CubaBrief: Castro dictatorship’s repressive apparatus and true nature exposed again on #15N. What’s next?

Yunior Garcia Aguilera holding a white rose looks out from his window.

No one should have been surprised by the Cuban dictatorship’s “successful” crackdown on the announced civic marches called for on November 15, 2021. The reason that the July 11th nationwide demonstrations took place was that they were spontaneous, caught the secret police, (and many activists), by surprise, and officials did not shut down the internet before Cubans across the island saw what was taking place.

The Washington Post editorial board is spot on in their November 15th editorial:

“The Cuban freedom movement did not succeed in staging the massive ‘Civic March for Change’ it had planned for Monday. Having been put on notice several weeks ago that opposition leaders wanted to take to the streets, the Havana regime of President Miguel Díaz-Canel prepared and carried out an impressively sophisticated repressive strategy.” … “Though the Cuban regime may portray the suffocation of the planned march as evidence of its strength and the freedom movement’s weakness, the opposite is true. No, its opponents were not able to carry out a more organized reprise of the sudden uprising in the streets that shook Cuba on July 11. Yet the vast, expensive mobilization the government required to prevent it showed, albeit backhandedly, that the sentiments aroused and expressed four months ago are too powerful and widespread to be contained otherwise. That is a disastrous failure for a government whose legitimacy rests on its claim to speak not only for the Cuban people but also for downtrodden masses everywhere.”

The image that captures the essence of the Cuban dictatorship was the video of officials using a Cuban flag to cover up Yunior Garcia Aguilera’s peaceful protest holding a white rose, and displaying a sign that read “my house is blockaded.” Secret police would not let him leave his home, and covered up this small gesture of defiance with the flag. Yunior García and his wife Dayana Prieto are missing and the Archipelago platform is demanding proof of life, and also denouncing the disappearance of the group’s moderator, Daniela Rojo.

Edward Pentin in his article published in the National Catholic Register on November 15, 2021 reported on expatriates protesting abroad, and repression in Cuba. Protests took place in over 120 locations around the world. The Center for a Free Cuba, the Patmos Institute, and CubaDecide organized a Prayer Walk on November 14th and a Civic Walk on November 15th. On both days we gathered at Meridian Hill Park and in both events recited Jose Marti’s poem “Cultivo una Rosa Blanca”, a prayer, and sang the lyrics of Patria y Vida. Images of the protest appeared in Telemundo’s national news broadcast.

Pentin also reported on the “Appeal to World Civic, Religious and Political Leaders to Help Peaceful Cuban Dissidents and Oppose Cuban Government Violence Targeting Them,” in which “signatories stressed that not since 1989 has the International Committee of the Red Cross been able to inspect Cuba’s prisons (this is compared with around 100 visits the ICRC made to the nearby U.S.-run Guantanamo Bay prison from 2002 to 2014).” The statement contained concrete steps to be taken by the international community including establishing an “arms embargo” on Cuba, and “suspend economic and military cooperation agreements with the Cuban dictatorship.” The objective was to stop normalizing the Castro regime, and it’s terrible record.”

However, the appeal left out a discussion on the press bureaus in Cuba, a critical element on holding Havana accountable.

The Castro regime’s repressive apparatus worked over time across Cuba to silence dissenting voices, and took action to encourage self-censorship by foreign news correspondents. Officials on November 13, 2021 revoked the credentials of all journalists working for the Spanish news agency EFE in Cuba. This was a month and a half after the accreditation of EFE’s editorial coordinator in Havana was withdrawn.

The Cuban dictatorship has a long history of targeting and expelling reporters that are too objective in their reporting, and it serves as a warning to others. The results can be seen in coverage that all too often present as fact regime claims without pushing back on falsehoods or providing critical context. On February 27, 2007 Investor’s Business Daily reported on Chicago Tribune’s Gary Marx, the BBC’s Stephen Gibbs and Cesar Gonzalez-Calero of Mexico’s El Universal being expelled from Cuba.  The Nation magazine reported on April 26, 2007 that “credentials, when they are granted, are short-term–for as little as thirty days–and the press office is constantly reviewing reporters’ stories. Most foreign correspondents I know will try to resist that kind of pressure, however, and stop short of self-censorship. They will write the story as they see it and–as Marx has done–take the consequences. But the pressure undeniably has an effect.”

Investor’s Business Daily cited an unexpelled Reuters correspondent as an example of the journalists allowed to remain: “Marc Frank wrote about Cuba’s latest failed sugar harvest, making no effort to look up why government price-setting creates the same disastrous result over and over. Like the Soviets of old, he blamed the weather. Not everything Frank does is bad, but the ex-People’s Daily World staffer states in many of his reports that Cuba’s economic problems are a byproduct of the U.S. embargo rather than the failures of socialism.”

