Tag Archives: Politics

DISCURSO PRONUNCIADO EN LA CLAUSURA DEL III PLENO DEL COMITÉ CENTRAL DEL PCC

DISCURSO COMPLETO,  17 de Diciembre de 2021

Miguel Díaz-Canel Bermúdez

Discurso pronunciado por Miguel Mario Díaz-Canel Bermúdez, Primer Secretario del Comité Central del Partido Comunista de Cuba y Presidente de la República, en la clausura del III Pleno del Comité Central del PCC, en el Palacio de Convenciones, el 17 de diciembre de 2021,  “Año 63 de la Revolución”.

(Versiones Taquigráficas – Presidencia de la República)

Explicarles que hace solo unos breves instantes recibimos una llamada del General de Ejército Raúl Castro Ruz, quien me pidió que les trasmitiera que él había seguido por el circuito cerrado todos los detalles de las dos sesiones que hemos tenido del III Pleno del Comité Central del Partido, ayer y hoy, que elogiaba la calidad de la discusión y el debate realizado, y que les enviaba a todos un fuerte abrazo revolucionario (Aplausos).

Saludos, queridas compañeras y compañeros, hermanos todos en este arduo camino que solo puede emprenderse con claridad en las ideas que defendemos y confianza en los seres humanos que marchan a nuestro lado.

El socialismo es, hasta hoy, la única vía al desarrollo con justicia social. Una apuesta innegable a la inteligencia, la voluntad y la vocación solidaria de hombres y mujeres conscientes de que hacen “camino al andar”.

Otros lo han emprendido antes y nos han dejado lecciones, positivas o negativas, que no podemos ignorar, pero siempre atemperándolas a lo que singulariza nuestra experiencia concreta: historia, tradiciones, identidad y, por supuesto, el carácter y la cercanía de un adversario poderoso que lleva siglos al acecho.

Ese adversario no acepta la soberanía y odia nuestro sistema social.  Somos demasiado libres para lo que ellos consideran su patio trasero y demasiado atrevidos por elegir el camino del socialismo.

Cuba libre, soberana y socialista en las narices del imperio.  Eso somos. Y en ese somos que entraña una alta cuota de resistencia y creatividad heroica, al cierre de otro año difícil, llegó el momento de felicitarnos.

Las actuales generaciones de revolucionarios se están probando en la pelea.  La historia de Cuba está preñada de episodios de resistencia insuperables, pero ninguno de nosotros, desde las actuales responsabilidades, habíamos vivido años tan plagados de desafíos y amenazas.  Vencerlos es una proeza.

Rememoremos las batallas: Bloqueo reforzado con 243 medidas adicionales en medio de una pandemia con picos escalofriantes de contagiados y fallecidos, saturación de hospitales, escasa disponibilidad de medicamentos y déficit elevado de oxígeno terapéutico; problemas en la generación eléctrica; desabastecimientos de productos de primera necesidad, altos precios, crisis global en la transportación de mercancías; Guerra de IV Generación, apoyada en una campaña de descrédito vil y calumniosa contra las heroicas brigadas médicas, contra las leyes en curso, contra cada medida o acción de resistencia, contra el liderazgo revolucionario, contra las familias.

Adicionalmente, y tratando de fragmentar a una sociedad que debe su existencia a la unidad, han hecho todo por arrancarle el alma a la Patria, acosando a sus artistas y poniendo en venta el servicio de algunos a las peores causas.

PARA CONTINUAR

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‘THEY WANT TO MAKE AN EXAMPLE’: CUBA PROTESTERS HIT WITH SEVERE SENTENCES

Six months after demonstrations, courts have quietly started imposing harsh charges such as sedition

Ed Augustin in Havana

The Guardian, Last modified on Sat 15 Jan 2022 10.02 GMT

Original Article:  Cuban Protesters Sentenced

One Sunday last summer, 18-year-old Eloy Cardoso left his mother’s house on the outskirts of Havana to collect an Atari game console from a friend.  He’d stayed at home the previous day, while the largest anti-government demonstrations since the revolution had ripped through Cuba.

The authorities had managed to quell the protests in most of the country overnight, but not in La Güinera: unrest was still raging in the humble and normally calm neighbourhood, and Eloy walked out into a bloody brawl.  Shops were smashed and looted, party supporters wielded clubs, police wrestled with youths, and one man was shot dead. Amid the tumult, Cardoso began to throw stones at the police.

He was arrested a few days later, and at a closed trial earlier this week he was sentenced to seven years in prison.  The trial is one of scores currently playing out across the island, as, six months after the demonstrations, Cuban courts have quietly started imposing draconian sentences on the protesters who – sometimes peacefully, sometimes less so – flooded the streets last summer.

Though the state has a history of issuing stiff sentences to organised political dissidents, the punishments now being meted out are unusually severe.

“They want to make an example of him,” said Cardoso’s mother, Servillia Pedroso, 35, holding back tears.  Eloy Cardoso’s mother, Servillia Pedroso, left, and Migdalia Gutiérrez, whose son, Brunelvil, has been sentenced to 15 years.

Because her son is at college, police initially told her he would get a “second chance” charging him with “public disorder” and telling him he would get away with a fine.  But in October, the charge was upgraded to sedition: in other words, inciting others to rebel against state authority.

Since December, more 50 people in La Güinera have been sentenced for sedition, according to the civil society organisation Justicia 11J. Most are poor, young males.  Justicia 11J said more than 700 people were still being detained following July’s protests, with 158 of those accused of or already sentenced for sedition. Last week one man in the eastern province of Holguín was sentenced to 30 years.

Erika Guevara-Rosas, Americas director at Amnesty International, said detainees have faced summary proceedings without guarantees of due process or a fair trial.  “Prosecutors have pushed for disproportionately long sentences against people who were arrested in the protests. In addition, many people stand accused of vague crimes that are inconsistent with international standards, such as ‘contempt’ which has been consistently used in Cuba to punish those who criticise the government,” she said.

“The state is trying to send the message that there are dire consequences to rebelling against the government,” said William LeoGrande, professor of government at American University in Washington.  “The fact that the government feels under and is under unprecedented threat – not just from increased US sanctions but from the pandemic and the global economic situation – makes it less willing to tolerate any type of dissidence.”

Trump-era sanctions contributed to the food and medicine shortages people were protesting against. The sanctions also slowed vaccine production, aggravating a Covid surge that was sweeping through the island at the time, and contributing to the fury. But many protesters also wanted freedom from Communist rule.

Economic complaints are a constant in La Güinera: it’s hard to afford shoes and medicine. A schoolbag costs 2,500 pesos – more than half a teacher’s monthly salary.

“I’m sure that if it wasn’t for the economy, none of this would have happened – but the economy never improves,” said Yusniel Hernández, 36, a teacher turned taxi driver, who said a dozen friends had been incarcerated for throwing stones and assaulting police officers.

Analysts say the government is using exemplary sentencing to snuff out any further protests because it is bracing for further economic hardship. As sanctions have hardened, a longstanding siege mentality among the leadership seems to have ossified in recent years. The fact that the Biden administration reversed its policy of normalisation with the island after July may be another contributing factor.

But the pain from the crackdown is palpable.  “None of these kids were activists, they don’t belong to any organisation,” said Migdalia Gutiérrez, 44, whose son, Brunelvil, 33, has been sentenced to 15 years.  If someone has nothing to do with politics, and you are accusing them of political stuff, then you are making them political prisoners,” she added.

Her nextdoor neighbour, María Luisa Fleitas Bravo, 58, lives in poverty. The roof of her kitchen, living room and second bedroom collapsed when Hurricane Irma struck in 2017. The state provided her with the breeze-blocks she needed to rebuild, but four years later the cement still hasn’t arrived.  Her rotting wood ceiling is covered with plastic sheets secured by clothes pegs, but it still leaks when it rains.   Her unemployed 33-year-old son, Rolando, was sentenced to 21 years for attacking a police officer during the protests (a charge he denies).

Pedroso has been running a small online campaign to free her son. But shortly after she and seven other local mothers made a video demanding justice , she received a visit from the police, who informed her that the video was being shared on Facebook for “counterrevolutionary” ends.

She has since been questioned by state security, and told that if she takes to the street to protest for her son’s release, she could be charged with public disorder.

Pedroso, a housewife, had applied for a job at Havana’s international airport, to work in immigration. The job was all but in the bag, she said, until she was asked about her son during a final check-up interview.  That was September. She hasn’t heard back since.

“Nobody who has a child accused of anything can work in the airport,” she said, before adding, with a touch of gallows humour: “In fact, yes: they can be accused of murder, but not of counterrevolution.”

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Reflections on Cuban Politics, 2021

By El Toque December 31,

HAVANA TIMES – After three months on the air, La Colada podcast sees this year out with the last episode of its first season. The podcast’s hosts, writer and journalist Jorge de Armas and political analyst Enrique Guzman Karell, went over some of the events that marked a turbulent 2021 in Cuba.

Over the course of approximately an hour, they discussed the protests on July 11th, November 15th, the difference between the San Isidro Movement and Archipielago, the figure of Miguel Diaz-Canel as the representative of a decaying system and Cuban women in the struggle for freedom and democracy on the island.

July 11th: Cries for freedom and the order for combat

July 11th is a date that will go down in Cuban history because of its dimensions. The flame that was lit with a mass protest in San Antonio de los Baños on the outskirts of Havana, and quickly spread like wildfire in dozens of other towns and cities across the country. Thousands of Cubans took to the streets to protest, a kind of domino effect on a people desperate for freedom and fed up of living in crisis.

