At Least Five People Have Been Arrested in the Latest Protests in Cuba

One of the images shared on social networks of  the protest in Santiago on the night of March 18 (Yosmany Mayeta Labrada/Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, March 19, 2024 — There have now been at least eleven people arrested during this weekend’s protests in several places in Cuba. According to the legal organization Cubalex, in El Cobre (Santiago de Cuba) Oriesel García, Karel Artiles and another man whose identity is not known were arrested on Sunday. In Bayamo, Justicia 11J counted ten arrested, among whom two, Leandro Tamayo and Raúl González, have been released.

According to the organization, which does not know the identity of the others arrested and asks for help for this, Tamayo was released on Monday night after paying a fine of 3,000 pesos for “public disorders” and with an order to leave the province to return to his place of residence. “We have no more information about the conditions of Raúl González’s release,” adds Justicia 11J.

Some activists and social media profiles have also reported the arrest in Santa Marta (Matanzas) of a couple who participated in the protests on an electric motorcycle, but this has not been confirmed, and the identities of the detainees are not known.

Independent journalist Yosmany Mayeta Labrada reports that Oriesel García, 41, from Santiago, a member of the Masonic lodge, was violently arrested while demonstrating peacefully, and his whereabouts are unknown.

Justice 11J also reported the arrest of former political prisoner Ramón Jesús Velázquez Toranzo, who returned to Cuba from abroad, where he lives, and was arrested on March 8 after calling for a peaceful march in El Cobre.

His daughter Rufina Velázquez, who lives in the United States, said that her father was taken to the Carlos J. Finlay Military Hospital on Monday and that they still do not know “what charges have been invented against him or what legal process exists.”

“My brother was able to see my father, who is very weak, in a complicated health condition. He is still on hunger strike,” she added, encouraging Cubans to continue protesting. “We are uniting in a just cause, which is love for Cuba,” she said.

Despite the repression, the demonstrations continued on Monday night. With the shouts of “Turn on the power,” “Patria y vida” and “Díaz-Canel singao (motherfucker),” several neighborhoods of Santiago de Cuba, such as Micro 9 in the José Martí district, joined the march of conga and cacerolazos [banging on pots and pans],* after the residents of El Cobre did the same.

According to Mayeta on Facebook, the residents had been without electricity since 1:00 a.m. on Monday afternoon and began to demonstrate at night, chanting “We are hungry.” In the area near the Sodito cafeteria, “several patrol cars and black berets (special troops) arrived, but people continued to protest and beat on pots and pans,” he said.

Hours later, Mayeta, who lives in the US, shared other videos where several trucks were seen moving sacks, while the population shouted: “The rice, the rice has arrived!” One of the demands of the demonstrators, along with the cessation of blackouts, has been that the standard ration of food, which is late or only half of the allotted amount, be delivered to the ration stores. Local leaders have tried to calm the protests by momentarily turning on the power and speeding up the deliveries.

Mayeta also said that the Los Pinos neighborhood had taken to the streets and published a video in which, in the middle of a blackout, the residents walked through the streets shouting slogans.

Other publications on social networks report protests in Sancti Spíritus, as well as internet outages throughout the Island. As a neighbor who asked for anonymity told this newspaper, on Monday night several people gathered in the Jesús María neighborhood to protest, but they were silenced by a group that chanted slogans in favor of the Government. In a video released on social networks, which allegedly records these  protests, several protesters are seen singing La Bayamesa, the national anthem, and demanding “Freedom!”

Several communities of Cubans residing in various countries have demonstrated in support of the protests on the Island. In Spain, emigrants demonstrated in Madrid, Barcelona and Bilbao.

Also in Belgium and Uruguay, exiled Cubans have asked the Government of the Island to respond to the demands of the citizens and respect their right to demonstrate. “Our exile community continues demonstrating in the streets of Uruguay for the second day, accompanying the protests in Cuba and making visible the repression that the regime continues to exercise against our civil society. All off us are giving moral support to our people from South America,” said the Cubanos Libres platform in Uruguay on its social networks.

In the United States, in addition to the support of several congressmen and politicians of Cuban origin, such as Mario Díaz-Balart, Maria Elvira Salazar, Carlos Giménez, Marco Rubio and Rosa María Payá, the exile community also held demonstrations in front of the Versailles restaurant, in Little Havana (Miami), at the monument to José Martí in New Jersey and in front of the Cuban Embassy in Washington.

Meanwhile, the Cuban Government insists on blaming the United States for the economic situation of the Island and for “taking advantage” of the moment of crisis to instigate disorder. The Cuban Foreign Ministry even called on the chargé d’affaires of the Washington Embassy in Havana to give him a protest note which called for order and warned him about the “intervening” behaviors of his Government.

In this Monday’s broadcast of the Primetime News, Miguel Díaz-Canel, who appeared in front of the state press and several leaders, said the protests were “created by instigators” and called the Washington Embassy in Havana – which posted a statement on X asking for the human rights of the demonstrators to be respected – “meddling,” “hypocritical” and “arrogant.”

Faced with the accusations, the Biden Administration responded to Havana: “The United States supports the Cuban people in the exercise of their right to meet peacefully,” Brian Nichols, the head of the State Department for Latin America, said on social networks. “The Cuban Government will not be able to meet the needs of its people until it adopts democracy and the rule of law and respects the rights of citizens.”

*Translator’s note. Protesting by banging on pots and pans, called a ‘cacerolazo’ in Cuba, is a common form of protest in many Latin American countries.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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