It is no surprise that 14 years later, Marc Frank continues to work in Cuba for Reuters, but as his co-authored article demonstrates, to someone with knowledge of Cuba, he reports official claims without pushing back on their accuracy.  For example, Mr. Frank repeats the claim that ” cases of COVID-19, as well as deaths, have fallen sharply” without mentioning that “Cuba has a history of not reporting epidemics until they become obvious.” He also cites “Cuban political analyst and former diplomat Carlos Alzugaray” and his claim that the “timing of the protests – the same day tourism and schools were reopening after pandemic restrictions – touched a nerve with the government” and that “protest leaders miscalculated in the timing” without mentioning that they had initially planned to carry out the protests on November 20th, but that the Castro regime responded to the request to hold a civic march on that date by calling for nationwide military exercises on November 18, 19, and 20th. Mr. Frank fails to explain that in practice the right to peaceful assembly in Cuba by dissidents is non-existent.

Hansel E. Hernández (age 27) shot in the back by police in Cuba.

For example, on June 24, 2020 in Guanabacoa, Cuba 27 year old unarmed Black Cuban, Hansel E. Hernández was shot in the back and killed by the police. On social media demonstrations were announced for June 30 to protest Hansel Ernesto Hernández Galiano’s killing. Secret police began shutting off internet connections, cell phones and started arbitrarily detaining those that would take part in the non-violent protests. Activists who recorded or expressed over social media their intention to take part in the protest action had their homes laid siege to by state security and placed under house arrest. Seventy Cubans were targeted and officials successfully “prevented” the non-violent action.

On June 28, 2020 independent Jorge Enrique Rodríguez was arrested and charged with “Fake news” for reporting on the police killing of a black youth.  Other journalists in the lead up to the June 30th demonstrations were detained or their homes surrounded in order to stop them reporting on the killing of Hansel Ernesto Hernández Galiano and reactions to his death.

Sound familiar? It does to previous generations of Cubans. Below are some highlights of past well-known regime acts of repression, but by no means is it exhaustive.

The Padilla Affair 1971

Heberto Padilla with his wife Belkiz Cuza Malé in Cuba 1973

Heberto Juan Padilla, a Cuban poet, who like many had been an enthusiastic supporter of Fidel Castro ousting Cuban dictator Fulgencio Batista in 1959, became disillusioned when the Castro regime’s dictatorial nature became clear, and reflected it in his writings. On March 20, 1971 Heberto Padilla and Belkis Cuza Malé’s home was raided by armed state security agents at seven in the morning and they were arbitrarily detained. Belkis was held incommunicado for three days and released. Heberto was interrogated for over a month and psychologically tortured by the secret police and on April 27, 1971 taken to confess before the National Union of Writers and Artists of Cuba (Unión Nacional de Escritores y Artistas de Cuba, UNEAC) his counter-revolutionary tendencies. (More information available here.)

Government organized lynchings during Mariel 1980

Act of repudiation in Cuba in 1980

Forty one years ago, on April 15, 1980, the Mariel boatlift began and would continue over the next seven and a half months bringing over 125,000 Cubans to the United States, ending on October 31, 1980. Fidel Castro began by insulting those seeking refuge as “scum” and “worms”, and he took children and youth out of school to take part in acts of repudiation. According to Carlos Alberto Montaner, the students killed a teacher that they had discovered running away. This was the first time that acts of repudiation were seen, when Cubans who simply wanted to leave the country were brutally assaulted and forty lost their lives in lynchings. (More information here.)

Wednesday, July 13, 1994 at three in the morning three extended Cuban families set out for a better life aboard the “13 de Marzo” tugboat from Havana, Cuba and were massacred by Cuban government agents. The most extensive international report on what took place is by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and is available on-line. Fifteen years later human rights defender Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, national coordinator of the Christian Liberation Movement, reflected on what had happened:

Behind the Christ of Havana, about seven miles from the coast, “volunteers” of the Communist regime committed one of the most heinous crimes in the history of our city and of Cuba. In the morning, a group of seventy people in all, fled on a tugboat, led by the ship’s own crew; none was kidnapped, or there against their will. They came out of the mouth of the Bay of Havana. They were pursued by other similar ships. When the runaway ship and its occupants stopped to surrender, the ships that had been chasing them started ramming to sink it. Meanwhile, on the deck, women with children in their arms begging for mercy, but the answer of their captors was to project high pressure water cannons against them. Some saw their children fall overboard under the murderous jets of water amid shrieks of horror. They behaved brutally until their perverse mission was fulfilled: Sink the fleeing ship and annihilate many of its occupants. (More information here.)