What the Government had tried to prevent for 62 years, broke out that Sunday. Cubans of all ages demanded their rights loud and clear, and they displayed their explicit rejection of the Cuban government, whose repressive response reached its climax with President Miguel Diaz-Canel’s order for combat, calling upon the Cuban people to stand up to protestors.

“The order for combat has been given, revolutionaries take to the streets,” said Diaz Canel on national TV that day. “This is a fascist phrase, a phrase which encourages a genocide among Cubans to some extent, a civil war,” Jorge de Armas said.

“This order given by somebody with a clearly fascist character like Fidel Castro could have resulted far worse,” he warned.

According to the writer and journalist, Diaz-Canel symbolizes the Cuban government’s lack of a comprehensive approach to politics. Guzman Karell adds that this is also the expression of a system in decline that has already reached breaking point.

“It remains a sad fact that we have such a bleak, unenlightened figure at the head of a country in crisis on all fronts, nothing good can come of this,” he explains.

Moderators of La Colada recalled how Diaz-Canel later said he didn’t regret pitting the Cuban people against one another and how he lied when he said that there weren’t any disappeared or tortured persons after July 11th. Likewise when he said there aren’t any political prisoners in Cuba and that “people who aren’t with the Revolution are free to protest freely,” when NGOs have reported over 1300 arrests linked to the protest.

Five months after the protests, over 700 Cubans are still behind bars, including minors. Dozens of protestors have been subjected to summary hearings, charged with crimes such as public disorder, attempt, incitement and contempt.

San Isidro and Archipielago

The San Isidro Movement (MSI) was born in late 2018 as a direct response to the Government’s Decree-Law 349, a threat to freedom of artistic creation and speech in Cuba. It takes its name from the poor and marginalized Havana neighborhood where it is based, and gathers a group of artists and activists who advocate for civil rights and democracy on the island.

MSI started making lots of noise all over Cuba in November 2020, when a group of artists, activists and journalists entrenched themselves at their headquarters to demand the release of one of its members, anti-establishment rapper Denis Solis, who had been given a prison sentence during a summary hearing, and without a legal defense.

Many Cubans both in Cuba and abroad supported the hunger strike, and the Government launched a repulsive slander campaign in the media and stepped-up intimidation. Then its security agents dressed up as doctors to forcefully remove those who were part of the sit-in and arrested them. This led over 300 artists of all ages to gather outside the Ministry of Culture, on November 27th 2020, to demand an explanation and for them to respect rights of speech and freedom of artistic creation in Cuba.

MSI’s main leader, artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, has been in police custody since July 11th. He has become one of the most emblematic faces of Cuba today and is one of the main threats to the Government, because of his close ties to marginalized groups over the years, and his power to mobilize people.

“The great threat San Isidro poses is the same as what the Cuban people pose. The November 27th protest wasn’t so much a threat. I believe the San Isidro Movement represents the majority of what Cuba is today, maybe not what it was 70 years ago, but Cuba today resembles San Isidro more than anything else,” De Armas weighs in.

In 2021, a citizen-led platform appeared in Cuba, driven by playwright Yunior Garcia Aguilera, one of the leaders of the November 27th protest. The project was called Archipielago and its main call was for a civic protest for change on November 15th to demand the release of political prisoners, among other things. The initiative was thwarted in the end by the Government and Garcia Aguilera went into exile in Spain soon after, which led to a break in the platform, and many of its members left the project.

Guzman Karell talked about those who define citizen-led platform Archipielago as a Leftist party, an idea that he doesn’t share “precisely because this symbology refers to a more classist, more university-educated, more white, more organized Cuba, which is far-removed from the Cuba we saw on July 11th in Cuban towns and neighborhoods.”

One of the things that upsets De Armas the most in regard to the dismantling process of Archipielago, isn’t the deception many of its members had – which he points out is valid – but rather the deception of those who believed and followed the project.

“There is a duty in hope and a tragedy in disenchantment, and this is what totalitarianism has always played with, the Cuban government with its people,” he explains.

He pointed out that the positive thing that came from 15N was the wave of solidarity it unleashed. Cuban artists coming forward, such as Leo Brouwer, Jose Maria Vitier, Chucho Valdes, and celebrities on the international public scene such as Ruben Blades and Mario Vargas Llosa.

Patria y Vida” phenomenon

In February 2021, Cuban artists Yotuel Romero, Alexander Delgado, Randy Malcom, Descemer Bueno, Maykel Osorbo and El Funk released the song “Patria y Vida”, which became an anthem for freedom in Cuba and the soundtrack for protests of Cubans around the world.

More than a song, “Patria y Vida” (Homeland and Life) became a social phenomenon and served as an impetus to amplify the Cuban people’s cries for freedom on different platforms.

The symbolic value that it has taken on also depends a lot on the social context it represents. De Armas points out that the most important thing about this is that a song like “Patria y Vida” has become a symbol of social needs.

The song won the Best Urban Song and Song of the Year categories at the Latin Grammy Awards that was recently held in Las Vegas. During the gala, Cuban artists performed an acoustic version of “Patria y Vida” and dedicated it to political prisoners, especially to Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara – who appears in the music video – and to Maykel “Osorbo” Castillo, one of its composers, who has been in a Cuban prison, since May.

“This has a special merit in my eyes, and the fact that the Grammy Awards ceremony and how controversial it could have been and what it sparked on social media, was all as important as the Latin World seeing Ruben Blades, Residente, and Mario Vargas Llosa talk about Cuba. I believe that “Patria y Vida” did in fact, to some extent, put the issue of Cuba on the table within this space of pop culture,” De Armas pointed out.

“The Patria y Vida phenomenon managed to unify Cuba’s cultural space, with both residents and its diaspora community,” he adds; an opinion that Guzman shares because “if a people embrace an artistic representation, this is the greatest achievement.”

The political analyst highlighted the fact that “Patria y Vida” as a song and phenomenon, also represents the Cuban people. Out of everything that has happened in recent years in Cuba, the San Isidro Movement is closely linked to what happened on July 11th, as well as Patria y Vida.

“This might seem trivial, but it’s no coincidence. It’s extremely significant that all of these young people are black. They are responding to a particular history and tradition,” he says.

Cuban women in the anti-establishment struggle

One of the most important issues that this last episode of La Colada paid special attention to was the role of Cuban women in the fight for change in Cuba. The struggle that the Ladies in White have been playing a role in for years, or with growing women’s representation in independent journalism and different platforms.

The podcast’s hosts made a special mention to Cuban activists Saily Gonzalez, Daniela Rojo, Camila Lobon, Anamely Ramos, Omara Ruiz Urquiola, Thais Mailen Franco, Katherine Bisquet and Tania Bruguera, whose names, complaints and work for freedom has marked this year.

“If somebody has been at the forefront of this front against the government that oppresses society, for over 20 years, that’s Cuban women. With all clarity, with all strength. They were there before the Ladies in White, but especially with the Ladies in White. For they were able to firmly embrace a discourse, but the idea they proposed was also peace,” stressed Guzman Karell.

In early December, the independent magazine El El Estornudo published a feature article with five complaints of sexual abuse against folk singer Fernando Becquer. The article sparked a heated debate on social media and encouraged over twenty victims of the musician to come forward and tell similar stories.

As a result of the discussions that recent sex abuse allegations against Becquer have sparked, two key issues in Cuba society have returned to the table, in addition to the legal vulnerability of women on the island, which date back to Cuba being founded as an independent State: race and gender.

“Until we as a society understand this and all of the responsibility this implies, this country will never be free, even when we shake ourselves free of totalitarianism, if we don’t face these issues head-on, we will never be free and we will never live in a free and prosperous society,” Guzman says.

Regarding harassment, sex abuse and violence against women, De Armas pointed out that the problem is that there is no representation within the Cuban State to protect Cuban women from this harassment, abuse and rape. “It isn’t culture, it’s a lack of social interest.”

Despite growing numbers of cases of gender-based violence across the country, and in a country with a high percentage of female lawmakers and professionals, the legislative agenda passed up until 2028, still lacks a comprehensive law against gender-based violence.

“Power in Cuba continues to be disgustingly macho, and white,” Enrique Guzman points out. “It’s clear that this is a systemic problem because after you’ve managed to overcome a great deal of conflict, you go to the police to file a complaint, and they don’t listen to you, they don’t keep you in mind, they mock you, it’s terrible.”

“I believe that change in Cuba has to be female, otherwise change won’t come,” De Armas stressed.

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KAREL J. LEYVA AND MICHAEL WIGGIN ON CANADIAN POLICY TOWARDS CUBA

RESPONSE BY MICHAEL WIGGIN

November 22. 23021

The article by Karel J. Leyva was, to me, disturbing.  I think that it reflects the US government perspective of Cuba and not that of the many Canadians who spend time in and study Cuba and its history. Also, it does not recognize the progress of Cuba in the Caribbean and South American context where political turmoil is common and human rights abuses make those of Cuba seem minor.  Also, the US support for dictators and the overthrow of democratically elected governments that lean to the left has been the norm, but only Cuba has been able to withstand the unrelenting US subversion.

It is also important to recognize the history of Cuba.  Exploited first by the Spanish and then by the US who supported the likes of Batista and the US mob operations in Havana.  It must be recognized that much of Cuba was exploited by US owned sugar plantations that provided a few months of work each year, restricted the ability of farmers to use vacant land and provided no social services, hospitals or schools.  This resulted in oppressive conditions for many Cuban families and widespread illiteracy.  But much of this changed after the Revolution which heralded high rates of literacy, more social equality. access to education and to health care.  This has been followed by an enviable achievement in medical internationalism and support to other developing countries and the development of a pharmaceutical industry with many successes in tropical disease and COVID 19 vaccines.

