14ymedio, Havana, 18 July 2021 — The Cuban virologist based in Brazil, Amílcar Pérez-Riverol, criticized the performance of the act of “revolutionary reaffirmation” organized by the regime this Saturday, in Havana, calling it “disastrous from the health point of view.”
He warned that the government’s mass demonstration was called when the Island is the “fifth country in the world with the highest rate of daily confirmed Covid cases per one million inhabitants (averaged over the last 7 days) and the highest in the Americas”, and it is his “duty as a scientist” and “especially as a Cuban” to talk about the subject.
Pérez-Riverol’s statement was published one day before the demonstration, which, according to the official government press, attracted 100,000 people, a figure widely questioned since no more than 5,000 people can fit in the place where it was held. In this regard, the scientist was alarmed when the information reached him that some 200,000 people would participate. “I sincerely hope this is, at the very least, inaccurate.”
“Not just because of the potential for infections itself — recently a concert in Holland that brought together 20,000 people all vaccinated or with a negative PCR in the last 40 hours resulted in 1,000 infections — but because of the counterproductive message that it would send at such a critical moment of the pandemic in Cuba,” concluded Pérez-Riverol.
During the televised broadcast of the event, the cameras avoided showing the crowd from above and preferred tight angles and closer views so it was not possible to get an idea of how many people attended. “With the fulfillment of the hygienic-sanitary measures,” the Cubadebate portal emphasized, showing photos of the gathering in Havana and other similar ones in various parts of the country.
At the end of his statement, the virologist praised “the beautiful and above all responsible gesture of these kids from the Faculty where I was trained,” referring to the questioning published on the Facebook account of the Biology students — whose example was followed by other university students — with regard to the official act to which they were summoned. The protesters received a furious response from officials and militants, including the dean of the Faculty of Mathematics and Computing, Raúl Guinovart.
In their text, the students of the Faculty of Biology expressed their “absolute disagreement” in these terms: “As biologists, microbiologists and biochemists we warn the university authorities of the risk that mass events represent at this moment.”
The students added a call for “peaceful understanding, respect for individual freedoms and non-violence as a way” to solve problems. And to finish they warn that “we are all Cubans, brothers of the same land, that our call be to unity as a principle to build a Cuba with everyone and for everyone.”
The students of the Faculty of Art of the Audiovisual Communication Media (Famca), of the University of the Arts (ISA), also expressed their disagreement “with the government calls.” Referring to that of this Saturday, they affirmed that “the act of vindication […] contradicts the most elementary indications of the Ministry of Public Health of Cuba and the international health authorities.”
In their statement, the Famca students condemned “the constant discrediting by the Cuban government of the independent media” and indicated that they aspire “to an inclusive country, where a diversity of political signs and creeds coexist, with no room for repression or discrimination for thinking different.”
They also gave their support to the protesters who peacefully asked for the right to reply in front of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television and the other protests “that took place simultaneously in a peaceful manner and advocating for freedom.” They demanded that “the constitutional rights of all Cubans to meet, demonstrate and express themselves freely” be respected.
“We condemn any incitement to violence or the use of police force as methods to silence our disagreements, as well as the use of violence of any kind by citizens,” they said. They also demanded that the regime not violate the criminal processes established by Cuban law and that the rights of those detained in the protests be respected.
This Saturday a Statement from the Students of the San Antonio de los Baños International Film and Television School (Eictv) was also published, in which they denounced that graduates and members of the Institution’s Academic Body “have been detained and are being investigated for their exercise of the right to freedom of expression.”
“We believe that the right to opinion and protest, to express critical and free thinking, should be guaranteed for anyone in any place and circumstance,” said the almost 60 signatories, who also apologized for delaying in making their position public.
The students rejected that any member of the school “or anywhere else should suffer retaliation for publicly expressing their ideas.” They also expressed their concern that after the protests, the Eictv has not had a “clear and supportive position regarding the right to demonstrate, the same as it has expressed with the protests in other latitudes and contexts, such as those in Colombia.”
The document concludes by mentioning a letter signed by Eictv graduates in which they express their support for those detained in the protests. “As a community we share the same concerns and dislikes,” they emphasized, while affirming that despite the limitations of communication and access to information, they will continue to “be alert to what is happening.”
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