25 years ago on February 24, 1996 a Cuban MiG-29UB Fulcrum and a MiG-23ML intercepted three US civilian registered Cessna 337s (N2456S, N5485S and N2506), operated by the Brothers to the Rescue while they were engaged on a humanitarian search and rescue mission over the Florida Straits for Cuban rafters in international airspace. At 3:21 pm EST the Brothers to the Rescue Cessna 337 (N2456S) was destroyed by an air-to-air missile fired by the Cuban MiG-29 military aircraft. At 3:27 pm EST the Brothers to the Rescue Cessna 337 (N5485S) was destroyed by an air-to-air missile fired by a Cuban MiG-29 military aircraft. Immediately killed were Armando Alejandre Jr.,45 years old, Carlos Alberto Costa, age 29, Mario Manuel de la Peña, age 24, and Pablo Morales, age 29. This was a premeditated act of state terrorism carried out by Havana on the orders of both Fidel and Raul Castro. The third Brothers to the Rescue Cessna 337 (N2506) was able to escape and the survivors Jose Basulto, Arnaldo Iglesias, Silvia Iriondo and Andres Iriondo were able to set the record straight on the propaganda offensive already underway from Havana to misrepresent what had happened. (More information here.)

Cuba’s black spring began on March 18, 2003, the massive roundup of dissidents by the Castro regime’s secret police. Their “crimes”? Some had organized a petition drive, legally recognized within the existing constitution; others were independent journalists or human rights activists. Over a 100 were rounded up but 75 would be subjected to political show trials and sentenced to lengthy prison terms ranging up to 28 years in prison. Amnesty International recognized them all as prisoners of conscience. The Cuban dictatorship thought it had crushed the Cuban democratic opposition, but they were wrong. In the midst of the crackdown emerged a new and formidable force: The Ladies in White. The mothers, wives, sisters, and daughters of the 74 men imprisoned organized into this movement that began to march through the streets of Cuba following mass on Sundays, organizing literary teas, and strategizing how to nonviolently free their loved ones. One woman was condemned to prison in the 2003 Black Spring and she was sentenced to 20 years. (More information here.)

On February 23, 2010 Cuban prisoner of conscience Orlando Zapata Tamayo died after years of physical and psychological torture that began in 2003 that drove him to repeatedly protest prison conditions and beginning on December 3, 2009 to undertake a water only hunger strike that ended in his death. Aggravating this already extreme situation, was that prison officials repeatedly denied him water in an effort to get him to end the strike. Amnesty International condemned the death at the time and urged Raúl Castro “to immediately and unconditionally release all prisoners of conscience after a political activist died following a hunger strike.” Eleven years later and the prisoners of conscience are still there, and the International Red Cross has not had access to Cuban prisons. (More information here.)

Ten years ago on October 14, 2011, Cuban opposition and human rights defender Laura Pollán died under circumstances that Dr. Oscar Elias Biscet described as “death by purposeful medical neglect.” Laura Inés Pollán Toledo, spoke truth to power and protested in the streets of Cuba demanding an amnesty for Cuban political prisoners. She had been a school teacher, before her husband was jailed for his independent journalism in 2003. Laura was greatly admired both inside and outside of Cuba. However when one opposes the regime in Cuba not only is their physical life in danger, but their reputation is systematically slandered. The dictatorship claimed that she was a stateless “traitor.” She became ill and died within the space of a week under circumstances that raised questions of foul play by Havana. Laura Pollán became a dissident when her husband was imprisoned during the Black Cuban Spring of 2003 along with more than 75 other activists and civil society members. She was one of the founders of the Ladies in White and challenged the Castro regime in the streets of Cuba. Laura Pollan directly and nonviolently challenged the regime declaring, “we will never give up our protest. The authorities have three options — free our husbands, imprison us or kill us.” ( More information here.)

