mess online.

“It was a message from state security to intimidate us,” said Mr. García.

Output of Cuba’s tourist-fueled economy fell 13% from January 2020 to August of this year. A Havana street in late October. Photo: yander zamora/Shutterstock

Write to José de Córdoba at jose.decordoba@wsj.com and Santiago Pérez at santiago.perez@wsj.com

Copyright ©2021 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

Appeared in the November 9, 2021, print edition as ‘In Cuba, Protest Amid Threat Of Prison, Exile.’

https://www.wsj.com/articles/cubas-dissidents-dig-in-despite-government-crackdown-11636383600


CBC News, November 8, 2021

Politics

Cuba’s regime could be headed for a violent clash with opponents — just in time for tourism season

Communist regime and opposition to face off the same day the island reopens to tourism

By Evan Dyer

Manuel Cuesta Morua is used to having police at the door of his home in Havana.

“Sometimes they’re there for two days, then they’re gone for three, then they’re back for three,” he told CBC News.

The government also regularly cuts the well-known Cuban dissident’s phone and internet service. He’s been jailed in the past and the current harassment is not the worst he’s suffered. But if the goal is to frighten him, it’s working.

“Yes, there’s fear,” he said. “We try to operate by managing that fear. We have been through so much that we’ve learned how to control our fears.”

Already briefly detained at the end of last month, Cuesta is bracing himself for a possible return to prison as the Civic March for Change, scheduled for November 15, approaches.

“In the case of the organizers, we will probably be detained the day before, or the day of,” he said. “They know who we are and where we live, of course. And then we’ll probably be put on trial for supposedly violating the constitution.”

Never in the six decades since the revolution has the Communist Party faced such an emboldened opposition.  

Cuesta’s Council for a Democratic Transition has tried to avoid giving Cuba’s Communist rulers an excuse to use violence on a day both they and their opponents see as a potential turning point in the island’s history.

First, the council asked for permission to demonstrate, citing an article of Cuba’s constitution that ostensibly guarantees free expression. Permission was denied by citing another article that forbids any attempt to change Cuba’s one-party system.

“In its Article Four, it is stated that ‘the socialist system endorsed by this constitution is irrevocable,'” responded government official Alexis Acosta Silva. “Therefore any action taken against it is illicit.”

The opposition said the march would proceed without permission on November 20. The Communist Party responded by declaring that day a Day of National Defence and ordering the mobilization of armed forces. 

Trying to avoid a showdown with the army, activists moved the date of the march to November 15.

Regime arms neighbourhood committees

But November 15 is also a day loaded with significance for the regime. It’s the day Cuba officially reopens for tourism — the mainstay of the island’s economy. And Cuba’s largest source country for tourists by far is Canada. 

“We are aware of the planned demonstrations and continue to monitor the situation closely,” a spokesperson for Global Affairs Canada (GAC) told CBC News.

“We’ve published manuals on peaceful protest so that citizens don’t respond to any provocations either from the state or from its followers,” said Cuesta. “That could give them the minimal initial motive they need to unleash violence. We’re expecting that it could be a violent day.”

Cuba’s Communist Party already has stepped up harassment of dissidents, fired members of opposition groups from their jobs and warned the broader population against attending the march.

Cuba has armed its local Committees for the Defence of the Revolution in preparation for the Civic March. This group from the José Valdés Reyes railway industrial plant in Cardenas wear t-shirts bearing the Communist Party slogan “Order me.”CBC (Twitter)

The government also has organized its neighbourhood Committees for the Defence of the Revolution for combat, arming them with clubs.

On October 25, Cuba’s unelected President Miguel Diaz-Canel warned that marchers should expect to be confronted by “revolutionaries.”

“The decision is struggle and victory! Close ranks!” he told the Plenary of the Central Committee of the Cuban Communist Party. The protest movement in Cuba was orchestrated by the United States government and think tanks, he claimed. 

“The imperialist strategy is to create the maximum of discontent in our country,” Diaz-Canel said.

State media outlets in Cuba have fulminated against the planned march, accusing opponents of being “lackeys” and “mercenaries” of imperialism.

