CubaBrief: Day three of protests in Cuba. Bat wielding govt agents attack protesters. WSJ reports Castro regime asks for help from U.S.

Cubans are out again protesting tonight, despite the internet being shut down by the dictatorship the past two nights across the island while regime agents were mobilized in large numbers, and cracked down on demonstrators. Human rights organizations are trying to compile lists of those arrested or disappeared.

Yes, Cubans are protesting the incompetence of the regime. They are protesting the failure to maintain the infrastructure, and provide proper maintenance to the electrical grid. However, they are also calling for an end to the dictatorship and for freedom.

Cuban independent journalist Yoani Sánchez, known for her blog Generation Y,and news outfit 14ymedio described the scene in the island.

“To the cry of Freedom! and Turn On The power! People came out in the Playa municipality and other areas of the Cuban capital. We are still without electricity, and it will soon be 100 hours without power. Our building smells rotten, from the food that was spoiled without refrigeration, from the garbage that older people on the highest floors cannot go down to throw away, and from the system itself that stinks like a corpse even though it continues to resist burial.”

Andrea RodrÍguez, the AP’s person in Havana, reported on October 1, 2022: “Groups of Cubans protested Friday night in the streets of Havana for a second night, decrying delays in fully restoring electricity three days after Hurricane Ian knocked out power across the island.” RodrÍguez reported on the Cuban government shutting down the internet over two nights.

Alp Toker, director of London-based Netblocks, said the blackout in internet service on Thursday and Friday appeared different from an internet outage that occurred soon after Ian hit. “Internet service has been interrupted once again in Cuba, at about the same time as yesterday (Thursday),” Toker said in an email to AP on Friday night. “The timing of the outages provides another indication that these are a measure to suppress coverage of the protests.” Doug Madory, director of internet analysis at Kentik Inc., a network intelligence company, earlier described Thursday’s event as a “total internet blackout.”

The AP reporter also revealed that Cuban officials want to blame U.S. sanctions for their troubles with the electric grid, but that does not pass the smell test.

Cuban dictatorship shutdown internet to carry out repression without outside scrutiny.

It was policy makers in the Castro regime that decided not to invest in Cuba’s infrastructure, and maintenance of their power plants in favor of plowing hundreds of millions of dollars into building luxury hotels across the country that profit GAESA, the Cuban military conglomerate run by the Castro family. Cuban independent journalists at 14ymedio highlighted how funds used for just some of the more high profile hotel construction projects could have met the needs for the upkeep of Cuba’s national electric grid, and power plants.

Cubans have much to protest in addition to the power outages, and poor regime response to Hurricane Ian. Below are five reasons that drove Cubans into the streets in July 2021, and continue to draw the ire of the populace today.

1. Havana’s decision not to get foreign vaccines for Cubans in order to claim that Cuba was the first country in the world to vaccinate their entire population with homegrown vaccines caused many deaths. They waited seven months to unroll their vaccine, while others in Latin America had received foreign produced vaccines, including from Russia and China.

2. Cuba’s dictatorship maintained monopoly control over distribution of assistance and zero transparency. In 2020 the Castro regime seized a humanitarian shipment that would have helped tens of thousands of Cubans. They continue to block grassroots efforts by the Cuban diaspora to directly help Cubans on the island today. In May 2022, young Cubans who tried to deliver humanitarian aid they collected for the people affected by the explosion of the Saratoga Hotel on May 6, complained that authorities and State Security agents prevented them from doing so after arriving where several of the families who lost their homes were housed in buildings adjacent to the tourist facility.

3. Cubans are resentful of the internal blockade placed on them by the Cuban government. One example of many is how Havana deals with farmers. Castro seized and collectivized properties, and prohibited farmers selling their crops to non-state entities, in the early years of the revolution. Havana established production quotas and farmers were (and are) obligated to sell to the state collection agency, called Acopio. 50% of crops rot waiting to be picked up by the Acopio. Today, between 70% and 80% of Cuba’s food is imported. Since 2000, much of the food purchased by Havana has been imported from the United States.