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas founded the Christian Liberation Movement on September 8, 1988. He Announced his intention to run for office in 1992 as an independent candidate to the National Assembly exercising his legal rights. Two days prior to the meeting to accept applications he was arrested at home and publicly paraded through the neighborhood to intimidate his neighbors. Communist party members threaten him that “blood will flow if he presents [his candidacy] at the meeting.” On January 22, 1998 the Christian Liberation Movement made public the Varela Project and began gathering signatures for a referendum to reform Cuban laws and bring it in line with fundamental human rights norms. On May 10, 2002 members of the coalition led by Oswaldo presented 11,020 confirmed signatures to the National Assembly in accordance with the 1992 Cuban Constitution. Officials ignored their own fundamental laws and launched a petition drive to make the “socialist” nature of the constitution untouchable. This led to an outpouring of international support for Oswaldo and the Varela Project. Oswaldo Payá was awarded the European Union’s Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought in 2002 Most petition organizers were arrested during the March 2003 Black Spring (mentioned above). Seven months after the massive crackdown on October 3, 2003 Oswaldo personally delivered an additional 14,000 Varela Project signatures. He carried out other important projects over the next nine years. Months before his untimely death together with the Movement’s youth leader Harold Cepero on July 22, 2012, Oswaldo Payá, was denouncing fraudulent change in Cuba. The Human Rights Foundation (HRF) published a legal report highlighting inaccuracies and inconsistencies of the official government investigation following Payá’s and Cepero’s deaths in 2012. HRF documented numerous due process violations, including damning witness accounts, a grossly inadequate autopsy examination, and other key pieces of evidence that were overlooked by the Cuban judicial system. HRF’s report concludes that the “evidence, which was deliberately ignored, strongly suggests that the events of July 22, 2012 were not an accident, but instead the result of a car crash directly caused by agents of the state.” ( More information here)

Opposition activist and Cuban political prisoner Pablo Moya Delá died on August 26, 2021 at the Clinical Surgical Hospital in Santiago de Cuba at age 65. He had been jailed on October 23, 2020 for protesting socioeconomic conditions and overall repression. He was then taken to the Eleventh Police Station in San Miguel Padrón, Havana. He was later transferred to Santiago de Cuba as an “illegal” — that is, lacking the residency papers required to live in Havana — where he was held in La Territorial police station, in the Palma Soriano municipality until October 19, 2020. He was then shipped to Aguadores prison and on December 22, 2020 transferred to the maximum security prison Boniato. In late March 2021 he was diagnosed with COVID-19, acquired while incarcerated, but despite his age survived the deadly illness. Beaten, mistreated for months, weakened following a hunger strike and released on probation, after destroying his health, earlier in August 2021 near death.( More information here.)

What is next?

Inside of Cuba, opposition activists across the political spectrum will continue their efforts, and people of good will should support them and amplify their voices.

Cubans on the island are forming a new political culture that places Castroism on the ash heap of history. It is a nonviolent movement that recognizes that change must first come from within each person. In the San Isidro Movement one finds an appeal to civility. The Institute for Civility in Government offers the following definition: ““Civility is claiming and caring for one’s identity, needs and beliefs without degrading someone else’s in the process.” This is the antithesis of Castroism that seeks to tear down and silence other voices, and other views. This practiced civility was a prelude to taking effective civic mass action. We saw it not only among Cuban dissidents in the island, but also in many of the protests around the world.

However, civility does not mean accepting the rewriting of history or tolerating continuing or new atrocities committed by the unrepentant dictatorship that exists in Cuba. Because to forgive ongoing and future evils raises the danger of one becoming morally complicit in them.  Defending memory by pursuing truth and maintaining the call for justice is an ever present opportunity for the other to repent and embrace justice and actual forgiveness. The antithesis of this is “forgiving and forgetting” while injustices are ongoing  and new ones being compounded not only harms the victims but also condemns the perpetrator to continue committing evil acts and is described as a “false reconciliation.”   It is preaching forgiveness without repentance which the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer described as “cheap grace.” Forgetting the past and the truths that it holds is a threat to freedom.

In the Cuban diaspora there is much  more work to do to provide the facts of what this dictatorship has done over the past 62 years, and pass it on to new generations. This work is ongoing with books, documentaries, and museums, but more needs to be done. Since July 11th I met too many young people in protests for a free Cuba that did not know key moments in recent Cuban history. We owe it to them to change that.

The other critical area to address are the hundreds of political prisoners in the island. They and their families need to know that they are not alone, and that there are campaigns underway for their release. This work is also ongoing, but more can be done and needs to be done. 

Reuters, November 15, 2021

With Cuban Dissidents Wary or in Jail, Call for Fresh Protests Falls Flat

By Reuters

By Marc Frank and Nelson Acosta

HAVANA (Reuters) -A rallying cry for protests in Cuba in favor of greater civil rights fell flat on Monday as most Cuban dissidents stayed home in the face of government pressure, appearing to end a standoff on the same day the Caribbean island reopened its borders to tourists.

Dissidents have for months called on social media for a “Civic March for Change” following street protests in July, the largest on the island in decades. Hundreds remain in jail following those rallies, according to rights groups.

Cuba’s communist government banned Monday’s planned demonstrations, saying they were part of a destabilization campaign by the United States, which maintains a Cold War-era embargo on Cuba. U.S. officials have denied that.

Dissidents on social media called on supporters to launch protests at 3 p.m. (2000 GMT) in 10 cities across Cuba, from the capital Havana to Pinar del Rio and Guantanamo.