All of this in the face of the US unrelenting blockade and covert support of dissidence.  I am not saying that Cuba is perfect.  There is much left to be done and Cubans are facing difficult times and much would be improved if the blockade were to be suspended.  And if covert support for dissidents stopped, then the government would have no excuses for repression of Cuban’s expressing their frustrations.  This is made worse by admitted erroneous reporting by the media..  Showing crowds of Cubans demonstrating in support of the Cuban government and then claiming them to be dissidents calling for the overthrow of the government is not constructive.

For outsiders, it is difficult to get access to fair media coverage and analysis.  There are articles such as that by Leyva, but there is information from people recently or currently in Cuba who say that the coverage often reports legitimate demonstrations complaining about the pandemic or the economy as calls for regime change – which they often are not.  If we want to help the people of Cuba, we need to focus on them and not political differences.  Like all of the western democracies, we have been working on democracy since the Magna Carta in 1215 and had many revolutions and demonstrations along the way.  Cuba has had 60 years.  Let’s give them some breathing space for orderly self determination.

For now, Canada should avoid the US bandwagon, respect the incredible progress of Cuba from the colonial era and use our influence to stop the US embargo/blockade and covert efforts at regime change.  Many Canadian visitors to Cuba and Canadian academics who specialize in Cuban issues share this view.

…..

Cuba-Canada Relations a Generation Ago: Margaret, Fidel and Pierre.

CUBA, LE CANADA ET LES DROITS DE LA PERSONNE

Le vent de changement qui souffle sur Cuba et la répression grandissante doivent forcer le Canada à repenser ses relations bilatérales avec La Havane.


 Original Article: Cuba, le Canada et les droits de la personne

par Karel J. Leyva,  11 novembre 2021

La nature dictatoriale du régime cubain a été reconnue à plusieurs reprises par des représentants du gouvernement canadien. En 2009, le ministre des Affaires étrangères Peter Kent a déclaré que Cuba est « une dictature, peu importe comment on la présente ». En 2016, Stéphane Dion, alors également ministre des Affaires étrangères, l’a reconnu lorsque la journaliste de Radio-Canada Emmanuelle Latraverse lui a demandé s’il trouvait approprié le ton employé par Justin Trudeau pour annoncer sa tristesse à la mort de Fidel Castro. La journaliste rappelait alors qu’il s’agissait d’un dictateur qui avait emprisonné des dizaines de milliers de Cubains et exécuté ses opposants. La même année, Justin Trudeau a fini par reconnaître que Castro était bel et bien un dictateur.

En 2018, le Canada est allé jusqu’à présenter au régime cubain une série de recommandations concernant les droits civils et politiques, dont celle de garantir que tout individu arrêté soit informé sans retard des raisons de son arrêt, qu’il ait accès à un avocat de son choix et qu’il ait droit dans des délais raisonnables à une audience publique où il est présumé innocent.

Lorsque le régime a brutalement réprimé les manifestations pacifiques de son peuple, le 11 juillet 2021, le gouvernement canadien a une fois de plus reconnu la nature dictatoriale du régime et ses violations des droits et libertés. Le ministre canadien des Affaires étrangères Marc Garneau a rencontré son homologue cubain pour lui faire part des profondes préoccupations du Canada concernant la violente répression des manifestations à Cuba, en particulier les détentions arbitraires et les mesures répressives contre les manifestants pacifiques, les journalistes et les militants.

Sans surprise, les recommandations canadiennes en matière de droits de la personne présentées à Cuba n’ont pas été prises en compte. Au contraire, comme le souligne le plus récent rapport d’Amnistie internationale, le gouvernement cubain continue de réprimer la dissidence sous toutes ses formes en emprisonnant des responsables politiques, des journalistes indépendants et des artistes, et en harcelant des poètes, des membres de la communauté LGBTQ et des universitaires.

Une attitude contradictoire

Ces prises de position du gouvernement canadien soutiennent la légitimité des revendications démocratiques du peuple cubain qui se traduisent, par exemple, par une augmentation soutenue du nombre de protestations politiques recensées par l’Observatorio Cubano de Conflictos. Mais, contrairement au traitement que le Canada réserve à d’autres dictatures, les dénonciations d’Ottawa n’ont aucune incidence sur ses relations bilatérales avec La Havane.

Contrairement au traitement que le Canada réserve à d’autres dictatures, les dénonciations d’Ottawa n’ont aucune incidence sur ses relations bilatérales avec La Havane.

En fait, non seulement le Canada accorde de l’aide financière directe au régime de La Havane, mais il a également harmonisé sa programmation de développement international avec certaines priorités définies par le gouvernement cubain. D’autres régimes autoritaires ne jouissent pas du même traitement. Par exemple, l’aide humanitaire que le Canada accorde à la Corée du Nord se transmet par le biais de partenaires multilatéraux, car le Canada n’apporte aucune contribution financière directe à ce régime. Des sanctions semblables ont été imposées au Nicaragua et au Venezuela afin d’envoyer un message clair en ce qui a trait aux droits de la personne.

Le cas de Cuba demeure une exception. L’intolérance du Canada face aux violations des droits civils et politiques dénote donc une attitude à géométrie variable.

Une situation qui se dégrade, malgré des pressions qui s’intensifient

La résolution du Parlement européen sur la situation des droits de l’homme et la situation politique à Cuba, adoptée en juin 2021, souligne que depuis l’entrée en vigueur, il y a quatre ans, de l’Accord de dialogue politique et de coopération avec Cuba, non seulement ce pays n’a accompli aucun progrès au regard des objectifs définis par l’accord, mais le régime cubain a intensifié la répression et les violations des droits de l’homme. La situation politique et économique s’est détériorée, provoquant une nouvelle vague d’actions de résistance pacifique violemment réprimées par le régime.

Un article d’Options politiques publié en 2006 soulignait que la politique d’engagement constructif du premier ministre Chrétien à l’égard de Cuba n’a favorisé ni la démocratisation ni l’amélioration de la situation des droits de la personne. De même, les politiques de négligence « relativement bénigne » des premiers ministres Martin et Harper n’ont pas eu d’effet sur Cuba non plus. Et le gouvernement actuel ne montre pas de volonté franche à faire progresser les droits et libertés des Cubains. Il serait donc temps que le Canada repense ses relations bilatérales avec le régime de La Havane. Le Canada doit trouver un équilibre entre la realpolitik et son engagement à promouvoir la démocratie et les droits de la personne. C’est le peuple cubain, et non le régime, qui « a besoin de plus de Canada ».

L’insoutenable ambivalence du Canada

On pourrait se demander quel serait l’impact réel de l’application de sanctions canadiennes sur un régime qui, depuis des décennies, a démontré une grande résilience face aux pressions internationales, notamment américaines. Au-delà du fait qu’en matière de droits de la personne, adopter une moralité politique à géométrie variable n’est pas une attitude éthiquement acceptable, le contexte politique actuel justifierait pleinement un changement de posture de la part du gouvernement du Canada. Voici cinq tendances récentes qui soutiennent cette affirmation.

Le contexte politique actuel justifierait pleinement un changement de posture de la part du gouvernement du Canada

Premièrement, bien que le gouvernement cubain ait toujours violé de manière systématique les droits de la personne, ces violations se sont aggravées considérablement au cours des dernières années. Depuis le rassemblement de plus de 300 artistes, intellectuels et journalistes devant le ministère de la Culture, le 27 novembre 2020, pour réclamer le droit à la liberté d’expression et la cessation de la répression, le nombre de détentions arbitraires n’a fait qu’augmenter. Selon les rapports de l’Observatoire cubain des droits de la personne, entre février et juin 2021, 2 906 actions répressives, y compris 734 détentions arbitraires, ont eu lieu à Cuba. L’ampleur de la répression s’est accrue après le 11 juillet, lorsque des centaines de milliers de Cubains ont marché pacifiquement pour réclamer la démocratie. Les manifestants ont été accueillis par des balles, des passages à tabac et des chiens lâchés sur eux. Par la suite, les agents de sécurité de l’État n’ont eu de cesse de se rendre au domicile de manifestants identifiés, de les détenir sans mandat d’arrêt, puis de les condamner lors de procès sommaires souvent menés sans avocat. Le rapport de Prisoners Defenders du 6 octobre 2021 souligne qu’un record historique de 525 prisonniers politiques au cours des 12 derniers mois vient d’être établi à Cuba. Ce document estime entre 5 000 et 8 000 le nombre d’arrestations arbitraires des suites de violences policières depuis le 11 juillet, parmi lesquelles certaines victimes ont dénoncé des tortures. Les personnes qui ont déjà été libérées l’ont été au prix d’amendes très élevées équivalant à plusieurs mois de salaires à Cuba. Selon un document produit par l’ONG Cubalex, certains font face à des peines de prison allant jusqu’à 27 ans. Un citoyen canadien de 19 ans a été emprisonné et est actuellement obligé d’effectuer des travaux forcés, malgré de graves problèmes de santé.

