Cuban Opposition Calls for a National Strike on August 13

Protesters on July 11 in front of the Cuban Capitol, in Havana. (EFE / Ernesto Mastrascusa)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, August 12, 2021 — Cuban activists, inside and outside the island, encouraged by the success of the July 11 demonstrations and the apparent weakness of the regime, faced with its worst crisis since 1959, have announced a national strike this August 13th. This decision does not attract unanimity within the opposition, and not just because it coincides with the 95th birthday of Fidel Castro.

On the one hand, this is the call launched through the Twitter account identified with the name of the well-known philosopher and political scientist Gene Sharp (@ GeneSharp11J), who posted on August 10: “National strike from August 13 until we achieve what we want.” On the other, the call from Miami from the coordinator of the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance, Orlando Gutiérrez Boronat.

The first call includes a group of demands such as the requirement for the Government to “release without charge the participants in the #11J protests” when thousands of Cubans took to the streets of various cities in the country and shouted “freedom”, “homeland and life” and “down with communism.”

It also demands “that [the government] stop the media campaign to discredit independent creative artists, political, cultural, and civic activists” and end “the repression of those who disagree.” Similarly, it asks for an update to the Criminal Procedure Law “to provide those accused with greater guarantees than currently exist.”

Another of the demands of this call is to develop “a plan to support the Cuban private sector that takes into account its needs, its potential, and the current needs of the country as determined in a previous meeting.”

That “the media of the independent press be legalized” and “the right of association be respected and not coerced” are other demands, which conclude with a call for “a binding plebiscite as soon as possible through which the people choose whether they want the country to be run by the Communist Party or not.”

Saily González Velázquez, the young founder and director of the first co-working space for entrepreneurs in Cuba, shared the initiative on her social media networks with the tags: #QuedateEnCasa #SOSCuba #SOSCubaLibreDelComunismo.

In conversation with 14ymedio, González commented that the idea seems “very good” but that so far it “has not had the reach that it needs for it to really happen.”

“I don’t think Twitter is the social network where most of the Cuban people are, rather it is Facebook, where it has been shared in some buying and selling groups, but it hasn’t been enough,” she laments.

She also explains that “due to people’s fear of being judged guilty of incitement to commit a crime,” the call has been shared “from new profiles with few followers and little engagement,” which in her opinion “limits its scope.”

Nevertheless, she says she and her team are going to strike. “I believe that even if it doesn’t come off, at least it would remain as a precedent for future calls.”

For his part, Gutiérrez Boronat, coordinator of the Assembly of the Cuban Resistance, a platform that brings together opposition organizations in Cuba and outside Cuba, declared this Wednesday from Miami that July 11 was “a national rebellion that shows the world the deep desire that the Cuban people have to live in a state of law.”

The activist expressed his conviction of the need to move to a “new stage of civic struggle” that ends with a “national strike” and the organization of “protests,” and included in his appeal phrases such as “homeland and life,” “we want freedom and the end of communism” and “we want the dictatorship to fall.” Those goals, he asserts, are “the center of our struggle.”

In his opinion, the exile at this time is “more united than ever” and also identified the “national strike” with a “state of conscience” that means “not cooperating” with the Government of the Island.

The dissident and academic Manuel Cuesta Morúa, a member of the Unity Roundtable for Democratic Action (MUAD), considers that “strike announced strike aborted,” especially if they take place “in totalitarian societies like ours.” In his opinion, when “there is no civic space for civil society” this type of call has to occur as happened on July 11, and that “since that date the bet should be on spontaneity and authenticity based on the awareness of people.”

And he concludes: “I don’t believe that a national strike announced with great fanfare on social media will occur.”

The activist and journalist Boris González Arenas views the current scenario with a little more optimism: “We’re on the crest of a wave” and it doesn’t matter where you want to see the beginning, whether on January 2019, when Díaz-Canel “left running from Regla” after a tornado where people rebuked him saying he was a fraud, or on November 26 or April 4, “now we are on a peak and, as always, still more initiatives and more forces are coming.”

“Though I don’t really know where this thing for August 13 is coming from,” he acknowledged, “for me it’s clear that it’s part of that huge wave, and I applaud all these initiatives.”

But the call comes at a time when the workday in state centers is practically paralyzed, with classes suspended for several months in schools, and a good part of the bureaucratic procedures suspended as a result of Covid-19, a situation that will make it difficult to measure the results of this strike.

Translated by Tomás A.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.