14ymedio, Havana, 26 January 2019 — Between Friday and Saturday thousands of Cuban emigrants have protested in front of consular centers for the Island in at least ten countries. The unprecedented demonstrations have focused on denouncing the migratory obstacles, the lack of citizens’ rights, and the new text of the Constitution that will be put to a referendum on February 24.
What began as a spark ended up igniting a vast array of dissatisfactions, complaints, and questioning that for decades has been accumulating in the Cuban exile. Initially the march was going to occur only in front of the Island’s embassy in Washington, but emigrants in other places joined the initiative.
“The Protest for All the Prohibited” promoted slogans like #YoVotoNo (I’m Voting No) to the Constitution and the hashtag #Ni1+ (Not One More) in reference to the years that the Cuban regime has gone on. Although it also accommodated other demands.
In the American capital, despite the temperatures below 5 degrees Celsius this weekend, more than 400 Cubans answered the call from the Somos+ (We Are More) movement and participated in the march, after spontaneously coordinating the move.
The initiative, promoted by the leader of the movement Somos+, Eliécer Ávila, was also supported by several exile groups, along with the campaign Cuba Decides. Initially it demanded the right for Cubans to “enter and leave” the country “without restrictions, or blacklists.”
Among the organizers of the march in the United States were also, among others, the presenter Alex Otaola, the exile Amaury Almaguer or “Siro Cuartel,” author of the political satire blog El Lumpen (The Underclass). The actor Jorge Ferdecaz also joined the initiative.
Other cities where protests also occurred were Madrid, Sao Paulo, The Hague, Barcelona, Quito, Montevideo, Geneva, Holland, Santiago de Chile, and London. In total hundreds of Cubans protested against the new constitutional reform and demanded “to have a passport at a price accessible for everyone,” the “existence of marriage equality,” a direct vote for the presidency of the country, and the “end of the dynasty.”
The event had a wide impact on social media where its call circulated with the hashtags #NoMasProhibidos (No More Prohibited), #YoVoteNo (I’m Voting No), and #Ni1+ (Not One More). At the meeting point near the diplomatic headquarters in Washington, participants held a symbolic vote that produced 413 No votes for the new Constitution.
For the activist Eliécer Ávila, “Today’s great protagonists were the Cubans and their families who traveled for hours, many 20 hours to be here, many young people, 90% of whom were around 25 or 30 years old,” he explained to 14ymedio.
“It was a huge message of hope and optimism,” added the leader of Somos+. The dissidents called on people to “not let languish” initiatives of this type and “every month do something bigger and we propose that this 2019 Cuba enter a phase of social pressure that brings about a political response.”
Among those joining the march were actors, musicians, and creators like the artist Geandy Pavón, who recreated his performance Nemesis on the facade of the Permanent Mission of Cuba in front of the UN in New York this Friday night.
Massiel Rodríguez, a Cuban who has lived in Spain for a year, told 14ymedio that at the Cuban Embassy in Madrid they sabotaged the activity from the diplomatic headquarters playing music on full blast toward the exterior of the building. “They mostly put on Silvio Rodríguez but between blocks you could hear La Guantanamera and Carlos Puebla.”
The emigree explained that all along the sidewalk there were police officers posted to guard the area to prevent the demonstrators from getting close to the embassy. Inside the embassy there were many older people who as far as it was known were celebrating the birthday of José Martí and the 60 years of the Revolution, she said.
“We hugged each other, there was a lot of cordiality and respect, it was really nice and we made contacts to organize to do this type of thing, that link was good so that there can be an action group for whatever is needed,” Rodríguez said. “There were people who arrived organized in groups that came from other towns, but also some didn’t notice.” The dissident Rosa María Payá, leader of Cuba Decides, joined the action.
In Sao Paulo, several demonstrators reported that upon arriving in front of the consulate they bumped into groups from the Brazilian Communist Party, who with flags and slogans took the place. “They became aggressive and more than 200 people fell upon us to hit us,” an emigrant who participated in the protest told this newspaper.
So far the official Cuban press hasn’t published anything about the demonstrations, which happened a few hours after the Cuban government confirmed that emigrants and temporary residents abroad will not be able to vote in the constitutional referendum unless they return to the Island. Polling places outside the Island will only accept those working on an official mission.
Translated by: Sheilagh Carey
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