Deuxièmement, la nature même des violations a pris une nouvelle ampleur durant cette même période. Domiciles de militants assiégés, menaces, harcèlement, coupures d’Internet, amendes élevées, actes de répudiation et licenciements sont devenus la norme à Cuba. En outre, le récent décret-loi 35, qui renforce les contrôles sur la liberté d’expression dans les médias sociaux à Cuba, contrevient aux dispositions des articles 41, 46, 50 et 54 de la Constitution de la République de Cuba, tout en étant contraire aux traités internationaux ratifiés par le gouvernement de ce pays. De plus, les acteurs ciblés ne sont plus exclusivement des dissidents politiques. Ce sont des adolescentes menacées de viol par des agents de l’État, des journalistes contraints de se déshabiller devant des militaires dans une salle d’interrogatoire ou humiliés et agressés sexuellement, des grands maîtres des échecs en grève de la faim détenus arbitrairement, des médecins et des professeurs expulsés de leur emploi pour avoir fait la promotion du respect des droits fondamentaux, des poètes harcelés par la police à leur domicile, des jeunes de 14 à 17 ans détenus et des activistes forcés de rester dans leur maison durant des mois. Pour le Canada, il n’est désormais plus possible de croire l’argument traditionnel du gouvernement cubain selon lequel la contestation serait alimentée par des groupes radicaux basés à Miami.

Il n’est désormais plus possible de croire l’argument traditionnel du gouvernement cubain selon lequel la contestation serait alimentée par des groupes radicaux basés à Miami.

Troisièmement, il existe une conscience internationale croissante à l’égard de la dégradation du respect des droits de la personne à Cuba et une conviction morale que la situation qui en résulte est inacceptable. À la suite des sanctions de l’administration Biden envers des responsables des attaques contre les manifestants cubains, le Parlement européen a émis une résolution, le 16 septembre 2021, sur la répression gouvernementale visant les manifestations et les citoyens à Cuba. La naissance du mouvement 27N et la répression constante de ses membres ont donné une nouvelle visibilité à la fois nationale et internationale à la situation des droits de la personne à Cuba. Des publications sur ce mouvement dans la revue du Museum of Modern Art de New York en font foi, tout comme la nomination de l’artiste Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, leader du mouvement 27N emprisonné le 11 juillet, parmi les 100 personnalités les plus influentes de l’année selon le magazine Time. Les nombreuses manifestations contre la dictature organisées par des Cubains en exil aux quatre coins du monde ont également contribué à cette visibilité.

Quatrièmement, la communauté de Canadiens d’origine cubaine est devenue très active politiquement. Des dizaines de manifestations exigeant du gouvernement canadien des mesures concrètes contre la dictature cubaine ont déjà eu lieu au Canada. Des pétitions ont été présentées à la Chambre des communes demandant au gouvernement canadien de soutenir le peuple cubain face à la forte intensification de la répression. Des rencontres ont été organisées avec des sénateurs et des députés pour exiger que le Canada s’engage envers les droits de la personne et la démocratie à Cuba. Le gouvernement fédéral se trouve ainsi sous la pression des politiciens et de la société civile canadienne, qui lui demandent tous de mettre fin à sa complaisance à l’égard du régime de La Havane.

Enfin, la tendance à la hausse du nombre de protestations politiques à Cuba depuis 2020 s’est cristallisée dans l’explosion sociale survenue le 11 juillet dans plus de 60 endroits, événement sans précédent en 62 ans de dictature. Il serait faux de réduire les revendications de ce mouvement aux seuls enjeux économiques et sanitaires. Les vidéos qui circulent montrent le peuple cubain demandant liberté et démocratie. Pour seule réponse, le président cubain a ordonné aux « révolutionnaires » de réprimer et de battre les manifestants pacifiques.

Néanmoins, malgré la peur que cette période de terreur a générée au sein des familles cubaines, de nouveaux mouvements sociaux et des alliances sont en train de se créer dans la société civile du pays. De nouvelles marches pacifiques sont prévues, comme celle qui est organisée pour le 15 novembre prochain par le groupe de la société civile cubaine Archipiélago – une nouvelle plateforme de représentation citoyenne – et le Conseil pour la transition démocratique à Cuba.

Le gouvernement a répondu en convoquant à plusieurs reprises les signataires devant les autorités et en les menaçant d’emprisonnement. Il a également eu recours à la diffamation publique, à des coupures de téléphone et d’Internet, et à l’intimidation. La maison du leader d’Archipiélago a été vandalisée avec des pigeons décapités, de la terre et du sang. Les rues commencent déjà à se militariser et le gouvernement arme des groupes au moyen de fusils automatiques et de bâtons. Les images qui circulent donnent froid dans le dos et beaucoup craignent que la journée ne se solde par des violences et des emprisonnements. Dans le but de soutenir la marche, la société civile transnationale cubaine a organisé des manifestations dans 80 villes à travers le monde, dont Montréal, Ottawa, Toronto et Calgary.

Le Canada devrait accompagner le peuple cubain dans sa quête de liberté au lieu de se contenter de soutenir, comme il le fait, le « processus de modernisation de l’économie » amorcé par le régime ou de lui fournir une aide financière dont le peuple ne bénéficie pas, mais qui semble plutôt servir à acheter des équipements antiémeutes modernes jamais vus auparavant à Cuba. Pourquoi un gouvernement qui, l’an dernier, en pleine crise sanitaire et économique, a importé d’Espagne pour plus d’un million d’euros de matériel militaire aurait-il besoin de l’aide financière du Canada ?

Un aveu de complicité

Refuser de sanctionner les responsables de ces violations des droits de la personne constitue un aveu de complicité avec un régime en pleine décadence qui n’a aucune légitimité politique et qui est même condamné sur la scène internationale pour esclavage moderne. Non seulement une telle abstention minerait l’image du Canada en tant que l’un des principaux défenseurs des droits de la personne dans le monde, mais il mettrait le pays sur la sellette par rapport au traitement à la carte qu’il réserve à différentes dictatures. Le Canada a signé avec les États-Unis et le Parlement européen une déclaration commune appelant à un processus de négociation global dans le but de restaurer les institutions au Venezuela, d’y organiser des élections crédibles et de revoir les sanctions en fonction des progrès réalisés dans ce pays. Comment, alors, expliquer qu’il n’envisage même pas de repenser ses relations avec le régime de La Havane, qui non seulement commet lui aussi des violations flagrantes de droits et des libertés, mais qui est considéré comme un acteur crucial de la crise vénézuélienne ?

Fort de sa réputation de défenseur des droits et libertés partout dans le monde, le Canada pourrait jouer un rôle décisif en joignant sa voix au nombre grandissant de celles qui soutiennent une transition démocratique à Cuba.

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PROTEST IN CUBA: WHY IT FAILED

COUNTERPUNCH, November 22, 2021

Stephen Kimber – John Kirk

Original Article: Protest in Cuba: Why It Failed

The news was…. There was no news.

On November 15, the US media primed us for a repeat of the events of July 11 in Cuba — only more massive and more dramatic.

In July, tens of thousands of Cubans took to the streets to express their frustrations with their government and, more generally, the state of their country and its economy.

In the lead-up to this month’s announced protests, Archipiélago — a broad umbrella of dissident groups led by well-known dramatist Yunior García — boasted a Facebook group of 37,000 members. It publicly identified rallying points around the island where demonstrations would begin that day at 3 pm.

But nothing much happened. Organizers asked Cubans to take to the streets to demand radical changes in the government, but only a handful responded. They invited Cubans to bang pots later that night to show the world their frustration. Even fewer did. Despite predictions of violence and vandalism in the streets, CBS Miami reported only 11 people arrested, with another 50 barricaded in their homes by government agents and supporters. By the next day, García himselfwithout telling any of his fellow dissidents, decamped to Spain.

What went wrong?

The media knew — or claimed to: “By suppressing protest, Cuba’s government displays its fear of the people” (Washington Post); “Cuban government quashes planned march by protestors” (NBC News); “Cuba Crushes Dissent Ahead of Protest” (New York Times).

The media was not totally wrong. The Cuban government does have a long history of repressing dissent, which it claims is largely fomented by the US, and which it considers an existential threat. (Those claims aren’t wrong either, though their implications rarely get explored in the media.)

Certainly, some Cubans were dissuaded from demonstrating by the large police and military presence on the streets.

But that alone doesn’t explain the lack of outcome.

What did the US media, which generally parrots Washington’s malign interpretation of anything that happens in Cuba, miss in its myopia?  Plenty. Start with some significant events that actually did happen in Cuba on November 15.

On that day, for example, the country’s critically important, pandemic-ravaged tourism industry reopened to fully vaccinated international visitors after 18 brutal months of COVID-19 shutdown. In the first week, international flights to Cuba were scheduled to increase from 67 a week to over 400.

That became possible because Cuba has brought COVID under some level of control again, thanks in part to a massive Cuba-wide vaccination program using vaccines developed in its own labs. Cuban vaccination rates are among the highest in the world. And the number of COVID cases has decreased from a daily average of 10,000 in the summer to 243 the day of the planned protest.

Not coincidentally, November 15 also marked the much-delayed return to in-classroom learning for 700,000 Cuban children, a major return-to-normal milestone that helped buoy spirits. So too did a series of free concerts and art exhibits to celebrate the upcoming 502nd anniversary of the founding of Havana.

Beyond those markers, there were other pragmatic reasons for Cubans to feel more hopeful as protest day dawned.  Venezuela, the major supplier of oil to the island, increased its supplies from 40,000 barrels per day in August to 66,000 in November. Power has become more stable, with fewer blackouts, and the cooler weather has helped ease pressure on the grid.

It is also fair to note that the Cuban government — caught napping in July — learned lessons too. But not — as the US media would have it — simply how to intimidate and control its citizens.

