Graffiti, Demonstrations, and Even Masses: Forms of Protest during the Month of January in Cuba

Some of the anti-government protest signs which appeared on the streets of Cuba in January. (Cuban Conflict Observatory)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 1 February 2022 — Growing repression in Cuba has not prevented anti-government demonstrations. According to the latest report from the Cuban Conflict Observatory (OCC), a total of 275 protests occurred in January, the majority (175 or 65%) of which were politically motivated, and among them, 160 had to do with prisoners detained as a result of the July 11th (11J) protests.

“This is highly significant if you consider that since July 11, 2021, Cuban society has endured state terrorism, the extent, brutality, and magnitude of which had not been seen before the largest national rebellion,” states the OCC in its report. “As evidenced in the ongoing trials, any peaceful participant of the protests–even if they are a minor and only expressed themselves on social media–could be sentenced to between 5 and 20 years in prison. 

The protests, the Observatory explains, have manifested themselves mostly as “individual or small group actions,” such as painting graffiti or signs, celebrating masses, or posting videos and photos on social media. This strategy has the goal, says the organization of continuing to have “visibility and impact,” while limiting “the risk of repression faced by its implementers.”

The Miami-based NGO compares these figures with those of June 2021, when  240 protests occurred. “The number of monthly protests is an indicator of governability, but the current psychological and material context in which they occur confers immediate severity upon them,” argued the Observatory, which assures that “the hyperinflation predicted by economists is a bad omen” for the government in 2022.

Last month, the number of protests for economic and social reasons reached over a hundred. These were focused, the organization states, on “the inflationary consequences” of the “Ordering Task*” and the “denunciations” of GAESA, the military conglomerate whose ’tsar’, General Luis Alberto Rodríguez López-Calleja, was revealed to Cubans, according to OCC, but also focused on citizen insecurity and domestic violence.

In this regard, the report stresses the “wave of crime” affecting the Island, exemplified primarily in the number of thefts reported on social media and the independent press, the control of which “the State seems unable or uninterested in prioritizing.”

The OCC highlighted the victory of two of the protests in January: one in Santiago de Cuba, where they closed a pediatric nephrology center and assigned the building to “an unidentified person or entity,” which resulted in the return of the house to the Ministry of Public Health; and the other was the response of the same ministry, which improved supply issues in the Clinical Surgical Hospital in Havana following the appearance of accusations in the independent press.

“The government actions and omissions further weaken governability instead of strengthening it,” stated the Observatory, which asserts that “imposing a system of terror, hardening the penal code, continuing to limit private entrepreneurship and increasing control over food production are deepening the conflict.” They conclude, “The protests are simply the symptoms of the systematic disease which consumes Cuban society.”

*Translator’s note: Tarea ordenamiento = the [so-called] ‘Ordering Task’ which is a collection of measures that includes eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and others. 

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


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