Protests in Cuba leave at least 5,000 arrested and countless deaths and disappearances

The Cuban regime's strong repression makes the number of victims suffering the consequences of the demonstrations incalculable.
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AFP/YAMIL LAGE  -   Thousands of Cubans took part in protests Sunday against the communist government, marching through a city chanting "Down with the dictatorship" and "We want freedom"

Last Sunday the Cuban people took a step away from the regime and took to the streets shouting "freedom" and "down with the dictatorship". What began in San Antonio de Baños soon spread throughout the country. Not since August 1994, during the so-called Special Period, had there been a protest against the government as large as the one that can now be seen in regions such as Old Havana. The crisis in which the Cuban people have been plunged for years due to the dictatorship's nefarious management has been further aggravated by the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Thousands of people flood the streets of Cuba while the government carries out a tremendous repression against those who demand freedom. The persecution by the Cuban regime is nothing new, but on this occasion all the red lines that can be drawn are being crossed. Several reports from civil society gathered by the Cuban media 14ymedio, and others coming through social networks and instant messaging applications, indicate that the number of detainees exceeds 5,000 and that they are currently under investigation. Among them, there are 120 activists and independent journalists who are currently imprisoned.

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AFP/YAMIL LAGE - A man is arrested during a demonstration against the government of Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana, 11 July 2021.

The accounts of the people who are experiencing the repression first hand are heartbreaking.  Olga Xiomara García Rivas, a resident of the municipality of Alquízar, in the province of Artemisa, told 14ymedio that her husband was taken away at seven in the morning. She also notes that "two patrols came with about ten policemen and took him away in handcuffs, they are holding him at the Alquízar station". The reason for his detention is very clear, according to García Rivas: "As he has many publications on Facebook against the government denouncing all the things and the barbarities that are happening here and because of his participation in the Emilia Project and in the Union for a Free Cuba Party, they want to prosecute him as if he were the leader of the protest".

One of the measures taken by the regime that is preventing people from knowing everything that is happening in the country during the protests is the cutting of the internet service. It is also preventing reports of arrests from coming to light quickly. Yunor García Aguilera, one of the protagonists in the 27 November meeting with the vice-minister of culture, Fernando Rojas, was arrested by the Cuban authorities. It was not until he was released that he was able to share on Facebook what he and the rest of the people detained in Havana went through.

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AFP/YAMIL LAGE - Police cars overturned in the street as part of a demonstration against Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel in Havana, 11 July 2021.

Of course, she has not been the only prominent figure to suffer from government-orchestrated repression. The well-known Cuban influencer and youtuber Dina Stars, who posted a video of her participation in a peaceful demonstration in the country's capital, was searched this Tuesday by state security agents in her own home while she was doing a live interview for the Spanish channel Cuatro. A friend of the influencer told EFE that "nothing has been heard from her". He also said he hopes that "Dina's example will help people to show solidarity with other young Cubans who were arrested on Sunday and whose whereabouts are unknown".

The situation in Cuba is increasingly worrying and it does not seem that the dictatorship that keeps the population subdued is willing to give in. However, the economic precipice the country is facing is forcing Cubans to move in search of a change for which they are leaving everything in the streets. What seems clear is that, without help from other countries, Cubans will not be able to cope alone with the brutality they face in their country.

Latin America Coordinator: José Antonio Sierra.