More than three hours later, there was little sign of organized protests, though dissidents on social media shared videos of individuals or small groups who were quickly shouted down by pro-government supporters.

In Havana, plain-clothed and uniformed police were visible at gathering points throughout the city. Streets appeared quieter than normal as some parents kept their children home from school.

“I decided to keep my 6-year-old home from his first day at school because I was worried that something might happen,” state worker Jennifer Puyol Vendesia said.

Demonstrations planned on Sunday by a Facebook group called Archipielago, which has led the call for protests, also fizzled out.

The timing of the protests – the same day tourism and schools were reopening after pandemic restrictions – touched a nerve with the government, according to Cuban political analyst and former diplomat Carlos Alzugaray. He said protest leaders miscalculated in the timing.

“I think Archipelago chose the wrong day,” Alzugaray told Reuters. “People are concerned about the reopening of the economy and the return to normalcy.”

Officials at Havana’s international airport said they expected incoming flights to more than triple this week, from around 51 to 170, as tourists arrive to enjoy the island’s white sand beaches and warm waters.

Cuba has vaccinated nearly its entire population against the coronavirus with its own domestically developed vaccines and says cases of COVID-19, as well as deaths, have fallen sharply, allowing it to re-open its borders to tourism, officials said.

‘PEOPLE ARE SCARED’

Eunice Pulles, dressed in a white shirt on a Havana street to show her support for the dissident movement, said she thought most government opponents were too intimidated to answer the protest call.

“There will be no protests because the people are scared that we will be repressed,” she said.

State security and groups of pro-government supporters had staked out the homes of high-profile dissidents, according to rights groups and reports on social media.

Government supporters on Sunday surrounded the home in Havana of Yunior Garcia, a playwright and Archipielago leader. That prevented him from marching alone, as he had planned, to draw support for peaceful demonstrations.

Neither Garcia nor his wife answered their phones on Monday, and fellow dissidents said on social media they had not heard from him by mid-afternoon, just prior to the start time of the protests.

On Monday morning, Saily Gonzalez, another Archipielago leader, posted on Facebook a video that appeared to show government supporters gathering outside her Santa Clara home.

In the video, the group, some dressed in red in support of the government, called her a traitor and warned her against marching. Gonzalez yelled back, telling them she would march despite their threats.

Several others posted videos of similar scenarios at their homes.

The government has not commented on those incidents. It says the protests violate Cuba’s 2019 constitution and has for weeks warned against participation in the protests.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday condemned “intimidation tactics” by Cuba’s government ahead of the planned march and vowed Washington would seek “accountability” for the crackdown.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez responded on Twitter, telling the United States to stay out of Cuban affairs.

On Monday, Rodriguez said in a televised statement the Cuban people had opted to sit out the protests, despite U.S. officials goading Cubans “to do something that they do not want to do.”

“One can see on our streets… that none of that has occurred,” Rodriguez said.

(Reporting by Marc Frank and Nelson Acosta in Havana, editing by Dave Sherwood and Rosalba O’Brien)

Copyright 2021 Thomson Reuters.

https://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2021-11-15/cuba-reopens-doors-to-tourism-as-threat-of-protests-looms

The Washington Post, November 15, 2021

The Post’s View

Opinion: By suppressing protest, Cuba’s government displays its fear of the people

By Editorial Board

The Cuban freedom movement did not succeed in staging the massive “Civic March for Change” it had planned for Monday. Having been put on notice several weeks ago that opposition leaders wanted to take to the streets, the Havana regime of President Miguel Díaz-Canel prepared and carried out an impressively sophisticated repressive strategy. Over the weekend and on Monday, plainclothes government agents and uniformed security forces alike flooded parks and sidewalks across the island. Police parked their cars outside the homes of known dissidents. Hostile crowds gathered “spontaneously” to trap them inside, shouting insults.

Surely one of the more poignant images to emerge from these events was that of the proposed march’s best-known organizer, 39-year-old playwright Yunior García Aguilera, peering through the window of his besieged Havana apartment, a white rose in his hand. This was the flower with which he had planned to march, alone if necessary, through the streets of Cuba’s capital on Sunday, in lieu of what had become the impossible task of going out the following day. Mr. Garcia displayed it as a gesture of defiance — and of peace. The allusion is to a famous poem in which José Marti, Cuba’s literary and political national hero, metaphorically offers such a flower both to a friend and a “cruel” tormentor.

Though the Cuban regime may portray the suffocation of the planned march as evidence of its strength and the freedom movement’s weakness, the opposite is true. No, its opponents were not able to carry out a more organized reprise of the sudden uprising in the streets that shook Cuba on July 11. Yet the vast, expensive mobilization the government required to prevent it showed, albeit backhandedly, that the sentiments aroused and expressed four months ago are too powerful and widespread to be contained otherwise. That is a disastrous failure for a government whose legitimacy rests on its claim to speak not only for the Cuban people but also for downtrodden masses everywhere.