4. Cubans are beaten and imprisoned for thinking differently. There are hundreds of Cuban political prisoners who have not committed any crime, except to exercise their fundamental rights. Nonviolent opposition leaders have died under suspicious circumstances with official involvement.

5. The Castro regime ended black advancement in Cuba, and silenced criticism of racism for decades through repression of black voices.

Source: Marti Noticias

Considering all the above the news broken by Wall Street Journal reporters Vivian Salama and José de Córdoba has raised concerns among pro-democracy activists that the Biden administration “received a rare request from Cuba’s government to provide emergency assistance” and that “the U.S. was still trying to determine whether the government in Havana would supplement the request as it works to determine the extent of the damage, according to the email communications.”

The Assembly of the Cuban Resistance, that represents Cuban groups inside and outside of Cuba, called for aid to be distributed independently of the Castro dictatorship reported the Miami Herald on October 1, 2022.

“If American humanitarian aid is going to be sent to Cuba, let it be by institutions that are not under the control of the regime such as the Catholic Church, the Evangelical Churches and the Great Masonic Brotherhood, or by the multiple dissident groups throughout the Island. The regime has too long a history of stealing, wasting and diverting humanitarian aid from abroad,” said Orlando Gutierrez, coordinator of the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance.

Time to end the confusion. Cuba is not the 63 year old sclerotic dictatorship. Cuba is the sovereign people who inhabit the island and have been systematically denied their human rights for the past six decades.

This is why it is important to help Cubans on the island, not the dictatorship that oppress them.

On September 26, 2022 several prominent Cubans and Cuban Americans petitioned Hotel chains based in Cuba to help the Cuban people “by setting aside half of the empty rooms in your various hotels in the Island to provide refuge to families, many of them with children, who will be impacted” by Hurricane Ian. Six days later, with the devastation and humanitarian tragedy unfolding in Cuba, and still no response.

The Center for a Free Cuba, together with other human rights activists, writers, and academics on August 16, 2022 petitioned the world’s democracies to call on the UN Security Council to respond to the crises in the island by sending a delegation to Cuba, and establishing a humanitarian corridor for direct emergency assistance to needy Cubans, without regime participation.

14ymedio, October 1, 2022

Havana Already Stinks of Rot

Ruined food and garbage have been piling up for almost 100 hours since the widespread blackout began in Cuba. (14ymedio)

14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, Havana, 1 October 2022 — The Internet continues to be cut off in a large part of Havana after the protests yesterday afternoon and evening. To the cry of Freedom! and Turn On The power! People came out in the Playa municipality and other areas of the Cuban capital.

We are still without electricity, and it will soon be 100 hours without power. Our building smells rotten, from the food that was spoiled without refrigeration, from the garbage that older people on the highest floors cannot go down to throw away, and from the system itself that stinks like a corpse even though it continues to resist burial.

https://translatingcuba.com/havana-already-stinks-of-rot/

The Washington Post, October 1, 2022

Cubans protest in Havana for 2nd night over lack of power

By Andrea RodrÍguez | AP

October 1, 2022 at 12:13 a.m. EDT

People protest asking for the restoration of electrical service after four days of blackout due to the devastation of Hurricane Ian in Bacuranao, Cuba, Friday, Sept. 30, 2022. (AP Photo/Ramon Espinosa)

HAVANA — Groups of Cubans protested Friday night in the streets of Havana for a second night, decrying delays in fully restoring electricity three days after Hurricane Ian knocked out power across the island.

A foreign monitoring group reported that Cuba’s internet service shut down for the second time in two days, saying it appeared to be unrelated to problems from the storm but rather an attempt to keep information about the demonstrations from spreading.

Associated Press journalists saw people demonstrating in at least five spots in the city or on its outskirts, including the Barreras and La Gallega districts where residents blocked streets with burning tires and garbage.

