The Aborted Protest

A police operation at Mónica Baró’s house. (M.B./Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Generation Y, Havana, 1 July 2020 — It was going to be a Tuesday like any other amid the restrictions imposed in Havana by the pandemic. A day of long lines to try to buy food, of walking enormous distances in the absence of public transport and of calling friends to find out if they are in good health and if the coronavirus had not knocked on their doors. But the official repression to avoid a peaceful protest made the last day of June break the mold of any routine.

By 11:00 in the morning, on a corner that is the left atrium of the heart of the Cuban capital, activists of various tendencies had gathered. They sought to raise their voices for numerous reasons, but especially for the death — last week — of a young black man at the hands of the police. A shot in the back ended the life of Hansel Ernesto Hernández Galiano and to the outrage over his murder was added the irritation that the  official press barely reported the news and the authorities justified what happened as an act of self-defense on the part of the officer, while describing Hernández as an aggressive criminal.

The event, which occurred in the poor neighborhood of Guanabacoa, has fueled a popular anger that has been incubating for decades. It is a social unrest that has been reached for multiple reasons. The police excesses and racial discrimination that continue to mark the attitudes of those in uniforms towards citizens are part of what motivates this anger, but added to this is the discomfort caused by the repressive turn of the screw applied by the Government which it justifies by the Covid-19 health emergency. A feeling of suffocation runs through the country, where, on top of the virus, the economic situation has deteriorated significantly in recent months.

This Tuesday’s protest sought to show some of that annoyance, in a national context where the official Cuban media has exploited to extremes the death of the American George Floyd, with numerous public figures in Cuba condemning the excessive violence used against an African American during his arrest in Minneapolis. The same informational spaces and voices on this Island which, until a few days ago, did not hide their support for the Black Lives Matter movement, now remain in complicit silence before the bullet that struck the young Cuban. For mote in the eye of others is always easier to denounce than the enormous beam of responsibility blocking your own vision.

At the time when the protest in Havana was due to start on June 30, the meeting place was surrounded by police and military personnel, the homes of numerous activists were guarded, and several artists and independent reporters were detained. With a disproportionate deployment, the regime aborted the initiative before any of those heading to the protest could even reach the corner of 23rd and L streets. The arrests were joined by the cutting of telephone service and verbal threats. Amidst the crisis of shortages hitting the country, the repressors spared no resources to prevent a peaceful demonstration.

Only hours later the first releases began, but on Tuesday things had definitely gone wrong.


This text was originally published by Deustche Welle’s Latin America page .


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