Following the July 11 uprising, Havana sought to appease the increasingly restive public through minor reforms, such as greater latitude for small private businesses and tweaks to the legal provisions that allowed it to hold dissenters without charges. At its heart, though, the one-party state remained intact: The planning for Monday showed most Cubans were not deceived. Certainly a confident government, based securely in the support of its people, would not have behaved as the Cuban regime did this week. Yoani Sánchez, a dissident journalist, put it well on her morning podcast: “Fear has switched sides” in Cuba, she said. Before July 11, the people feared the government. Since that date, the government has feared the people. And Nov. 15 will be remembered as a date that confirmed its fear is great indeed.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/11/15/by-suppressing-protest-cubas-government-displays-its-fear-people/

National Catholic Register, November 15, 2021

Cuban Expatriates Worldwide Join Protests Against Cuba’s Oppressive Regime

‘My people are being killed by communism and the violence that goes with it,’ a Cuban participant in a demonstration in Rome told the Register.

By Edward Pentin

World November 15, 2021

Protesters in Rome joined thousands of others in 120 other cities around the world Nov. 15 to demonstrate against human-rights abuses and government repression in Cuba. (photo: Edward Pentin)

ROME — A group of protesters in Rome joined thousands of others in 120 other cities around the world to demonstrate today against human-rights abuses and government repression in Cuba. 

The Cuban expatriates, who gathered in Piazza Albania in central Rome, were protesting in solidarity with a “Cuban Civil Society March” taking place the afternoon of Nov. 15 in the communist-run island-nation. 

The march in Cuba was organized by a group called Archipelago, a peaceful pro-democracy group made up of Cuban citizens. The protesters created a website in English documenting with videos the various acts of repression carried out recently by the Cuban regime. 

“We’re here to protest against the Castro family,” said Ariel, a Cuban native who has lived in Italy for 16 years. “Cuba is poor, very poor, and in the past year, it has gotten worse,” he added. “The government decides everything for us.” 

“My people are being killed by communism and the violence that goes with it,” said Kenia, also a Cuban expatriate living in Rome. “We’re making this peaceful demonstration for everyone in Cuba because it’s not really possible to protest and call for freedom there.” 

To coincide with the protests, a group of human-rights defenders signed a statement Nov. 13 calling on the international community to condemn the Cuban government’s attempt “to repress and oppress” civil society and undermine democracy. 

Entitled an “Appeal to World Civic, Religious and Political Leaders to Help Peaceful Cuban Dissidents and Oppose Cuban Government Violence Targeting Them,” the signatories stressed that not since 1989 has the International Committee of the Red Cross been able to inspect Cuba’s prisons (this is compared with around 100 visits the ICRC made to the nearby U.S.-run Guantanamo Bay prison from 2002 to 2014).

The signatories, who included religious leaders, writers, artists, businessmen and former diplomats, noted a “worsening period” of violent repression, including that of Father José Castor Alvarez Devesa, a Cuban Catholic priest who was beaten at a July 11 protest, detained by regime officials, and only released after his case drew international media attention. 

Appeals Ignored

Despite the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights writing to the Cuban government expressing concern on July 16 over arrests of large numbers of people, including several journalists, and appealing for dialogue, the government’s response has been to “worsen the conditions of prisoners,” the signatories added. 

“Over 5,000 Cubans were detained during and after the July 11 protests,” they explained. “Only 1,227 detained Cubans, related to the protests that began on July 11th, have been identified. The majority remain jailed with trials underway that fall far short of international norms; for example, peaceful protesters are being given prison terms in excess of 20 years for taking part in the demonstrations.” 

The signatories issued a list of demands on the Cuban dictatorship that included the immediate release of all political prisoners, allow the ICRC to access Cuba’s prisons, and eliminate restrictions on distribution of humanitarian aid. They called on the international community to “denounce the crackdown of pro-democracy activists,” establish an “arms embargo” of the country, and “suspend economic and military cooperation agreements with the Cuban dictatorship.” 

“We put out this appeal hoping it will open the eyes of the international community to stop normalizing the Castro regime, which has a terrible record,” John Suarez, executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba, told the Register. 

Although Raul Castro, the brother of Fidel, was succeeded by President Miguel Díaz-Canel in 2019, many Cubans say the Castro family continues to wield power over the nation, which remains steadfastly communist. 