Cuba’s leaders acknowledged many of the frustrations that led to the July protests were legitimate and set about making changes, particularly for women and young people, and those in marginalized zones in larger cities. There are 62 projects in Havana alone as job creation, infrastructure development, housing repair, all became priorities.

The government launched additional economic reforms too, offering greater freedom for self-employment, access to hard currency credits for the private sector and opportunities to collaborate with foreign investment partners. Over 16,000 self-employment projects have since been registered, 416 requests to establish small and medium-sized enterprises approved.

At the same time, the Cuban government launched a massive media campaign to make the case to Cubans and the world — rightly again — that much of what ails the Cuban economy is still the result of the ongoing, never-ending US embargo and US-financed efforts encouraging right-wing regime change of the sort promoted by Miami-centred dissident groups like Archipiélago.

None of this is to suggest Cubans are suddenly universally satisfied with their government or with the pace of change. But it does indicate Cuba’s November “normal” appealed more to Cubans than Yunior Garcia’s call to the barricades.

And that should make us all question what we read and see in the media. Cuba is far more complex, its citizens’ views far more nuanced, than the simplistic media caricature suggests.

Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez:

“It is clear that what I called a failed operation — a political communication operation organized and financed by the United States government with millionaire funds and the use of internal agents — was an absolute failure,” Rodríguez said in an interview with The Associated Press.

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NOVEMBER 15: FEAR OF REPRESSION FOILS THE MARCH

WOLA, Washington Office on Latin America

by Isabella Oliver and Mariakarla Nodarse Venancio

Original Article: Fear of Repression Foils the March

Unlike the events on July 11—when thousands of Cubans took to the streets and largely spontaneous demonstrations spread rapidly across the nation—the demonstrations scheduled for Monday, November 15 did not take the Cuban government by surprise. Members of the civic group Archipiélago, the main organizers behind this demonstration, had notified authorities back in October of their intention to march on on this date to call for the release of political prisoners and protesters still detained after the July 11 protests, and to advocate for the respect of the rights of all Cubans and the resolution of differences through democratic and peaceful means. The government was prepared and for weeks, they harassed, intimidated and smeared the organizers of the march. On Monday, “acts of repudiation,”[1] heavy surveillance by state security agents, and cripplingly policed streets made sure streets in Havana—and the six other provinces where the new set of demonstrations were to take place—remained empty. Fear and the physical impossibility to leave their homes are the main reasons for the low turn-out of Cubans on November 15.

Men hang Cuban flags over the windows of opposition activist Yunior Garcia Aguilera’s home in an attempt to stop him from communicating with the outside, as he holds a flower from a window, in Havana, Cuba, Sunday, Nov. 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Ramon Epinosa)

The proposed demonstrations came after the events of this summer, when Cuban authorities sought to contain the largely peaceful demonstrations that occured on July 11, using tear gas and excessive use of force, which resulted in the death of one demonstrator, Diubis Laurencio Tejada, and the arbitrary detention of several hundreds of people—many of which remain deprived of their liberty in violation of their right to due process under the Cuban constitution and international law.

While the Cuban government has the right to protect itself against foreign interference—and the concerns about U.S. involvement with opposition groups are understandable—it should not infringe on the human rights of its citizens. The human rights enshrined in the Cuban constitution are universal, and need to be guaranteed to all, regardless of  political preferences. Article 56 of the Cuban constitution grants its citizens the right to demonstrate, but the government deemed the November 15 march illegal, alleging that it was attempting to undermine the socialist order and that the organizers had financial ties to the U.S. However, just as the Cuban government allows and encourages pro-government demonstrations, it should respect the freedom of expression and the right of assembly of those who disagree with it.

State media have focused their coverage on the country’s reopening to tourism and the return of elementary students to school after months, which also occurred on November 15. In the case of the protests, it has once again been social networks, independent journalists, and foreign correspondents who offer information about what is happening on the island to those attempting to be heard.

On November 15 itself, images showed largely empty streets, except for police and military vehicles. Some of the organizers complained their homes were surrounded by state security agents, police officers in plain clothes, and government supporters chanting slogans and insults so they couldn’t go out. Others said they were warned by police that they would be arrested for contempt if they forced their way onto the streets. According to the New York Times, at least 40 people were arrested, although the Archipiélago group claims this number is closer to over 100.

Between Sunday, November 14 and Tuesday, November 16, Yunior Garcia Aguilera, the best-known member of Archipiélago, was prevented from leaving his apartment, as he had planned to stage a solo march through Havana that day carrying a white rose, as a sign of peaceful demonstration. Security forces and government supporters surrounded his house, and his phone and internet services were interrupted. He was seen waving a white rose from an apartment window while displaying a sign reading “My house is blocked,” when government supporters hung a giant Cuban flag from the roof of the building covering his windows to keep him from communicating with anyone outside. The flags were still there Monday and a guard stood at the door, while the phones of García and other coordinators of Archipiélago group remained without service. After no known communication from him since early Tuesday, Garcia Aguilera announced on Wednesday that he had arrived in Spain with his wife, in circumstances that remain unclear.

Growing social movements are a sign of a rapidly changing Cuba

In November 2020, a coalition of about 300 people made up of artists and industry workers (which later became known as 27N) met in front of the Ministry of Culture to request a dialogue with the highest authorities after state forces stormed the headquarters of the Movimiento San Isidro (MSI) in Old Havana on November 26. During this raid, authorities evicted those who had declared a hunger strike, with some refusing even liquids, in protest of the detention and the judicial process against one of its members (rapper Denis Solís). In January 2021, after the government had shown no interest in engaging in dialogue with civil society, a number of the participants of the 27N gathered in front of the Ministry of Culture only to continue to face the authorities’ unwillingness to listen. In April, people once again gathered in Calle Obispo to protest in a show of support for the leader of MSI, Luis Manuel Otero Alcanta, after authorities forcibly interrupted his hunger strike to take him to the hospital.

The civic march for change, and more broadly the Archipiélago group, inserts itself in a rapidly changing Cuba. During the past year, groups like MSI and 27N have seen increasing support among the youth, whom have been finding spaces both online and in public spheres to call for an end to violence as a response to artistic expression that is not aligned with the Cuban Communist Party (PCC), to demand respect for fundamental rights, and an end to political repression.

Although the July 11 protests were not the first expression of political disagreement to have happened in the past year, they were definitely the first of such scale, and they marked a before and after in the realm of public dissent with the status quo in Cuba. It was no longer only artists and intellectuals, but the broader citizenry protesting as thousands of Cubans took to the streets. The demonstrations were a manifestation of both economic and social grievances that are deeply intertwined. Protesters were seen asking for food and medicine, deeper economic reforms that would improve Cubans’ daily lives, and more freedom and political change.

How Current Conditions Contributed to Displays of Dissent

The island, which had kept the COVID-19 pandemic under control in 2020, saw infections skyrocket this summer, with daily COVID-19 cases tripling in the course of a few weeks and deaths spiking to record highs, which pushed health centers to the point of collapse. On top of that, Cubans are currently facing serious shortages of basic goods and medicine. In addition to that, a series of economic reforms introduced by the Cuban government this year (such as currency reunification, which most observers agree were necessary) have not only created additional harsh impacts in the short-term, but were implemented at a particularly difficult time. These factors have triggered inflation and increased the frustration of the Cuban people. One of the main sources of discomfort is the dollarization of the economy and the difficulty to access food and basic necessities— a process that had been marketed since the end of 2019 in foreign currencies—which have placed a larger sector of the population in a very precarious economic situation and amplified already existing inequalities. The return of long power blackouts, that take Cuba back to the 1990s and the so-called special period, add to Cubans’ irritation and uncertainty. When procuring food and basic goods becomes the number one concern for a family, it shifts from being an economic crisis to being a social crisis.

The Biden-Harris administration has voiced support for the Cuban people’s right to protest and has condemned the ongoing repression, yet it continues to downplay the role of U.S. sanctions in fueling Cuba’s humanitarian crisis by not acknowledging that sanctions contribute to the severe and undue suffering of the Cuban people. Supporting human rights in Cuba and empowering the Cuban people also means removing the barriers that exacerbate the economic, health and social crisis. Restrictions on remittances, including caps on the amount and measures that have made it impossible to wire remittances from the U.S. to families in Cuba, have limited the purchasing power of many, banking regulations have made third country purchases more difficult, and onerous rules governing medical sales have had an especially devastating impact during the pandemic.

While the Cuban government managed to avoid mass protests with a wave of repression and heavy security presence that discouraged the participation of the ordinary citizens that powered the summer demonstrations, the desire of young Cubans to be heard has not disappeared. On Tuesday, Archipiélago issued a statement celebrating the bravery of all those that protested in one way or another, and extending the Civic “March” for Change until November 27—a date which is no coincidence—calling for the release of political prisoners; respect for the rights of all Cubans to assembly, demonstration, and association; the end of acts of repudiation and all violence among Cubans for political reasons; and the beginning of a transparent process for the resolution of differences through democratic and peaceful means.

Cuban authorities should refrain from violence and repression, and immediately release those detained unfairly. In order to move forward, it is important for the Cuban government to recognize the need for a peaceful dialogue that includes the plurality of voices we are currently seeing among Cuban citizens, including artists, journalists and civil society actors among others in order to truly allow freedom of expression. For its part, the Biden-Harris administration has a responsibility to take concrete and swift actions that will alleviate the humanitarian and economic crisis beginning with the removal of specific licenses required to send medical supplies, restrictions on sending family and donative remittances, and restrictions on travel.