“They have all the machinery of repression,” said Michael Lima Cuadra of Niagara Falls, Ont., who represents the Council for a Democratic Transition in Cuba in this country.

“They are Latin America’s oldest dictatorship. They have decades of experience in expelling people from university, from school, from work, threatening people with ‘acts of repudiation,’ with prison, with character assassination on media.”

Like many Cuban-Canadians, Lima Cuadra is wary of the Trudeau government’s record on Cuba and notes that Canada has not been vocal about the country’s human rights abuses or the lack of democracy.

Both the European Parliament and the U.S. Congress have forcefully condemned the rights abuses and bans on free expression that followed widespread protests against the regime on July 11. Canada’s government has not.

‘Rebellion has awoken’

“There should be a statement from all political parties in Canada that believe in freedom and democracy that they support the right of the Cuban people to demonstrate and take to the streets,” said Lima Cuadra.

“If Canada is a friend of the Cuban people, the best way to show it is by supporting them in their right to peaceful protest.”

“Canada strongly advocates for freedom of expression, freedom of movement and the right to peaceful assembly free from intimidation, throughout the world, including Cuba,” a spokesperson for GAC told CBC News.

The Cuban embassy in Ottawa said it had no comment.

Lima Cuadra said that even if the protest on November 15 is broken up and its organizers are jailed, the opposition itself won’t be broken because it is leaderless and spontaneous.

“The culture of rebellion has been awoken among the population. That’s something that has not been seen in decades,” he said. “So the people of Cuba now realize they have to unite, they have to demand their rights, and that’s the worst nightmare for the Cuban dictatorship.”

Welcome back tourists

After a year and a half of pandemic restrictions, Cuba is lifting both quarantine and PCR testing requirements this month as it prepares for a busy schedule of flights from Canada. Cuban officials released a partial list of arrivals by Sunwing and Air Transat.

Already, a few Canadian flights have started arriving in Santa Clara and Holguin, but Havana remains off-limits until November 15. From that point on, said Cuba’s Transport Minister Eduardo Rodriguez Davila, Cuba expects over 400 flights a week.

Cuban-Canadians planning to protest here on November 15 say Canadians should stay away.

“If you put a foot in a Cuban resort, you’re going to find everything — a buffet full of nutritious food, sandy beaches,” said Kirenia Carbonell.

“But if you set foot in the average Cuban’s house, or in the local grocery store for Cubans, the disparity between those two scenarios is mind-blowing.”

Carbonell grew up without electricity in a rural area of Rafael Freyre, just 7 kilometres from the resort of Guardalavaca, Holguin. Today she’s a project manager for the Government of Canada in Gatineau, Quebec.

‘The dictatorship is going down’

She said she would prefer to see independent observers travel to the island — not sun-seekers.

“The conditions [Cubans are] living in are deplorable and it’s about time the big democracies take a stand against dictatorship and send people to witness what we are talking about,” she said.

“I want the Canadian population to know that it’s not safe to go to Cuba anymore. The march in Cuba is going to happen. From our side it’s going to be a pacific march, however, we know that the regime is not going to answer in a pacific way.

“I think there will be violence. And that is so sad.”

Dissident Rolando Remedios, out on parole after weeks in prison following the July 11 protests, said Canadians should stay away.

“Don’t come,” he told CBC News from Havana. “There is no way you can do tourism here in Cuba and not support the dictatorship.

“The dictatorship is going down. We don’t know where, when it’s going to happen, but I’m sure it will, because the system cannot be reformed at this point. The people don’t trust the political figures that hold the power right now. And on Nov 15, despite the repression, which is terrible, and all the fear that has provoked, the people will come out again.

“I’m really hopeful about what’s coming.”

https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/cuba-canadian-march-for-change-democracy-1.6238995

14ymedio, November 7, 2021

Cuba and the Protests of November 15

An image from the 11 July 2021 protests in Havana, Cuba. (Archive)

By Carlos Alberto Montaner

14ymedio, Carlos Alberto Montaner, Miami, 7 November 2021 — I have not been able to find out, for sure, why Raúl Castro authorized the appearance of Carlos Lage asking for “deep changes.” Lage is the former Cuban vice president purged a few years ago along with former Foreign Minister Felipe Pérez Roque. I have asked the experts in the Cuban nomenclature. Dr. Pedro Roig attributed it to Raúl’s arteriosclerosis and that he has never been accused of being intelligent. It was, of course, a boutade. If anyone is aware that the general doesn’t do something for nothing, it’s this historian and lawyer, former Director of Radio and TeleMartí.

