Caimanera, One of the Most Guarded Towns in Cuba, Took to the Streets

The man, who stands out for his leadership, lists the reasons that have led them to the protest and adds: “From this moment on, I declare myself an opponent.” (Yosmany Mayeta Labrada-Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, Havana, 8 May 2023 — Shirtless, with his arm raised and making the victory sign with his fingers, we see one of the protesters who on Saturday took to the streets of Caimanera, in Guantanamo.

The man, who stands out for his leadership, lists the reasons that have led them to the protest and adds: “From this moment on, I declare myself an opponent.” Pronouncing that phrase takes twice as much courage in one of the most closely watched municipalities in Cuba.

Accustomed to living under permanent observation, the residents of Caimanera reached a degree of indignation that made them leap over the fear with which they have lived for decades. A municipality adjacent to the Guantánamo US Naval Base, where the electrified fences, the uniformed men everywhere and the large mined area that borders the military site have become part of the daily life of its inhabitants.

In addition to the continuous controls on the local population, those who want to visit Caimanera must request advance authorization from the Ministry of the Interior. To obtain permission, a compelling reason is needed and the outsider is only allowed to spend a limited time – and supervised – with his hosts. Militarization extends to all aspects of life, from the limitations on fishing on its coasts to the suffocation of the informal market, essential on the Island.

But on May 6 none of these restrictions prevented unrest from leading hundreds of people to gather in front of the municipality’s Communist Party headquarters and shout, among many other slogans, the one that sums up all their demands: “Freedom!” The fears planted in the minds of these Guantanamo residents since they were little, the constant threats and the ridiculous official slogan that Caimanera is “the first anti-imperialist frontier” in Cuba were useless. In a few minutes all that ceased to matter and to paralyze the people.

After the harangues demanding a change, an improvement in the supply of food and medicines in the hospitals, the protesters saw the arrival of the black berets and the rain. What was perhaps the first downpour of May in Caimanera, waited for by many to take a shower of good luck, this Saturday became the scene of beatings and arrests. The whereabouts of several of the detainees are still unknown and the identity of the brave shirtless man has not been able to be determined.

The people who were forced to behave as the spearhead against “the enemy” got fed up with so many cardboard slogans. The empty plates were stronger than the barbed wire. Out of stock pharmacies were more convincing than police dogs. Poverty and the lack of freedoms were more discouraging than the fear of the beating and the bars. The most supervised town in the whole country shook off terror.

While in the military barracks plans and strategies were drawn up to prevent the Cubans from leaving en masse for the US Naval Base, in the homes of Caimanera it was not escape that was being forged but rather to challenge and resistance. There are no fences, sentry boxes or explosives that can contain the anger of the people.


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