CubaBrief: Hundreds of Cubans took to the streets to demand “freedom.” Havana shut down the internet across Cuba. Protesters severely beaten by black berets, and five demonstrators remain jailed.

On May 6, 2023, at approximately 7:00pm., hundreds of Cubans took to the streets to demand, “freedom” in the municipality of Caimanera, Guantanamo, Cuba. Several videos circulated on social media, as well as live broadcasts on Facebook, that captured the protest, which was led by large numbers of women and youth.

Cubanet‘s Claudia Padrón Cueto, through a local source obtained the following quote. “First three men came out and began to demonstrate on Carretera street between José Martí and Correo, and the people joined them. We walked around Caimanera until we reached the park and passed the Party headquarters, where no one came out because they are with the police. We think they are analyzing what they are going to do”, a local source explained to CubaNet. The trigger for the protest, indicated the source, is the lack of food and the precarious conditions of the health system.”

Internet traffic in and out of Cuba was shut down from 1:40am to 2:43am Universal Time Coordinated (UTC) confirmed the network observability company Kentik. This means that from 9:40pm through 10:43pm EST the entire island was without internet access.  

At 11:25pm NetBlocks confirmed over Twitter: ” Network data show a collapse in internet traffic in Cuba amid protests for freedom and human rights centering around Caimanera, Guantánamo; connectivity remains intermittent at present with partial restoration noted.”

The protest was repressed by uniformed men from the National Special Brigade of the Ministry of the Interior known as the “black berets,” who arrested several of the demonstrators. The images transmitted from the scene show the military, in the rain, badly beating several people and arresting others.

Five Cubans who were badly beaten and taken by the black berets are still arbitrarily detained at this hour, and their families have been unable to see them. One of the detained was so badly beaten that he was taken away unconscious.

As confirmed by the activist and independent journalist Yeris Curbelo, a resident of  Caimanera, the five Cubans detained “are Yandris Pelier Matos, the brothers Felipe Correa Martínez and Luis Miguel Alarcón Martínez, and the brothers Rodi and Daniel Álvarez González. The five protesters were violently detained and in the case of Alarcón Martínez he was taken away unconscious as a result of the beating he suffered, Yeris specified.”

The next day at 7:44am NetBlocks provided an update over Twitter: “Metrics show a nation-scale disruption to internet traffic in Cuba during protests calling for freedom; core incident duration ~1.5 hours followed by restoration of service.”

Victoria Martínez Valdivia, mother of Felipe Correa Martínez and Luis Miguel Alarcón Martínez both detained in Caimanera during the May 6th protest was interviewed the next day by Cubanet. In the interview she described how both her and her daughter, Caridad Alarcón Martínez, were beaten for trying to protect them when they were being beaten down. despite not resisting arrest.

“I am desperate/They have my eldest missing. Luis Miguel Alarcón was kicked in the head. I don’t know if my son is dead or alive. They hit me, they slapped my daughter.” .

Officials are promising family members of the five detained men that they will be freed soon, but Cuba watchers note that this is a tactic used to have families auto-censor themselves and stop campaigning for their loved ones release from detention.

However, the record indicates that to obtain the freedom of, or better conditions for someone jailed by the Castro regime it necessitates highlighting their plight, and getting their name out to the international community. There are currently over a thousand political prisoners, and possibly five Cubans detained on May 6, 2023 will be added to these ranks. It is for this reason that activists will be picketing the Cuban Embassy on May 11, 2023 at 6:00pm to highlight the plight of Cuba’s political prisoners, and condemn the violence visited upon nonviolent protesters in Cuba on May 6, 2023.

CNN, May 8, 2023

Cuban police crack down on demonstrators protesting widespread shortages

By Patrick Oppmann, CNN

Updated 3:17 AM EDT, Mon May 8, 2023

Havana, Cuba CNN  – Cuban police cracked down on protesters in the isolated town of Caimanera, close to the infamous Guantanamo Bay prison, after dozens took to the streets on Saturday demanding better living conditions and freedom.