[1] Acts of repudiation (actos de repudio) is a term Cuban authorities use to refer to acts of violence and/or humiliation towards critics of the government.

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HOW TO DEMOCRATIZE CUBA

Will the November 15 protests in Cuba provide a democratic opening?

Samuel Farber
IN THESE TIMES, November 12, 2021

Original Article: How to Democratize Cuba

The demonstrations of July 11 were the first great autonomous and democratic movement of Black and poor Cubans since 1959. The demonstrators did not chant any of the slogans of the U.S.-based Cuban Right.

While it is true that the Cuban rap ​“Patria y Vida” (Life and Fatherland) that inspired many July 11 marchers is not clear about the alternatives it proposed to the social and political system that rules the island, it cannot be said, as some have pretended, that its political content is right-wing. 

In response to the July 11 demonstrations, the Cuban government decided to prosecute the great majority of the hundreds of demonstrators arrested on that day. As is its wont, the government has refused to provide the number of arrested demonstrators, the charges against them, and the sentences that were imposed on them. It seems that some of them were subject to summary trials without the right to a defense lawyer, and got sentences of up to one year in prison. However, for those that the government considered to be the protest leaders, the prosecution demanded much longer sentences. That is why, for example, in the case of 17 Cubans who were arrested in San Antonio de los Baños, a town near Havana where the protests began, the prosecutors demanded sentences of up to 12 years in prison.

At the same time, the government increased its social assistance in numerous poor neighborhoods of the capital and other cities in the island, which indicates that even if it has not publicly admitted it, it is worried about the popular discontent expressed on July 11, and it is attempting with those social services at least to calm the people hardest hit by the economic crisis, and to diminish the growing alienation and anger with the regime of large popular sectors.

At the same time, the political leadership has tried to discredit the popular protest, taking advantage of its absolute control of the press, radio and television to broadcast images of the demonstrators who got involved in violent incidents, deliberately ignoring that the great majority demonstrated in a peaceful manner. The official mass media similarly ignored the violence, that under the leadership’s orders, the so-called ​“black berets” and other repressive organs, like State Security, carried out against people who were exercising their right to demonstrate peacefully.

The profound economic crisis – exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and by Trump’s imperialist measures that Biden has almost entirely kept in place – especially affected the Black and poor Cubans who went out into the streets on July 11. That crisis is not about to disappear with the official reopening of foreign winter tourism on November 15 

Besides, the government no longer counts with the degree of legitimacy that Fidel and Raúl Castro, together with the rest of the ​“historic” generation, enjoyed when they ruled the country. People like Miguel Díaz-Canel, the new president of the Republic and First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Central Committee, and Manuel Marrero Cruz, the Prime Minister, belong to the systems’ second bureaucratic generation, whose political prestige and legitimacy does not compare with that of the historic leaders. It is not idle speculation to wonder how many of the July 11 demonstrators would have insulted Raúl Castro and even less Fidel Castro with the epithet singao (fucker or fucked) that they yelled at President Díaz-Canel. 

I am among those who think that the national demonstrations of July 11, may very well be a watershed in the contemporary history of Cuba. But this depends on how the Cuban people respond to the call by the citizen virtual platform Archipiélago to organize demonstrations throughout the island on November 15. We will then see if the demonstrations of July 11 sowed the seeds of tomorrow’s fruits, or if unfortunately July 11 was only an isolated outbreak of rebellion and discontent. 

The call to demonstrate on November 15 could not happen in a more opportune moment than this. After the great explosion of July 11 – and the manner in which the government responded — it was politically logical that the next step would be to pressure the government to recognize, de facto, if not de jure, the right of the people to freely demonstrate in the streets.

It was also to be expected, that the government would proceed, as it effectively did, to deny the permit for the demonstration, arguing that ​“the promoters and their public postures, as well as their ties with subversive organizations or agencies associated with the U.S. government have the manifest intention to promote a change of Cuba’s political system,” and citing the Constitution of 2019 that defines the socialist system that rules Cuba as ​“irrevocable.” In other words, the present Cuban rulers have the constitutional right to maintain and control the ruling system in the island per saecula saeculorum (forever and ever). 

This is the constitution that was adopted under a one-party system that monopolizes the access to television, press and radio, and did not allow other opinion currents and parties to participate in the process of writing the new constitution in 2019. The control of the one-party system was such, that the citizens who participated in the discussions sponsored by the government in different places to voice their suggestions about the project, did not even have the right, even less the opportunity, to organize and coordinate their suggestions with those of other people in other meeting places; nor were they able to promote directly their suggestions (without the filters and censorship by the PCC) to the Cuban public through the mass media, a classic symptom of the deliberate political atomization maintained and promoted by the one-party system. 

It is impossible to predict how and to what degree the government’s prohibition is going to affect the reach and dimensions of the protests projected for November 15. To plan small protests, as has already been proposed with the purpose of appeasing the all powerful Cuban state, would be perceived by the regime as a victory (achieved through its abuse of power). 

The international press would also see it that way, whose importance in these situations must be taken seriously, including its impact on the Cuban government as well as on the opposition. Such a victory would be proclaimed by the Cuban government as a defeat for the legacy of July 11. And it would embolden it to at least maintain the political status quo without conceding anything. 

But it also must be taken into account the drastic measures that the regime will take to prevent people from joining the march, something they could not do on July 11 because of the unforeseen nature of the protests. Cuba’s Attorney General has already publicly warned that it will take very harsh measures to punish those who go out in the street to challenge the regime on November 15. Face with such a reality, it is very possible that many people will decide to stay home and not demonstrate. And that same government will no doubt weaken the possibilities of the movement by arresting, hundreds and hundreds of Cubans before the day in which the demonstration is scheduled to take place, as it has done on other occasions,

It is difficult to prepare for the repression that is likely to occur. But should the Cuban people confront the state in a massive protest – people must be prepared to take advantage of that display of power to present and promote democratic demands. A massive protest on November 15 could lead a surprised and fearful government to adopt a hard repressive line, which is very likely, or to open new possibilities for the autonomous organization of new political forces in the island. 

This latter possibility would require a strategic and tactical reevaluation of the proposals and political attitudes of the new critical left in Cuba, keeping in mind that it might possibly occur in the context of a triangular conflict among this new left, the government and U.S.-based Cuban Right. Such proposals, that should have been put forward a long time ago, would become, with this opening, truly indispensable. 

First on the list would be the abolition of the single party state, that has been justified by the government in a great number of occasions and with the most diverse arguments for so long. Among these is the appeal to José Martí’s (Cuba’s principal Founding Father) idea of political unity. At the end of the Nineteenth Century, Martí called on all the factions and groups that supported Cuban independence to unite under the banner of the Cuban Revolutionary Party to more effectively combat Spanish colonialism. When Martí made this call for unity for the independence cause, he was trying to overcome the petty jealousies and authoritarian tendencies of the insurgent military leaders and unify the military campaign against Spain under civilian control. The unity that he called for with respect to war, had nothing to do with the party system that he, together with other independence leaders conceived for the new Cuban independent republic, and even less for the constitutional establishment of a one-party state that would exclude or declare other parties illegal.

Another justification frequently argued by the regime is based on what Raúl Castro called the ​“monolithic unity” of the Cuban people that the PCC pretends to represent. A conceit that was irrefutably exposed by the diversity of the July 11 demonstrations. Even less serious are the government’s May Day proclamations, when it declares that the PCC is the only party that can and should represent the Cuban working class. 

The one-party system is the principal obstacle to the democratization of the country, a qualitatively different process from the liberalization that the regime has implemented to a certain degree, as for example, when in 2013 it considerably increased the number of Cubans who could travel abroad. While it liberalized travel out of the country, it did not establish traveling abroad as a right for all Cubans in the island, but as a privilege discretionarily conferred by the government, as it is shown by the situation of Cubans who have been ​“regulated,” and are not permitted to travel abroad and return to their country. 

It is for reasons such as this, that politically conscious Cubans who are concerned with the arbitrariness that has typified the system of the current ruling class of Communist Party officials, have insisted for a long time in the necessity to establish what has already been sanctioned even by the 2019 Constitution: a country governed by the rule of law that functions according to laws and not based on the discretion of those who rule.

This is a fundamental demand in the struggle against arbitrariness, privileges and the abuse of power. However, it is an impossible political goal under the dominant one-party state in Cuba, where the political will of the PCC, transmitted through its ​“orientations” is above even of the laws and institutions of the system itself. 

Those who consider that the abolition of the one-party state is too radical a demand, but who want to still participate in a movement to democratize the country, could push for demands that advance the struggle along the same road and educate the people, making more transparent the enormous power of the PCC. Thus, for example, they could argue that while the PCC is the only party allowed to legally exist, it should represent the full social and political diversity in the country, which at present it clearly does not. 

The argument in favor of the inclusion of diversity in the party, would lead to the demand that the PCC break with the tradition that they wrongly refer to as ​“democratic centralism,” which in reality is a bureaucratic centralism: decisions taken from above, in contrast with those based on a free discussion and free vote. To achieve this would also facilitate the right to form, whenever a number of members find it to be necessary, party factions and platforms (for party conventions) inside the party itself. 

It could also be demanded that the PCC transforms itself into a purely electoral party, restricting itself to propose its candidates for the elections of public officials. Such a change would bring to an end the ​“orientation” functions of the PCC, through which it controls and directs, as the single party in government, all economic, political, social and educational activities. Although this change would not by itself bring about greater democracy, it would at least bring about pluralism among power holders, with each elected Communist acting on his or her own, which would effectively fragment the bureaucratic monopoly of the single party. 