Suarez’s organization co-organized a “Prayer Walk for Cuba” on Nov. 14 that finished at the Cuban Embassy in Washington, D.C. They then organized a second, civic walk on Monday afternoon that also ended at the embassy, where the participants called for an end to the violence in Cuba and read the names of political prisoners and martyrs of the dictatorship. 

In the lead-up to the Nov. 15 protests, Cuban authorities “repeatedly and arbitrarily” detained organizers for short periods of time and threatened that if they proceeded with the civic march, legal action would be taken, according to the statement. 

A pro-democracy Cuban site, DDC, reported Nov. 14 that Santiago de Cuba, the nation’s second-largest city after Havana, was “besieged” on Sunday by “snitches and paramilitary commandos,” adding that troops stood “ready to repress those who protest hunger, shortages and blackouts.” 

It also reported that “interrogations, layoffs, persecutions, media lynchings, repudiation rallies, warning letters, fines, cancellation of internet accounts, telephone harassment, confiscation of mobile phones and threats of physical violence” took place preceding Monday’s march.

The Church’s Response

Last week, Cuba’s bishops called for the dignity of the nation’s citizens to be respected, adding that 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.” 

In a statement issued after their plenary meeting, they also noted “an increasing urgency for the involvement of Cubans in a national project that involves and motivates everyone; that takes into account the differences, without exclusion or marginalization.” And they called for those imprisoned following the protests over the summer to be freed and no effort spared “to pave the way for understanding, reconciliation and to peace.” 

The Catholic Church has been “courageous,” Suarez said, and he welcomed the bishops’ statement. “We’re calling on Catholic bishops around the world to join their Cuban counterparts.” 

Pope Francis called for “peace, dialogue and solidarity” at the end of his Angelus address on July 18, at the height of the protests over the summer, but his appeals have otherwise been muted, causing some disappointment. 

Ariel and many other Cubans were also disillusioned when they tried to enter St. Peter’s Square on Oct. 24 for the Pope’s Angelus address that day but were stopped by Vatican police on the grounds that political demonstrations were not permitted in the square. They contrasted their denied entry with the July 18 Angelus, when many of them were allowed in with flags and banners.

Kenia was happy that Cuba’s bishops were supporting their protest. “I’m very happy about this,” she told the Register, and she said she was not concerned by what happened in the square. 

“It was no problem they stopped us,” she said. “I love God, and I know God is with every Cuban and every person.” 

Edward Pentin Edward Pentin began reporting on the Pope and the Vatican with Vatican Radio before moving on to become the Rome correspondent for EWTN’s National Catholic Register. He has also reported on the Holy See and the Catholic Church for a number of other publications including Newsweek, Newsmax, Zenit, The Catholic Herald, and The Holy Land Review, a Franciscan publication specializing in the Church and the Middle East. Edward is the author of The Next Pope: The Leading Cardinal Candidates (Sophia Institute Press, 2020) and The Rigging of a Vatican Synod? An Investigation into Alleged Manipulation at the Extraordinary Synod on the Family (Ignatius Press, 2015). Follow him on Twitter at @edwardpentin.

https://www.ncregister.com/news/cuban-expatriates-worldwide-join-protests-against-cuba-s-oppressive-regime

Deutsche Welle, November 14, 2021

Cuba revokes Spain’s EFE news agency credentials

The move comes ahead of planned anti-government demonstrations by the opposition calling for the release of political prisoners.

Cuban authorities on Saturday revoked the credentials of journalists working for the Spanish news agency EFE, its local editor-in-chief said.  

Atahualpa Amerise, head of EFE’s Cuba bureau, said authorities didn’t provide “the exact reason” why they would be barred from reporting.

“When we asked why, they pointed to the regulations on foreign press,” Amerise said. “They haven’t told us whether it’s temporary or permanent,” he added.

Amerise said it was the first time such an order had been given to a foreign press office in Cuba.

It is reportedly not clear whether the ban is temporary or permanent.

Two journalists were able to get their accreditations back following negotiations, Amerise said.

The decision to revoke the journalists’ credentials comes a month and a half after the accreditation of EFE’s editorial coordinator in Havana was withdrawn.

EFE’s local bureau has three editors, a photographer and a videographer.

The president of EFE, Gabriela Canas, said she hoped that the Cuban government would “reconsider” returning the press accreditations.

“EFE is an objective and responsible media [entity] that has been reporting on the island for more than 40 years and does not understand the reasons for this measure,” Canas wrote on Twitter.

Spain summons Cuba’s top Madrid official

The Spanish Foreign Ministry on Sunday said it was contacting their Cuban charge d’affaires to demand an explanation for Havana taking the action.

In addition, the Spanish embassy in Havana was said to be working with the Cuban authorities for the return of the journalists’ credentials.

The European Union and Amnesty International also criticized the move by Cuba. 