Videos posted to social media show a crowd protesting in front of government buildings, before riot police arrived and forcibly arrested several demonstrators.

The US Embassy in Havana condemned the crackdown, tweeting on Sunday that security forces “responded violently to peaceful protests in the town of Caimanera, beating citizens for demanding human rights.”

“Cuba also shut down its internet for fear of freedom of expression,” the embassy wrote.

Netblocks, an organization that tracks internet activity, said it appeared the Cuban government had taken down the internet across the entire island as news of the protests spread.

Pro-Cuban government bloggers blamed the protesters uploading videos of the protests for the internet disruptions. However, the Cuban government has a history of taking down the state-provided internet during previous protests, sometimes for several days.

Internet connectivity appeared to be largely restored on Sunday, and Cuban state media Cubadebate said no more protests had occurred.

Cuban officials did not say how many people had been arrested. But activist groups reported at least five people were detained by police.

Cubadebate had claimed on Sunday that the “unusual demonstration” was “initiated by an incident involving a small group of drunk people.” It blamed “counterrevolutionary media” in the United States for trying to portray the protests as the beginning of a large-scale uprising against the communist-run government.

Caimanera is known as “the first trench against imperialism,” as the town lies just across Guantanamo Bay from the US naval base, notorious as the prison where terrorism suspects were tortured and sent to indefinitely await trial.

The town-turned-military-zone is surrounded by guard towers, bomb shelters dug into the hillsides, concealed military encampments and miles of cactus ordered planted by late revolutionary leader Fidel Castro.

Foreigners and even Cubans need special permission to visit the town because of its proximity to the US base. When CNN was able to visit Caimanera nearly five years ago, residents complained of their isolation but said the government gave them extra rations including milk and meat, considered luxuries by many Cubans.

But even the town hasn’t been spared from widespread shortages that have rocked the rest of the country, residents say in videos posted to social media.

Since mid-April, Cuba has been beset with its most dire fuel shortages in years, prompting comparisons to the severe disruptions Cubans suffered after the fall of the Soviet Union.

Lines stretch for blocks even at gas stations where there has been no fuel for days; late night fist fights have broken out between drivers accusing one another of cutting the line. There are also increasing scarcities of food and medicine.

Cuba’s government has blamed US economic sanctions for the disruptions, but also conceded in state-run media that countries which traditionally supply the island with oil have not been sending promised fuel.

Babalú Blog, May 7, 2023

Cuban dictatorship deploys Black Berets special forces to violently break up peaceful protest

May 7, 2023 by Alberto de la Cruz

Determined to not allow another July 11, 2021 to take place in Cuba, the communist Castro dictatorship deployed its infamous and savagely violent Black Berets to stop a peaceful protest in Guantanamo.

John Suarez reports in Notes from the Cuban Exile Quarter:

Castro dictatorship’s shock troops crackdown on hundreds of non-violent protesters in Caimanera, Guantánamo, Cuba

Article 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights:

Everyone has the right to freedom of peaceful assembly and association.No one may be compelled to belong to an association.

“Cuba is committed to all human rights mechanisms,” Díaz-Canel lied to UN Special Rapporteur Alena Douhan on May 5, 2023 during her visit to Havana, Cuba.

One of the human rights mechanisms recognized by the United Nations is the freedom of assembly and association.

Diaz-Canel’s lie was demonstrated a day later.

Hundreds of Cubans in the town of Caimanera in Guantánamo, Cuba took to the streets to demonstrate tonight. They shouted “Homeland and life”, “Freedom” and “Long live human rights” demanding their human rights and freedom.

Cubanet cited a local source in Cuba that “confirmed that the protests began around seven at night and up to the time of writing this note they were continuing. “First three men came out and began to demonstrate on Carretera street between José Martí and Correo, and the people joined them. We walked around Caimanera until we reached the park and passed the Communist Party headquarters, where no one came out because they are with the police.”