The inquiry led me to another point. It was a proxy target. The real target was Miguel Díaz-Canel. The Cuban president is in trouble. The frighten him with Lage’s presence. If his repressive strategy against the kids of November 15 goes wrong, he will have to pay a high price. He is not backed by any individual or institution. The Party doesn’t want him. Neither do the generals. “The puppeteer Raúl Castro showed him that if he can make Lage reappear, he can make Miguel Díaz-Canel disappear.” It may be true, but that is evident. If Raúl asks Díaz-Canel to resign, he has to resign, even though he disguises himself as a patriot and pretends to be more communist than Lenin.

Díaz-Canel has no way to win that battle. Security can run over the young artists of “Archipiélago”, the association that called for the march. But what it would not be able to do is restore its revolutionary enthusiasm. That’s dead, kaputt, rotten. It happens as it did with the Communist Party of the USSR. They had twenty million members, but the institution was dissolved by a simple decree. It is impossible to convey emotions. Silvio Rodríguez met with Yunior García Aguilera and his wife and heard them say something that is the key to the phenomenon that is happening in Cuba: young people no longer feel part of the process, what are they waiting for? Raúl to die?

Huber Matos, Eloy Gutiérrez Menoyo, Manuel Artime, Jorge Valls, Pedro Luis Boitel, Higinio “Nino” Díaz, Payá Sardiñas, Alfredo Carrión, José Ignacio Rasco and many others died. There were thousands and they were part of the process. Opposite part, but ultimately an integral part of that process. Some died and others were killed. Cuba has the golden opportunity to find a rational solution to the current crisis. Is testicular reason going to prevail again? Will thousands of Cubans have to die when it would be possible to turn the page freely consulting the whole of Cuban society?

I continue.

“It has to do with something absolutely different – the Vatican.” Cuba has penetrated (no pun intended) Pope Francis. There are cardinals who report to Havana. The pope didn’t learn that a peaceful Cuban who prayed on his knees in the square would be expelled from the Vatican. It was an intrigue of the Cuban services in collusion with Vatican Security. The pope is surrounded. At stake is a continuation of the triangle that brought Obama to Havana – the Catholic Church, represented by Cuban Cardinal Jaime Ortega Alamino, Washington and Raúl Castro. The Cuban Church is no longer part of the equation. When Ortega Alamino died, and another Cuban cardinal was appointed, any vestige of “Raulism” disappeared in the ranks of the Cuban clergy.

The Havana regime has a huge interest in continuing the exchange and in having President Biden lift the sanctions imposed by Donald Trump. They invited Cardinal Patrick O’Malley to Cuba, despite his friendship with Xavier Suárez, former mayor of Miami and father of Francis Suárez, the current mayor of the city.

However, to hide the ultimate reason for the trip, they first took him to Dominican Republic, as if it were a regular route. O’Malley, who is no fool, knows the Cuban Security game, and knows that Obama was wrong to give so many concessions without receiving anything in return. He wouldn’t recommend anything like that to Joe Biden.

The Cuban regime is so interested in the US sanctions against the island being lifted, that it is willing to campaign to have Felix Varela declared a saint. Varela was a 19th century Cuban priest, exiled, wise and pro-independence, who was a parish priest in New York during the height of the exodus of the Catholic Irish as a result of poor potato harvests.

Raúl Castro doesn’t have the same aversion to the Catholic Church as his brother Fidel had. When his daughter Mariela asked priest Carlos Manuel de Céspedes to bless her marriage to an Italian, Raúl Castro agreed… as long as it was something public and well-known. He didn’t want it to be a secret ceremony.

Clearly, the trigger is the November 15 protest. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have complained in CubaDebate, an electronic ‘rag’ that collects the “legacy” of the Castros.

https://translatingcuba.com/cuba-and-the-protests-of-november-15/