Masiel Pereira, a housewife, said that “the only thing I ask is that they restore the current for my children.”

A neighbor, Yunior Velásquez, lamented that “all the food is about to be lost” because there was no power for refrigerators.

On Thursday night, people protested at two points in the city’s Cerro neighborhood. That area was mostly calm Friday with the power back on, although people were out on the important Villa Blanca Avenue chanting “We want light!” while banging pots with spoons. Police blocked access to the street, but there were no confrontations.

The country of 11 million people was plunged into darkness Tuesday night, a few hours after Ian roared over western Cuba and triggered problems in the power system that eventually cascaded over the whole island.

Power was restored in some parts of the country the next day, but other areas were left without service, including in the capital.

The government did not say what percentage of the overall population remained without electricity Friday, but electrical authorities said only 10% of Havana’s 2 million people had power as of late Thursday.

Internet and cellphone service also were out Thursday. Internet service returned Friday morning, at least in some areas, but in the evening it was interrupted again, groups monitoring access to the internet reported.

Alp Toker, director of London-based Netblocks, said the blackout in internet service on Thursday and Friday appeared different from an internet outage that occurred soon after Ian hit.

“Internet service has been interrupted once again in Cuba, at about the same time as yesterday (Thursday),” Toker said in an email to AP on Friday night. “The timing of the outages provides another indication that these are a measure to suppress coverage of the protests.”

Doug Madory, director of internet analysis at Kentik Inc., a network intelligence company, earlier described Thursday’s event as a “total internet blackout.”

Repeated blackouts on Cuba’s already fragile electric grid were among the causes of the island’s largest social protests in decades in July 2021. Thousands of people, weary of power failures and shortages of goods exacerbated by the pandemic and U.S. sanctions, turned out in cities across the island to vent their anger and some also lashed out at the government. Hundreds were arrested and prosecuted, prompting harsh criticism of the administration of President Miguel Diaz-Canel.

Experts said the total blackout showed the vulnerability of Cuba’s power grid and warned that it will require time and sources — things the country doesn’t have — to fix the problem.

Cuba’s power grid “was already in a critical and immunocompromised state as a result of the deterioration of the thermoelectric plants. The patient is now on life support,” said Jorge Piñon, director of the Center for International Energy and Environmental Policy’s Latin America and Caribbean program at the University of Texas.

Cuba has 13 power generation plants, eight of which are traditional thermoelectric plants, and five floating power plants rented from Turkey since 2019. There is also a group of small plants distributed throughout the country since an energy reform in 2006.

But the plants are poorly maintained, a phenomenon the government attributed to the lack of funds and U.S. sanctions. Complications in obtaining fuel is also a problem.

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/cubans-protest-in-havana-for-2nd-night-over-lack-of-power/2022/10/01/6022d4e8-413f-11ed-8c6e-9386bd7cd826_story.html

The Wall Street Journal, September 30, 2022

WSJ News Exclusive

National Security

Cuba Makes Rare Request for U.S. Aid After Devastation From Hurricane Ian

Washington is assessing how much assistance Havana needs, according to communications

Hurricane Ian caused widespread damage in Cuba, including in Havana where a tree toppled onto a boat.Photo: Ramon Espinosa/Associated Press

By Vivian Salama and José de Córdoba

Updated Sept. 30, 2022 10:22 pm ET

WASHINGTON—The Biden administration has received a rare request from Cuba’s government to provide emergency assistance following the devastating impact of Hurricane Ian, according to communications reviewed by The Wall Street Journal.

No exact amount was requested, and the U.S. was still trying to determine whether the government in Havana would supplement the request as it works to determine the extent of the damage, according to the email communications. The storm killed at least two people in Cuba and left the country without power.

The request comes as Cuba’s longtime supporter Russia struggles with the war in Ukraine and international sanctions while Havana contends with its worst economic crisis in three decades.