According to this source, “the trigger for the protest, he indicated, is the lack of food and the precarious conditions of the health system. “After the five pounds of rice for the month are gone, we are eating bread with sugar. They are starving us while they live well.” … “In one of the videos that have come out of the demonstration, the people are heard shouting that they are hungry and that they do not believe in the excuse of the blockade. There is also a man who tells how he took his little son to the hospital and there was not even what was necessary to suture his wound.”

Cubanet’s Camila Acosta reported over Twitter at 11:24pm that Cuba had been without internet connection or telephone service in all of Cuba for more than an hour. She also said that “the last report indicated the arrival of special troops to suppress the protests.”

Continue reading HERE.

Translating Cuba, May 6, 2023

Internet Cuts and ‘Black Berets’ To Repress Hundreds of Protesters in Cuba

According to the images circulating on the networks, the demonstration was dominated by women and young people. (Collage)

14ymedio, Mexico, 6 May 2023 — Hundreds of Cubans took to the streets to protest, asking for “freedom” in the municipality of Caimanera, in Guantanamo, this Saturday afternoon. Several videos circulating on networks, as well as live broadcasts through Facebook, recorded the demonstration, where women and young people predominated.

The protest was repressed by uniformed men from the National Special Brigade of the Ministry of the Interior known as the “black berets,” who arrested several of the demonstrators. The images transmitted from the scene show the military, in the rain, beating several people and arresting others.

This Sunday, the independent journalist Yosmany Mayeta Labrada shared  three images through his Facebook account and reported the arrest of Yandris Pelier Matos, Felipe Correa Martínez, Rodi Álvarez González, Luis Miguel Alarcón Martínez and Daniel Álvarez González after the massive protest in Caimanera.

Opposition member Yeris Curbelo Aguilera also told Mayeta Labrada that “the municipality remains completely militarized until now.”

After 11 p.m. this Saturday, NetBlock, an observatory that monitors Internet connection outages around the world, reported that Internet traffic had collapsed on the island after the protests in Caimanera and that it had subsequently been restored, but only partially.

This Sunday morning several activists and independent journalists continued to have their mobile data service cut off.

In one of the images, a group of protesters is seen in front of the municipal headquarters of the Communist Party and the municipal government waving their hands and shouting “freedom” and “Patria y Vida!” Then, at least three men climbed some steps and, looking inside the building, shouted their slogans louder, among them: “Down with the communist system.” Shortly afterwards they withdrew, but the people continued the protest.

“The communist people here cannot come out, they hide,” said a user who was broadcasting live from Caimanera, who later added ironically: “This is the May Day parade, look at this,” referring to the crowd that gathered. “Yesterday the workers marched, now the people are marching, truly the people, whoever does not agree with this here.”

At another time, a woman is heard complaining about the “hunger” and the “needs” that Cubans are going through.

As on other occasions, after 9 pm the peaceful demonstration was barely known on the networks, when the regime chose to cut off the internet on cell phones and interrupt mobile and landline phone calls, as well as SMS.

Some users, especially in the west of the country, after the internet cut, were able to connect for a few minutes using a VPN.

The 14ymedio newsroom in Mexico lost communication with Havana shortly after the massive demonstration took place.

The municipality of Caimanera, with some 11,000 inhabitants, according to official figures, is located near the United States naval base. Nestled in the third largest bay in this part of the world, its 362 square kilometers are only accessible by locals or those with a special permit from the Cuban authorities.

The Government has always given special treatment to this Guantanamo territory, which does not have any other municipality in the country and which includes a 30% salary bonus, in addition to a more generous ration book than that given to the rest of the Cubans.

The lack of freedoms, the aggravated economic crisis and the increase in repression experienced by Cubans in recent years have led to several protests, which reached a climax on July 11, 2021. After what has come to be called ’11J’, the courts sentenced individuals to long sentences, imprisoning hundreds of people with the clear objective of intimidating opponents. However, the repression has not been able to contain the discontent of the people, who from time to time bang on pots and or cry out for freedom throughout the length and breadth of the Island.