In reality, these last two proposals differ more in degree than in substance from the first proposal, since they would all be a serious blow to the one-party system and would create spaces to organize more effectively the opposition to the regime, and especially to continue to insist and struggle for the total abolition of the one party system with the objective of creating the political basis for a socialist democracy.

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CUBAN LEFTISTS BEGIN TO TURN THEIR FIRE ON THE ‘HARMFUL PRACTICES OF THE STATE’

Leading radicals are raising their voices against the demand for uncritical backing for the government

Ruaridh Nicoll

The GUARDIAN, Sun 25 Jul 2021

Original Article: CUBAN LEFTISTS

Luis Emilio Aybar is a voice from the left, which in Cuba means pretty far left. By any measure, he should be a stalwart defender of the island’s communist regime. After widespread public protests that two weeks ago roiled the nation, the 34-year-old published an article in the magazine La Tizza, which bills itself as “a space to think about socialism”.

After the prerequisite denunciation of the US, he wrote: “What happened on 11 July is also because we communists and revolutionaries do not fight with sufficient force and efficiency the harmful practices of the state.

“We defend unity in a way that actually harms it … We uncritically follow our leaders instead of rectifying their path. We agree to be disciplined, when what we have to do is think and act with our own heads.” In authoritarian Cuba, that sounded a lot like heresy.

Cuba has always split international opinion. Its detractors are perhaps best represented by the US senator Marco Rubio, who called the island “the only country in the world where Cubans can’t succeed”.

In turn, its supporters brook little criticism. Helen Yaffe, an author and academic from Glasgow University, recently arrived on the island, swiftly joining a government rally called by the government. Afterwards she declared on Novara Media: “No one should underestimate the resilience of the Cuban revolution.”

Within Cuba, the regime has long demanded such support, calling detractors gusanos, or worms. Yet the sight of thousands of Cubans taking to the streets to complain about a lack of food, medicines and electricity seems to have caused cracks to appear.

Silvio Rodríguez is Cuba’s best-known singer-songwriter, a 74-year-old international superstar widely recognised as living his socialist values. In non-pandemic times, he stages monthly free concerts in the poorer barrios of Havana.

Last week, however, he met the dissident playwright Yunior Garcia, who had been arrested during the protests. They discussed the unrest and the government’s heavy-handed response.

Shortly afterwards, Rodríguez called for the release of all those who had not resorted to violence. “There must be less prejudice,” he said. “[There must be] more desire to solve the mountain of pending economic and political issues.”

Carlos Fernández de Cossío has blamed the US trade embargo for the demonstrations. Photograph: Ramón Espinosa/AP

Criticism such as this has put the government on the defensive. It says the island has been subject to a wave of disinformation from the US.

Carlos Fernández de Cossío is Cuba’s point-man on the US, and second only to the foreign minister in importance at the ministry of foreign affairs. He insisted that claims that protesters had “disappeared” into jails and interrogation centres were just not true. “There are people who have been detained and there are people that have been arrested, those that have violated the law,” he said, although he would not give numbers. Independent media claim up to 650 people were detained, although many have now been released.

Asked what he thought had brought Cubans on to the streets, De Cossío replied: “Well, it wasn’t capitalism.”

The protesters had cried “libertad”, freedom, and “patria y vida”, homeland and life, the title of an anti-government song. The shortages they face are the result of Cuba running out of foreign currency, a situation hastened by the pandemic devastating an economy reliant on tourism.

De Cossío blamed the 60-year-old US trade embargo, tightened to strangulation by Donald Trump and kept in place by Joe Biden. He said there had actually been more conversations with Washington during Trump’s presidency than Biden’s. “There’s no dialogue at this moment,” he said.

Yet in his essay for La Tizza, Aybar strayed surprisingly close to another analysis, summarised by the Financial Times when it called Cuba a last “lonely outpost of Marxist central planning”.

“During 2020, half of the country’s investments were allocated to hotel construction at a time when there was a drastic decrease in international tourism and an acute shortage of investment in agriculture,” he wrote. He said 11 July needed to be a watershed. “A failure to pressure the government from the left means that the right will take the initiative”, meaning “more market, more private property, less education and public health.”

Only time will reveal whether internal reform will satisfy the population. Another increasingly robust critic from within, Cuba’s former ambassador to the EU, Carlos Alzugaray, believes it will have to. He has just published an article saying it is “essential” that the government “not make the mistake of blaming only external factors”.

He was watching the opening ceremony of the Tokyo Olympics on television as he pointed out that, despite the efforts of critics in the US, regimes such as China, Vietnam and Cuba have proved durable, and “very difficult to overthrow”. It is his view that Cuba should follow China and Vietnam towards “a market economy with socialist orientation”.

Before he could get into that – or the government’s potential reaction to the criticism from within – the pride in Cuba’s sovereignty that has always been a far greater and more unifying force than communism on the island revealed itself.

The 69 athletes Cuba has sent to the Olympics appeared in the famous parade. Alzugaray faltered, his voice suddenly breaking with emotion.

Carlos Alzugaray

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IT’S NOT JUST THE US EMBARGO

As much as the US embargo contributes to its problems, Cuba’s historic protests show that the government can’t ignore citizens’ legitimate demands

International Politics and Society, 23.08.2021 |

Carlos Alzugaray

Original Article: “Not Just the Us Embargo” 

After protests swept the whole country in July, the Cuban government has started taking measures to contain the fallout. While this response goes beyond the regime’s initial repression, it hasn’t yet entirely left that path. If the country’s leadership wants to survive this test, it has no choice but to respond to citizens’ legitimate demands.

Whether one may like it or not, the events of 11 July 2021 will have an effect on how Cubans themselves and their country. For most of the population, it was a sad day – and most people would rather not remember the sad days. But it cannot be ignored. At present, information about what actually happened is still patchy; it is difficult to navigate between fake news and the official versions of events.

What has been established is that, on Sunday 11July, there were widespread anti-government protests, some of which ended in violence – and this had never happened before in Cuba. As such, many observers and indeed the authorities themselves were surprised. The result was images of violence and a situation which had escalated out of control. Whatever the details, this is objectively damaging for the Cuban government: and even if, as looks unlikely, the situation settles back down, the reputational damage will last.

NOT A SURPRISE

Actually, the Cuban government shouldn’t have been surprised by the course of events – this being the same government that had for months been talking up the possibility of a ‘soft coup’ or a ‘colour revolution’ planned across the water by its arch-enemy, the US. Perhaps it was the surprise of something actually happening that led the government to clamp down so repressively, while pursuing the same endless propaganda communication strategy as ever despite its demonstrably diminishing returns.

It’s equally surprising that this unrest did not surface much earlier, considering the privations to which the Cuban population has long been subject and which have been further worsened by the pandemic.

Thanks to the social progress of the early years and Cuba’s international high profile, unrest in the country was staved off.

Now, the unrest is here – and its effect is palpable. Just three months after the Eighth Congress of the Communist Party and two years after establishing a new constitution, the new Cuban leadership finds itself in crisis. A crisis that, in many ways, evokes the situation in the socialist countries of eastern Europe just prior to their collapse.

CUBA’S EARLY ACHIEVEMENTS

There are, however, several differences. Cuba is a third-world country which, after years of neo-colonial suppression, liberated itself by means of a national revolution. As the result of an aggressive confrontation with Washington, this revolution became increasingly radical – and was initially successful, too, in its goal of halting the advance of US imperialism. The result was a socialist model that because of an alliance with the Soviet Union offered considerable advantages for at least the next three decades.

Thanks to the social progress of the early years and Cuba’s international high profile, unrest in the country was staved off. Essentially, the fact that the socialist regime not only survived a direct confrontation with the US but went on to become a unique actor on the world stage – not only during the Cold War, but beyond – conferred considerable credit on the government and allowed it freedom of manoeuvre in domestic issues.

These achievements and successes are without doubt the foundation of Cuban regime’s resilience and its people’s stoicism in the face of lasting and quite extraordinary difficulties. Yet while these difficulties certainly are caused by the US embargo, they are in no small part also the result of governmental inadequacy and poor policy. When it comes to the role of the country’s political opposition, the situation is similar. Certainly, some groups are being supported from the US with a view to subverting the Cuban regime.

THE DOMESTIC OPPOSITION

Yet during the unrest, the activists with US support were less visible than those of the country’s domestic Movimiento San Isidro and 27N groupings. Then again, there is no doubt about the fact that protests were encouraged on social media – to no small degree by political influencers who do not live in Cuba, but rather mainly in Miami, where militant anti-Castro activism remains an important local industry financed from a range of state and non-state sources. In Cuban national reality, social media has become a toxic element as millions of dollars are pumped into fake-news campaigns aiming to destabilise the regime.

Even if, however, the trigger came from outside, unrest would not have flared up if it had, inside Cuba, not found fertile ground prepared by numerous political mistakes on the part of the government. Here, a range of factors played a role: in the poorest urban areas, conditions had worsened considerably; overall, food supply had become increasingly erratic; and after a successful start in combating the pandemic, the situation in healthcare was becoming unstable.

The government reacted by proclaiming that ‘the embargo is the problem’ and talking down the protests as ‘interference from outside’ in an effort to cover up its own errors. What the regime has underestimated is the dissatisfaction that this mantra now provokes. Certainly, the sanctions upheld against Cuba by the US for almost 60 years now represent, to paraphrase US historian Peter Beinart, a kind of economic war against a country under siege. Beinart is right to criticise the embargo as a non-military act of war – and one which, given that the stated aim has always been regime change, has never had much prospect of success. And while Washington refutes Cuban accusations, it is a simple matter of fact that Joe Biden has maintained sanctions imposed by Donald Trump even as the pandemic has continued to rage.