Relations between Washington and Havana, which deteriorated when former President Donald Trump rolled back the Obama administration’s rapprochement efforts and declared Cuba a state sponsor of terrorism, have improved slightly under the current administration. President Biden hasn’t taken any major steps to normalize relations, however, and has kept Cuba on the terrorism watch list.

The power outage from Hurricane Ian, including in Bacuranao, Cuba, lasted for days. Photo: Ramon Espinosa/Associated Press

But earlier this year, the Biden administration said that it would remove the cap on dollar remittances that Americans may send to Cuba, reopen air travel to cities across the island, and restore travel by so-called educational groups, measures it said were intended as support for the Cuban people.

The emails suggested that the U.S. continued to engage with Havana to determine how much assistance was needed, and the U.S. has assessed that Cuban authorities would place priority on hospitals, water pumping facilities, sanitation and other critical infrastructure if Washington were to provide aid.

A State Department spokeswoman said the U.S. continues to communicate with the Cuban government regarding the evolving humanitarian and environmental consequences of both Hurricane Ian and an Aug. 5 fire in Matanzas.

“We are evaluating ways in which we can continue to support the Cuban people, consistent with U.S. laws and regulations,” the spokeswoman said.

The White House National Security Council declined to comment. The Cuban government didn’t immediately reply to a request seeking comment.

“If Cuba asks for humanitarian aid and the U.S. gives it to them, that would be a real breakthrough,” says William LeoGrande, an expert on Cuba at American University in Washington.

On other occasions when Cuba has suffered from hurricanes, the U.S. has offered humanitarian aid, but Cuba has turned it down. “Fidel’s position was that Cuba would not take charity from a country that had an economic blockade against it,” says Mr. LeoGrande, referring to the late former Cuban leader Fidel Castro. “He did not want to justify the embargo.”

The Cuban request suggests that Russia, which has been a supporter of Cuba in past disasters, is in no shape to do so because of the war in Ukraine, Mr. LeoGrande said.

When a fire in August at the port of Matanzas destroyed much of Cuba’s most important fuel terminal, Russia, Mexico and Venezuela stepped in to help Havana. At the time, the U.S. offered technical assistance. Cuba said it was thankful of the offer, but the U.S. said Cuba didn’t formally make any aid requests. The U.S. Agency for International Development ultimately provided the Cuban government with 43 sets of firefighting gear and is procuring additional gear to send.

Cuba’s economy is laboring through its roughest stretch in three decades. People stand in long lines for hours seeking scarce basic foods. Many medicines are difficult to find, while power outages are common and extend for more than 14 hours.

A fire in August destroyed much of a critical fuel terminal at the port of Matanzas in Cuba. Photo: Yamil Lage/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

Aside from the Trump administration’s tightening of the U.S. trade embargo, Cuba’s once-thriving tourism industry was devastated by the Covid-19 pandemic and has yet to recover. Its economy has been hit hard by accelerating inflation as well as economic mismanagement.

Cuba’s economic crisis worsened after the Matanzas fire destroyed much of the terminal and fuel storage tanks, dealing another blow to Cuba’s frail power grid.

The economic crisis and increased political repression has pushed tens of thousands of Cubans to migrate to the U.S. In the current fiscal year through the end of August, nearly 200,000 Cuban migrants have been detained by U.S. officials after crossing the U.S.’s southern border.

After the islandwide blackout caused by Hurricane Ian, Cubans took to the streets in parts of Havana and elsewhere to protest the lack of power and to demand the resignation of President Miguel Díaz-Canel, according to videos shown on social media.

Crews worked to restore power across Cuba after Hurricane Ian knocked out electricity islandwide.Photo: Adalberto Roque/Agence France-Presse/Getty Images

“Everybody is angry,” said Camilo Condis, a self-employed Havana electrical contractor. “The worst thing is food, which is so difficult to get, and it rots when the power is out.” Mr. Condis said he had no electric power or water pressure in his house.

