Repression Stifles the 15N March in Cuba and Spreads Popular Unrest

The streets of Havana continue with a strong police operation. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Natalia López Moya, Havana, 15 November 2021 — Since dawn on Monday, State Security agents dressed in civilian clothes were deployed in squares and parks and took the rooftops near the Capitol building in Havana, as part of the operation to prevent the Civic March called for three in the afternoon of this November 15, a march that ultimately could not be carried out because of the repression.

«This is hot,» shared Yuniel, a young man who gave testimony to 14ymedio in the vicinity of Central Park. This 28-year-old from Havana was one of the few who dared to leave his home, in a day in which many parents prevented their young children and teenagers from setting foot outside their homes for fear of being arrested.

Plainclothes officers who pretended to be standing in line outside a store, streets with few passers-by, and vigilante groups on street corners marked this Monday, a day when repression managed to drown out the call to march, but also left a deep malaise among citizens, fed up with the increase in controls experienced on the island after the protests of July 11.

When the clock struck three in the afternoon, the time agreed for the Civic March, the almost deserted streets in some areas of Central Havana, Old Havana, Cerro and Plaza de la Revolución were the panorama on display. Many restless political police officers on the street corners, the occasional passerby in their daily work, and some people dressed in white.

«Here in Prado there are police, military and many segurosos – State Security agents — the atmosphere is very tense. I also see the international press, red berets and repudiators. When I was walking here I saw a small group dressed in white going up to Central Park, but very small,» described a young woman from the downtown promenade, who insisted on pointing out the presence of many «disguised policemen, especially dressed in blue and red.»

A couple of young people were detained near the Paseo del Prado while shouting «Patria y Libertad» under the terrified gazes of some neighbors who were watching them from balconies or windows. The two men, yet to be identified, were quickly intercepted and arrested by police, according to a video posted on social media.

Galiano, one of the main streets of Centro Habana and the street that the protesters walked on July 11, remains closed to vehicles from its beginning on the avenue of the Malecón to Calle Reina. The road, a commercial artery with many covered walkways and close to Paseo del Prado, was considered as an alternative route for those who planned to march on 15N.

The day was atypical, without bustle and lines. «In one of the Carlos III’s stores they were selling bread and ham in national currency,» Yuniel said. One of the shop assistants showed her fear and mentioned that she was «crazy to go home» but had to be there until 9 pm. «They forced us to work,» she said.

The bank branch on Calle Aranguren, which normally closes at 3:30 pm, moved up the end of the day. «Today and tomorrow it closes at two in the afternoon,» said a civil guard to an astonished customer. Many private businesses did not open their doors and others warned their customers that they were suspending home delivery until next Wednesday.

Dozens of independent activists, artists and journalists have been detained in the last hours or remain under siege since Sunday to prevent them from leaving their homes. One of the few people who has been able to evade the police siege was the independent reporter Iliana Hernández, who left to march at 3 pm.

«My mission was to show them [the Government] that it was not impossible to escape as I have done on other occasions,» Hernández said in a video shared by CiberCuba. She also said that at some point in the next few hours they will arrest her but the important thing was that at three in the afternoon she was on the street «dressed in gray because today is a gray day for Cuba.» «It is sad that we have to live this way but for that we are fighting not to live like this anymore.»

Despite the surveillance, some went out dressed in white to tour the city, the color that the organizers of the call had promoted. Others showed their sympathy with the March in other ways: A 60-year-old state worker proudly showed the screen of her mobile with an image of her cousin «making an L with her hand the symbol of freedom» and let this newspaper know his how to sync with him for 15N.

«I do not see an end to this, if every time someone disagrees they go, they stage an act of repudiation,» said the woman, alluding to a change. «We are going to run out of young people, that is the greatest thing, but hopefully [the change] will come soon.»

For his part, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, Bruno Rodríguez, described this Monday as a «failed operation» referring to the call for a peaceful march on 15N, declared illegal by the Government.

«There is a lot to tell about all the good that has happened and there are also some things to reveal about this failed operation that tried to articulate and that has been a complete failure,» he said referring to the protests in a live broadcast from the website of Foreign Ministry’s Facebook page.

Rodríguez dedicated a large part of his speech to highlighting the reopening of the Island and spoke of the #CubaVive label used by officialdom in the last hours to show that the Island is experiencing «normal tranquility.» The hashtag also appears on several posters that have been used by the Rapid Response Brigades and repressors in acts of repudiation of opponents and members of the Archipiélago platform.

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