CubaBrief: Cubans demonstrate the power of nonviolence while the Castro regime’s show of force indicates to MSNBC reporter that they fear their own people

The Castro dictatorship has six decades of expertise in warfare, torture, and terrorism having carried out genocide in Ethiopia, purges in Angola, torturing Venezuelans and Nicaraguans, and training terrorists around the world for over six decades. However, it does not have the same expertise in shutting down nonviolent movements, and applying violent repression against nonviolent activists is backfiring.

Cuban officials provide clubs to supporters to intimidate and attack non-violent dissidents

Peaceful assembly and association are examples of exercising a nonviolent action. According to the Albert Einstein Institution “nonviolent action is a technique of sociopolitical action for applying power in a conflict without the use of physical violence.” Dictators, including the ones in Cuba, point to the Albert Einstein Institution, and the writings of Gene Sharp, and claim that non-violent action automatically equates to regime change, but that is not true. It is the exercise of power, but to what end depends on those exercising it.

Unlike many in the opposition, the Archipelago leadership is opposed to economic sanctions, and has called for a civic march on November 15, 2021 to exercise the right to peacefully assemble, which is also found in the 2019 Cuban Constitution, and to advocate for freeing those still detained from the July 11th protests. They are not calling for regime change, but seeking redress within the existing system within the existing laws.

It is the dictatorship that has sought to portray them as agents of regime change attempting to destabilize the existing regime, funded by foreign powers, which they categorically deny.

The irony is that it is the Castro regime that is generating the destabilization of their own regime, and projecting an image that they fear their own populace. MSNBC has called them out on it.

First by preferring a propaganda victory with homegrown vaccines instead of quickly providing vaccines from other countries to save lives in Cuba. Now they are claiming that the United States offered a million vaccines, but that it was too late, and had too many strings attached (i.e. monitoring implementation of vaccine delivery). They have yet to explain why they did not opt for the Russian vaccine, or waited until August 2021 for the Chinese COVID-19 vaccine when other countries in Latin America received shipments in January and February 2021.

Second, attacking with clubs, and opening fire on peaceful protesters, during the nationwide demonstrations on July 11, 2021 and the appearance of President Diaz-Canel on television calling communists to combat their countrymen in the streets.

Militarily mobilizing against Cuban dissidents, organizing civic marches on November 15th to lay white roses at monuments of Cuban patriots, and distributing images of regime supporters with clubs and AK-47s to intimidate demonstrators. These actions are exposing the true nature of the existing regime.

This has led Cuban priests and bishops to release letters urging that the Cuban government not engage in violence against the Cuban people.

It has led to artists from around the world that had planned to attend the 14th Havana Biennial to cancel their attendance. Cuban artists and activists have been making an impassioned call for a boycott of the regime-backed event. Several prominent artists have pulled out of the biennial, and boycott organizers have posted their names and profiles on social media with the hashtag #noalabienaldelahabana.

Agenzia Fides, November 12, 2021

AMERICA/CUBA – The Bishops: “increasingly urge the involvement of Cubans in a nation project that involves and motivates everyone, without exclusions or marginalization”

Havana (Agenzia Fides) – Faced with the climate of tension and confrontation that has been increasing in recent times, the Cuban bishops express some “considerations that spring from our hearts as Cubans and pastors of the People of God”. In their message at the end of the plenary assembly of the Cuban Bishops’ Conference, the bishops first of all reiterate: “Every person deserves esteem and recognition of their dignity, for their condition as a human being and a child of God, for being a free citizen, subject to rights and duties. Consequently, every Cuban should be able to express and share freely and with respect, his personal opinions, his thoughts or his convictions, even when he disagrees with the majority”. They therefore consider that “any act of violence, whether physical, verbal or psychological, seriously injures the soul of the Cuban nation and contributes even more to the pain, suffering and sadness of our families”. In this way it is not possible to build a future of hope, moreover “violence contradicts the will of God”.

In their message, the Bishops of the island affirm that they believe that “there is an increasing urgency for the involvement of Cubans in a national project that involves and motivates everyone; that takes into account the differences, without exclusions or marginalizations”.

In addition, they consider it necessary “to implement mechanisms where, without fear of intimidation and reprisals, everyone can be heard and dissatisfaction is channeled in the face of the harsh daily realities that overwhelm so many, especially the most impoverished and vulnerable.” So they insist: “It is essential to implement the necessary changes, so long desired, that favor a dignified and happy life for all children, here, in this land of ours”. Finally, they invoke an act of indulgence, which would alleviate social tension, for those still in prison since last summer (see Fides 19/7/2021) and urge everyone not to spare their efforts “to pave the way for understanding, reconciliation and to peace” in order to find the best solutions to the problems that concern us.

From November, 8 to 11, the Catholic Bishops of Cuba held their 158th Plenary Assembly, during which they also elected the members of the Presidency and the Standing Committee of the Episcopal Conference, and of some Commissions. Mgr. Emilio Aranguren Echeverría, Bishop of Holguín was elected President; Vice-president: Mgr. Arturo González Amador, Bishop of Santa Clara; General Secretary: Mgr. Juan de Dios Hernández Ruiz s.j., Bishop of Pinar del Río. The Bishops exchanged ideas and experiences with the outgoing and incoming Director of Caritas Cuba, underlining the work of Caritas during the period of the pandemic, the present and the future. Among the other issues that the Bishops addressed, in addition to the analysis of the social situation, include the beginning of the synodal process in the dioceses, the renewal and / or updating of the Department of Pastoral Coordination, the participation of the Cuban Church in the Continental Ecclesial Assembly, the current state of ecumenism in Cuba, the preliminary draft of the Family Code. (SL) (Agenzia Fides, 12/11/2021)

Catholic News Agency, November 12, 2021

Cuba: Priests Urge Authorities Not To Repress Planned Protests

By Diego Lopez Marina

A group of Cuban priests signed a letter addressed to the Cuban authorities Wednesday urging them not to use violence against marches protesting the island’s communist government planned for Nov. 15.