Cuba fears a repetition of an unprecedented wave of protests in July 2021 that shook the government when tens of thousands of Cubans took to the streets in dozens of towns and cities throughout the island demanding freedom and the resignation of Mr. Díaz-Canel. The demonstrations were also sparked by extended blackouts and deteriorating economic conditions.

In the months following the protests, Cuba charged some 930 people with crimes linked to the demonstrations and imprisoned at least 675 people, some to terms as long as 25 years, according to Cubalex, a human rights organization which monitors the island.

Write to Vivian Salama at vivian.salama@wsj.com and José de Córdoba at jose.decordoba@wsj.com

Appeared in the October 1, 2022, print edition as ‘Cuba Makes Rare Request for U.S. Aid in Ian’s Wake’.

https://www.wsj.com/articles/cuba-makes-rare-request-for-u-s-aid-after-devastation-from-hurricane-ian-11664581112

Center for a Free Cuba, September 26, 2022

Prominent Cubans appeal to Meliá, Iberostar, The Kempinski Hotel Chain, NH Hotel Group and other hotel chains to set aside empty rooms in their hotels in Cuba for families fleeing Hurricane Ian.

Center for a Free Cuba. September 26, 2022. Washington DC. In an urgent appeal sent out today, a number of prominent Cuban Americans asked the chairmen of Meliá Hotels International, Iberostar, Kempinski, NH Hotel Group and other foreign hotel chains operating in Cuba to “make room for Cuban families, most of them with children, who will be left destitute and homeless as a result of Ian.”

Carlos Eire, distinguished History Professor at Yale University; Rosa María Payá, founder and director, CubaDecide and Fundación para la Democracia Panamericana, Modesto Maidique, former president of Florida International University, and the Reverend Jose Conrado, of the Parish of Trinidad in Cuba, led the appeal.

According to the National Hurricane Center, the Category 4 storm with winds of over 150 miles per hour, will impact on Cuba’s western provinces after midnight.

Most Cuban dwellings are ill prepared for a hurricane of this magnitude due to lack of maintenance during the last sixty years.

Also signing the petition are Paquito D’Rivera, composer, author, world-renown saxophonist and Grammy Award winner; Sebastian Arcos at Florida International University’s Department of Latin American Studies; feminist author Ileana Fuentes, and John Suarez, Executive Director of the Center for a Free Cuba.

The storm coincides with widespread food shortages, and a dengue epidemic. The United States has reported that, according to Customs and Border Protection, more than 175,000 Cubans have crossed the southwest border in the first eight months of 2022.

A copy of the petition follows.

September 26, 2022

Bernold Schroeder, The Kempinski Hotel Chain, Austria

Miguel Fluxá Roselló, Iberostar, Spain

André P. Gerondeau, Meliá Hotels International, Spain

Ramón Aragonés, NH Hotel Group, Spain

Ladies and Gentlemen:

We are writing about a developing tragedy in Cuba: the Island is currently suffering the impact of Hurricane Ian. We urge you to help the Cuban people by setting aside half of the empty rooms in your various hotels in the Island to provide refuge to families, many of them with children, who will be impacted by this Category 4 storm.

Thanking you in advance for your corporate responsibility and for your favorable response to our humanitarian request.

Sincerely,

Dr. Carlos Eire, Professor, Yale University

Dr. Modesto Maidique, Former President, Florida International University

Reverend José Conrado, Parish of Trinidad, Cuba

Paquito D’Rivera, composer, author, world-renown Grammy Award saxophonist

Rosa María Payá, founder and director, CubaDecide and Fundación para la Democracia Panamericana

Victor J. Pujals, P.E.

Sebastián Arcos, Florida International University

Ileana Fuentes, feminist author

John Suárez, Center for a Free Cuba

https://www.cubacenter.org/articles-and-events/2022/9/26/press-release-prominent-cubans-appeal-to-meli-iberostar-kempinski-nh-hotel-group-and-other-hotel-chains-to-set-aside-empty-rooms-in-their-hotels-in-cuba-for-families-fleeing-hurricane-ian