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Cuba protests to go on despite 'intimidation tactics'

November 15, 2021

Cuba's opposition plans to go ahead with protests demanding greater freedom and the release of political prisoners. The US has accused Havana of orchestrating a clampdown.

Two men on a rooftop unfurling Cuban flags over windows
Organizer Yunior Garcia holds a white rose out his window as police cover them to keep him from communicatingImage: Ramon Espinosa/AP/picture alliance

Despite bans, and the fact that opposition leaders are being confined to their homes, planned 15N (November 15) street protests are set to take place across Cuba on Monday. Marchers are demanding more political freedom, as well as calling for the release of hundreds of people jailed during major protests in July.

Those demonstrations left one person dead and injured dozens. More than 1,200 people were arrested and human rights groups say that more than 650 people are still behind bars, with prosecutors seeking sentences of up to 30 years.

Monday's planned protests are timed to coincide with the reopening of schools and tourism after long coronavirus closures.

At midday on Monday no major rallies had yet been reported but dissidents continued to call for afternoon protests on social media. Residents in Havana, too, reported a notable increase of plainclothes and uniformed police, with streets remaining quieter than normal as some parents kept their kids home.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel told Cubans that "our motto is peace" in a televised address to the nation Friday. But he also warned that the government and its supporters — who have also been demonstrating — were "ready to defend the revolution." 

Cuban government officials refuse to acknowledge opposition members as political prisoners and have accused the United States of seeking to "destroy the revolution" by supporting them. 

What happened to Cuba's protest movement?

What did the US say?

For its part, the US has called on Cuba to allow the protests to take place. "We call on the Cuban government to respect Cubans' rights, by allowing them to peacefully assemble and use their voices without fear of government reprisal or violence, and by keeping Internet and telecommunication lines open for the free exchange of information," said US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Sunday.

Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez directly responded to Blinken's remarks via Twitter, noting "that the Cuban government's sole responsibility is to its people," and telling the United States to stay out of Cuban affairs.  

The US accuses Havana of "intimidation tactics" in its "crackdown." Cuban security forces on Sunday appeared at the home of playwright Yunior Garcia — whom the Cuban press have branded "Enemy No. 1" — where they unfurled massive Cuban flags to cover his windows, kept him from leaving his home and threatened to jail him.

Garcia was one of six protest organizers and had planned to engage in a one-person nonviolent protest in the streets of Havana. Guillermo Farinas, another organizer, was arrested Friday.

According to rights groups and social media reports, state security forces and bands of pro-government supporters also staked out the homes of other high-profile dissidents early Monday morning.

Blinken also accused the Cuban government of forcing opposition members from their jobs and jailing dissidents.

On Saturday, authorities in Havana revoked the press accreditation of six Spanish journalists in an effort to limit the scope of any international coverage.

The Spanish government called the move "unacceptable" and demanded that the credentials be restored. Police have also confined Washington Post contributor Abraham Jimenez Enoa to his home.

js/aw (AFP, AP, Reuters)