Continuing to place all the blame on external factors without any real introspection in respect of home-grown issues would be a grave mistake.

Yes, for more than six months now, the Biden Administration has failed to make good on its manifesto promise and remains locked in the Trumpian version of Republican Party logic vis-à-vis Cuba policy – the illusion that ever more extreme sanctions will eventually succeed in dislodging the regime which came to power in 1959. So this much seems likely: sanctions against Cuba will remain in place for the next three years; Cubans will get even poorer; the Cuban government will continue to be bullied.

THE CUBAN GOVERNMENT NEEDS A RETHINK

In view of this, Havana is currently trying to contain the fallout. Yet the regime needs to examine the political and social situation – and grasp that only economic policy focusing on efficiency and activating domestic productive capacity can get the country out of the current crisis. Continuing to place all the blame on external factors without any real introspection in respect of home-grown issues would be a grave mistake. The reforms the government has promised, especially in respect of food distribution, need to be enacted – fast.

The issue of how to deal with the figureheads of the protests adds another layer of complexity to the situation. The government cannot allow the impression to develop that, either at home or abroad, it is cracking down hard on peaceful demonstrations. Yet currently, there are rumours about summary justice and questionable court proceedings leading to sentences of ten to twelve months for people who, in many cases, do not seem to have been involved in any acts of violence. This comes for Cubans who have only recently had the important experience of debating and then approving a new constitution in which the importance of fair trials is underscored. Now more than ever, citizens are demanding nothing more – and nothing less – than that the police act within the law.

The Cuban government, too, needs to rethink how it works. As its population is increasingly deaf to the argument that the embargo is the root of all evil, it needs to make a serious attempt to overcome two key political-ideological obstacles in its way. Firstly, there is the outdated approach to socialism as a system primarily steered from central planning bureaus; this dogmatic dirigisme reduces the role of the market in distributing resources to a minimum – with all the attendant problems. Secondly, the regime needs to distance itself from an idea of socialism as an authoritarian model that can ignore or even criminalise those whose criticism is intended to make the country’s economy more efficient and its society more democratic, to see its 2019 constitution enacted and establish the rule of law.

A WHOLE NEW MOMENT FOR CUBA

Yet the regime’s reaction to the events of 11 July as communicated official media channels showed no signs of overcoming this tendency. Those who took part in the protests have been discredited and decried as criminal elements – overlooking the specific and legitimate demands made by many in a peaceful manner. This may come back to haunt the regime.

These demonstrations represent a wholly new development for Cuba and make clear just what difficulties the country’s society is facing.

Furthermore, official announcements have sought to justify the use of repressive violence – a message with which many Cubans who, while not directly involved, have observed (and been shocked by) events, strongly disagree. Internationally, Cuba’s image has taken a hit. There is still no clarity about the number of demonstrations or how they played out, how many took part, and how many participants have been placed under arrest. Meanwhile, intellectuals and artists have publicly denounced the regime’s repressive course, with many demanding the release of all peaceful protestors – including such figures as songwriter Silvio Rodríguez, who enjoys a great deal of respect among many in government.

The lack of genuine information is leaving space for disinformation to circulate around both external actors and the country’s population – disinformation spread with the aim of undermining the government. At the same time, Cuban citizens have broadly accepted the precept that peaceful protests are legitimate and should be protected under law. This is a precept with which the government, however, in clear contravention of the principal of a socialist country under the rule of law, does not agree. This is not sending the right message – neither on a domestic nor international level.

These demonstrations represent a wholly new development for Cuba and make clear just what difficulties the country’s society is facing. These difficulties have been further aggravated by a US embargo which continues to impoverish the Cuban population and exert pressure on the country’s government. The current situation represents a stress-test for the Cuban regime, which would do well to remember that, when faced with similar situations, like-minded politicians had more success when they decided to pursue a path of generosity and listen to citizens’ legitimate concerns rather than leaving demands to fall on deaf ears.

The Spanish version of this article appeared in Nueva Sociedad.

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CUBA’S LEADER, FACING GROWING CRITICISM, DOUBLES DOWN ON ORDER TO CRACK DOWN ON PROTESTERS

By Nora Gámez Torres

Miami Herald, August 26, 2021 06:55 PM \


Original Article

President Miguel Diaz-Canel

With the world watching as Cubans protested on the streets all over the island on July 11, Cuban leader Miguel Díaz-Canel took what some experts believe was a decision that will come back to haunt him: He gave a “combat order” to fellow revolutionaries to squash those calling for freedom and the “end of the dictatorship.”

In the aftermath of images of police repression and pro-government mobs hitting protesters with clubs going viral, there has been a rare wave of criticism from government insiders, state journalists, and prominent figures in the arts, pointing to a crisis of governance in the communist island that no other leader has faced in six decades.

Diaz-Canel recently told journalists working for state-sanctioned outlets that he doesn’t regret the order to crack down on anti-government demonstrators. But the fact that he felt the need to gather the journalists at a meeting Saturday to justify his decision is the latest example of a damage-control campaign to restore his dwindling popularity and political standing.

“I made a call to the people that day because it seemed to me that it was the right thing to do and that I do not regret or will not regret,” he said in a video of the meeting that was later edited and televised this week. “We had to defend against demonstrations that were not peaceful at all. And that is a false story that they have also put out there.”

But even in the controlled setting of the Palace of the Revolution, and among some of his more staunch defenders, he could not avoid criticism.

A young journalist who works on Editorial de la Mujer, or Women’s Publishing, stood up and told him that political troubles call for “political solutions… not only, or not police actions.”

“President, you acknowledged that apologies should be given wherever an excess was committed,” said Lirians Gordillo. “We also need to tell those stories because nothing can harm this country more than an injustice or an excess that is not recognized out loud.”

A day after his controversial statement on July 11, Diaz-Canel appeared on television to walk back his words and strike a more conciliatory tone. But a month later, his “combat order” and the violent repression that followed, including hundreds of documented detentions and summary trials, are still causing him trouble.

Sweating despite the air conditioning at the Palace of the Revolution and stumbling over his words a couple of times, the leader acknowledged Saturday that there might have been “some excesses.” He said those cases would be investigated but denied that there are protesters who are “disappeared or have been tortured.”

Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and Cubalex, all human-rights organizations tracking the arrests, have documented cases of mistreatment and protesters whose whereabouts are still unknown.

“Díaz-Canel has lost all credibility,” said a source close to the Cuban government who asked not to be identified for fear of retaliation. “That day he appeared on TV and said what he said, all hopes among the younger generations that he would be a reformer were destroyed in 20 minutes. And from then on, he has continued to screw up.”

Shortly after images of the violence spread on social media, prominent Cuban musicians and other members of the island’s artistic community, including Leo Brouwer, Adalberto Alvarez, Elito Reve and members of the legendary band Los Van Van, posted candid criticism on social media.

Brouwer said he never imagined that security forces would attack peaceful Cubans.

“Impossible to be silent,” said Alvarez. “The beatings and the images I see of the violence against a people that took to the streets to peacefully express what they feel hurt me.”

“The streets in Cuba belong to the Cubans. I can not do less than be by your side in difficult times,” he wrote on Facebook.

In a stunning rebuke of Díaz-Canel’s response to the crisis, a former Cuban ambassador who frequently defends the government’s views on foreign media said Cuban authorities could not ignore its citizens’ legitimate demands.

Carlos Alzugaray, a former ambassador to the European Union, wrote an opinion column criticizing the government’s “clampdown” on protesters “so repressively, while pursuing the same endless propaganda communication strategy as ever despite its demonstrably diminishing returns.”

While he repeated the government line that the U.S. embargo is the source of Cuba’s economic troubles, he added they were “in no small part also the result of governmental inadequacy and poor policy.” And, he added, the Cuban government was “proclaiming that ‘the embargo is the problem’ and talking down the protests as ‘interference from outside’ in an effort to cover up its own errors.”

The message, however, does not appear to be getting through at the top levels of the Cuban government.

Last week, the government published a draconian law to criminalize expressing dissenting opinions on the internet. Diaz-Canel seems to be on a personal crusade against social media, which he called a “colonial tool” that promotes hate.

The Cuban leader has not been treated kindly by his fellow Cubans on social media, where he is constantly derided, when not made the butt of jokes and memes. A vulgar insult repeated by thousands of people during the demonstrations has now become attached to his name on Google search.

After Raúl Castro picked him to succeed him in 2018, Diaz-Canel has faced one crisis after another. Widespread shortages and blackouts, and controversial decisions like selling food in U.S. dollars that the population does not earn, have made him an unpopular figure and the target of the demonstrators’ anger.

From the beginning, his position has been tenuous. As a non-Castro, he doesn’t have the credibility of the so called históricos, those who fought for the revolution in the 1950s in the Sierra Maestra mountains. But he still needs to cater to Communist Party hardliners. And he is expected to carry out long-delayed reforms like the currency unification that has angered ordinary Cubans even more.

“He might as well become a one-term president, since he was left all the ugly stuff to make the country survivable” in financial terms, said John Kavulich, the president of the US-Cuba Trade and Economic Council.

Still, Diaz-Canel was named the Party’s First Secretary in April this year, after Raul Castro’s official retirement, a powerful position he could have used to stop the repression of protesters “if he had the will,” the source close to the island’s government said.

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