The EU called on Havana to ensure freedom of speech and freedom of the press, and to restore all authorizations and credentials to EFE, a spokesperson said in Brussels on Sunday evening.

“Foreign correspondents play an important role in promoting international understanding and contributing to the openness of societies,” the EU statement added.

Cuba protests over political prisoners

Planned anti-government demonstrations by the opposition are due on Monday.

The protests are aimed at putting pressure on the government to release political prisoners.

Cuban officials, however, deny the existence of political prisoners in the country. They consider the opposition illegitimate and allege it is financed by the United States.

The rallies are planned to take place on the same day Cuba, hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic and the US embargo, reopens its borders to international visitors.

In July, unprecedented street protests rocked Cuba as people took the streets shouting “freedom” and “we are hungry.”

The protests left one person dead, dozens of injured and 1,175 arrested. Half are still in jail, says the human rights group Cubalex.

sri/fb (AFP, EFE, Reuters)

https://www.dw.com/en/cuba-revokes-spains-efe-news-agency-credentials/a-59812970

From the Archives

Investor’s Business Daily
February 27, 2007

Cuba Expels The Wrong Marx

Media: Cuba’s expulsion of three journalists was a minor story, but shouldn’t be. Not only does it show Cuba’s growing fear of the spotlight, it raises questions about why others are still there.

It’s no coincidence the same Western journalists who tell us all’s well in Cuba — nothing here but vintage cars and mojitos — were not among those asked to go. In fact, their reporting has little in common with that of the Chicago Tribune’s Gary Marx, the BBC’s Stephen Gibbs or Cesar Gonzalez-Calero of Mexico’s El Universal.

Under intolerable conditions — spied on by secret police, sources harassed by government goons — these three managed to paint a credible picture of Cuba. That’s important because big changes are coming with the demise of the Castro regime, and it might not be a Velvet Revolution.

Cuba’s military is restless, Florida civil authorities are making contingency plans for a freedom flotilla, and Hugo Chavez’s potential role will be unknown. But at least we could grasp underlying conditions from the journalists whose visas the regime refused to renew.

Marx (Gary, that is) wrote of the disillusionment of Cuba’s youth with communism, fakery at Castro’s military parades and how the Cuban black market works.

Gonzalez-Calero chronicled long lines, lousy train rides and savings devaluations. He also asked the key question of who was running Cuba and highlighted the fact that the Cuban government had no intention of telling.

Gibb reported on Cuba’s social disintegration, including AIDS camps and strange traffic like husband-selling.

All of it was valuable. In the Internet Age it’s not complicated to see why — it was verifiable. Marx’s, Gonzalez-Calero’s and Gibbs’ accounts tended to match those of ordinary Cubans who escaped Castro’s island prison to freedom and who can now speak freely — like the 23 Cubans who just made it to Key West on Tuesday after multiple attempts. Their reporting matched exile news services like CubaNet.com, as well as the exile photographs seen on Web sites like TheRealCuba.com. It also matched the scholarly research like that found at the University of Miami’s Cuba Transition Project.

What it didn’t match was the tripe put out by Cuba’s state press, touting the “achievements” of communism. Cuban authorities told Marx his work was “negative.” Gonzalez-Calero was thrown out for “reporting in a way that does not comport with the Cuban government.”

If professional standards mean anything to the mainstream media, getting expelled for that reason is a badge of honor.

Which brings up why remaining correspondents inside Cuba aren’t red-faced about not being thrown out.

As with the CNN correspondents who admitted they slanted prewar Iraq coverage to avoid getting their visas revoked by Saddam Hussein, one sees some of this very behavior in the Cuban correspondents and one wonders what the value of such cowardice is. It’s a problem for anyone covering a totalitarian regime. But few reporters excused Hussein’s regime the way some do Cuba’s.

Earlier this week, unexpelled Reuters correspondent Marc Frank wrote about Cuba’s latest failed sugar harvest, making no effort to look up why government price-setting creates the same disastrous result over and over. Like the Soviets of old, he blamed the weather.

Not everything Frank does is bad, but the ex-People’s Daily World staffer states in many of his reports that Cuba’s economic problems are a byproduct of the U.S. embargo rather than the failures of socialism.

Not to be outdone, Anita Snow of the Associated Press is the go-to person for every Western fringe leftist visiting Cuba and parroting Castro’s priorities.

Journalists who fail to pass along the realities of a dictatorship are not only doing their readers a disservice. They’re also being foolish. One day the Castro regime will fall, and when the Cuban secret police files are opened, there could be a reckoning of what the truth of this regime and their role in its enablement really was.

http://www.latinamericanstudies.org/cuba/gary-marx.htm