“We don’t want to see police beating and mistreating their own people again. We don’t want blood spilled again, we don’t want to hear gunshots again. No, because that’s not the way that will take us to the Cuba that we need and that we all want,” the priests said in their Nov. 10 letter posted on Facebook.

“Those of us who signed this letter are Cubans, Catholic priests called to be shepherds of our people, we want only the good of our country, we want a Cuba where justice, freedom and peace reign,” they said.

“While it’s true that no Cuban should raise his hand against his compatriot for the mere fact of thinking differently, much less the police who by vocation have the duty to set an example of good citizenship to the entire population, who exist to take care of citizens and protect public order.”

“Don’t hit the protesters because both you and they live amid so much scarcity and misery. Don’t slander them as mercenaries, because both you and they have fathers, mothers, friends, acquaintances, who gave everything for an ideal and who today have nothing. Don’t stop them from marching peacefully because both you and they want to live without fear of speaking your mind, without fear of being watched,” they wrote.

A “Civic March for Change” has been announced for Nov. 15, a peaceful demonstration in several cities of Cuba that seeks to repeat the protests which took place across Cuba July 11-12.

The marches are a grassroots movement not promoted by any particular group or organization on the island.

The priests who signed the letter, some of whom are in Cuba, are Alberto Martín Sánchez, Castor Álvarez Devesa, Alberto Reyes Pías, Rolando Montes de Oca Valero, Lester Zayas Díaz, Jorge Luis Pérez Soto, Jorge Luis Gil Orta, Fernando Gálvez Luis, Kenny Fernández Delgado, Ramón Rivas, Danny Roque Gavilla, José Conrado Rodríguez Alegre and Deacon Maybgl Gómez Hernández.

Bishop Manuel Aurelio Cruz, an Auxiliary Bishop of Newark, also signed the letter. A Cuba native, Bishop Cruz fled the country for the US as a child with his parents in 1966.

Communist rule in Cuba was established soon after the conclusion of the Cuban Revolution in 1959, which ousted the authoritarian ruler Fulgencio Batista.

ARTnews, November 12, 2021

Cuban Artists, Activists Boycott Havana Biennial, Leading Participants to Drop Out

By Tessa Solomon

A crowd at the anti-government protests in Havana, Cuba

Ahead of the opening of this year’s Havana Biennial, Cuban artists and activists are sounding an impassioned call for a boycott of the government-backed exhibition. Ahead of the show’s opening on November 21, several artists have pulled out of the biennial.

Over the past year, the Cuban government has clamped down on artists and writers, with several outspoken critics of the government imprisoned or deported. This July, thousands of Cubans flooded the streets in Havana, in one of the largest protests the island had experienced since 1959. Shortly afterward, state authorities passed a new decree limiting the use of social media. Internet providers were ordered to cease access to any users accused of supporting the peaceful protests.

That same month, it was announced the Havana Biennial’s 14th edition would be going ahead as planned (under the title “Future and Contemporaneity”)causing cultural leaders to demand the event’s cancellation.

“The institutions and functionaries that organize the 14th Havana Biennial are the same ones that have refused to listen to us,” reads an open letter released in October. “They have condoned and participated in the violence perpetrated against Cuban cultural workers who seek greater autonomy for Cuban culture and civil rights for our citizenry. The problems we face cannot be reduced to an isolated case of censorship. We are contending with a systemic effort by the Cuban government to silence those who think differently. The lives of people in the cultural field are at risk.”

The letter was signed by hundreds of cultural workers from around the world, including artists Teresita Fernandez, Walid Raad, Coco Fusco, and Tania Bruguera. Bruguera, who has been arrested on multiple occasion this year for protesting Cuba’s censorship laws, has been a vocal proponent of the boycott campaign that is spreading across social media under #NoALaBienalDeLaHabana.

Artists Julie Mehretu, Theaster Gates, and Marina Abramović, as well as curator Hans Ulrich Obrist, are among the high-profile figures to publicly lend their support to the campaign.

Several participants have since pulled out of the exhibition. On Instagram, Bruguera said that artists Yazmany Arboleda, Abel Azcona, and Joiri Minaya would no longer show their work at the biennial. Curators Nicolas Bourriaud and Ursula Biemann also declined to participate in related events, according to Bruguera.

“I have concluded that it is difficult, contradictory, even hypocritical, to be part of an event organized by a regime that violates the freedoms of dissident artist; that tortures, imprisons, and deports artists for doing their work or expressing their opinions,” Minaya, a Dominican American multidisciplinary artist, wrote in a statement.

A representative for the Havana Biennial did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The 2018 edition of the biennial faced similar protests. An open letter signed by Bruguera, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, and Yanelys Nuñez Leyva—the organizers of Havana’s alternative #00Bienal—was sent to all artists invited to participate in the exhibition. The signatories called for movement against Decree 349, a censorship law first passed by Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel that year that allows the country’s government to control what kinds of art can be shown and sold. The law also criminalized independent cultural activity. In a statement, Amnesty International called the legislation “dystopian,” and said, “Instead of consolidating their control over artists perceived to overstep state-sanctioned criticism, the Cuban authorities should be making progressive changes to protect human rights.”