Dozens of Activists Demonstrate in Old Havana, Shouting “Patria y Vida” (Homeland and Life)

Demonstration this Friday in Old Havana in protest of the repression of and in solidarity with Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara. (Collage)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 30 April 2021 — Dozens of activists were repressed in a protest in the park on the corner of Obispo and Aguacate, in Old Havana. The protesters were trying to reach the home of Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, only a few blocks away. The artist is on his sixth day of a hunger and thirst strike to end the siege to which he’s been subjected by State Security.

In a broadcast by Mary Karla Ares, some activists, such as Thais Mailén Franco Benítez and ADN Cuba collaborator Esteban Rodríguez are seen sitting together demanding to see Otero Alcántara. Some of them were handcuffed and violently detained in front of dozens of people who were filming with their cell phones, and others showing support.

The complete list of those arrested in the protest, compiled by Cubalex, is, as of now: Mary Karla Ares González, Thais Mailén Franco Benítez, Esteban Lázaro Rodríguez López, Leonardo Romero Negrín, Félix Modesto Valdés Díaz and Douglas Batista Savigne.

Moment when the repressive forces try to take some of the activists into custody. (Capture)

Carolina Barrero, Joeluis Cerutti Torres and Maykel Castillo Pérez were arrested as they left their homes when they tried to get to Old Havana.

“Homeland and life”, “down with the dictatorship”, “Luis Manuel is dying”, “there are no medicines”, “there is no food”, were some of the demands that Franco Benítez shouted, to which a whole chorus responded “Homeland and life! Homeland and life!”, the title of the song by Yotuel Romero, Gente de Zona, Descemer Bueno, Maykel Castillo and El Funky, which has become the motto of the opposition inside and outside Cuba. 

The police, unlike during other occasions where they acted by beating activists, were visibly fearful of executing the arrest operation with violence in front of the cell phones that were recording

The activists also shouted “down with repression” and “down with communism”, while the police and State Security agents became increasingly violent against the activists while trying to take them away. The protesters’ demands were chanted by dozens of Cubans who gathered around them.

The well-known repressor who calls himself “Lieutenant Colonel Camilo.” (Collage)

During Ares’s live broadcast, the moment when the activists held each other’s arms, to avoid being taken away, was recorded.

The police, unlike during other occasions where they acted by beating activists, were visibly fearful of executing the arrest operation with violence that cell phones were recording and transmitting live.

Neither were there rapid response brigades in the crowd, shouting slogans in favor of the Government, and only one woman exclaimed: “Viva Canel!”, a shout that was extinguished by the chorus of “Patria y Vida”.

People were able to recognize “Lieutenant Colonel Camilo”, a well-known repressor who led an operation against Yoani Sánchez and Reinaldo Escobar a decade ago and has been singled out by activists, such as the Ladies in White. He had been absent for a few years.

Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, the most visible face of the San Isidro Movement (MSI), is still surrounded by a police cordon, preventing his friends and some religious authorities who have tried to enter from getting through.

This Friday morning, he told 14ymedio that he was unable to speak. “I’m exhausted, I don’t even have the strength to talk,” he texted to this newspaper via SMS.

Poet Amaury Pacheco, a member of the MSI, stated on his Facebook wall that Otero Alcántara’s uncle, Enix Berrio Sarda, was able to visit the artist in Old Havana and report on his health. “He can no longer stand up, his skin and mouth are cracked, he no longer urinates and cannot speak, his throat is swollen,” said Berrio. He further said that he “is maintaining his demands and will continue his hunger strike until the end”.

“He can no longer stand up, his skin and mouth are cracked, he no longer urinates and does not speak, his throat is swollen”

According to a report this Friday afternoon by journalist José Raúl Gallego, a resident of Mexico, several people, including members of the Catholic Church, are gathered in front of the Infanta and Manglar police station, in the El Cerro neighborhood, to get news of the detainees during the protest.

The Cuban Observatory for Human Rights (OCDH) expressed disapproval of “the repression by the Government of Miguel Díaz-Canel and General Luis Alberto Lopez-Calleja” against protesters, and it pointed at them as responsible for the “physical integrity of the detainees”.

“We urgently call on the European Union and Michelle Bachelet, High Commissioner for Human Rights, to condemn the repressive escalation, and to abandon their complacency with the Cuban Communist Party, which not only represses those who exercise their rights, but has also plunged the entire Cuban people in misery”, added the OCDH.

Translated by Norma Whiting


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.