14ymedio, Havana, 23 February 2019 — Opponents Antonio Rodiles and Ángel Moya were arrested after staging a protest in downtown Havana against the constitutional referendum that will be held Sunday.
Moya and Rodiles walked down Galiano Street and were followed by dozens of people who recorded the protest with their cell phones, without participating in it, while others came up to them with official slogans. The activist Maikel Herrera, of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (Unpacu), joined the opposition and was also arrested, as confirmed to this newspaper by the organization’s leader, José Daniel Ferrer.
Ángel Moya, Antonio Rodiles, other activists and people mobilized by Galiano, Havana in protest against the dictatorship.pic.twitter.com/4j3g2HG6tD
– José Daniel Ferrer (@jdanielferrer) February 23, 2019
Ferrer was the first to transmit the video of the protest through his Twitter account, where activists are seen shouting “freedom” and “enough of the manipulation.” Moya was released shortly after, while Rodiles and Herrera remain detained. In the vicinity of the Capitol, an indeterminate group of Unpacu militants was arrested by the police when they tried to join the protest.
In conversation with 14ymedio Moya explained that his arrest lasted about two hours and that both he and Rodiles were taken to the Zanja unit. “They issued me a warning for disorderly conduct and a fine of 4,000 pesos for dirtying public ornaments,” he said. He also stated that he saw Rodiles in a dark cell before leaving the unit and that he has not yet been released.
The former political prisoner Ángel Moya and Antonio Rodiles are in favor of boycotting the constitutional referendum and not participating in a process that they have described as a “farce”. Other organizations on the island have asked Cubans to go to the polls and vote NO to send a strong message to the executive Miguel Díaz-Canel.
The Government has deployed a campaign for the YES vote through its monopoly on the media and its domination of the public spaces. Several NO activists and referendum observers have been threatened with jail if they campaign and more than 100 Unpacu members are holding a hunger strike to protest the arbitrary raids and arrests.
The Government finds itself in a delicate situation with its main ally and benefactor, Venezuela, plunged in a deep crisis. Nicolás Maduro, a key figure in the alliance with Cuba, is not recognized as president by more than fifty countries and a change in Miraflores Palace could trigger a crisis like the one of the ’90s — a time that Fidel Castro called “The Special Period in Time of Peace” — when the Island lost its privileged trade status with the Soviet Union.
This Friday the Baptist minister Carlos Sebastián Hernández Armas denounced that the Communist Party had threatened to withdraw his status as pastor for preaching against the new Constitution. Hernandez had called on faithful of his congregation to vote NO in the referendum.
Cuban police on Friday arrested Roberto Veliz Torres, minister of the Assemblies of God in the town of Los Benítez, in the municipality of Palma Soriano. According to a denunciation of the faithful of his Church, Veliz had called all Christians to vote NO because, he says, the Constitution that the Government wants to impose is not compatible with the Christian faith.
The Christian, Catholic and Evangelical churches have demonstrated a strong rejection of the new Constitution, which leaves the power of the Communist Party intact and introduces small changes such as the approval of private property.
Translated by Wilfredo Díaz Echevarria
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