Cuban government massivly deploys police to deal with opposition march
Havana, Nov 15 (EFE).- The Cuban government on Monday managed to almost completely repress the protests called by the opposition by deploying a huge contingent of police in the island’s main cities and at opposition rallies, arresting protesters and groups in the homes of activists and independent journalists.
The streets of Havana were especially calm after 3 pm, when the so-called “15N” (November 15) opposition marches were supposed to kick off seeking political change on the communist-ruled island.
The police presence on the streets in downtown Havana was much greater than normal and in local parks and on street corners plainclothes state security agents were much in evidence.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez spoke in a Facebook transmission of a “failed operation” by the United States to sell an “unrealistic image” of his country.
The director of Human Rights Watch for the Americas, Jose Miguel Vivanco, outlined a very different image of what happened in Cuba, saying on Twitter that “The regime deployed security forces in a massive way. Many reporters and critics are shut inside their homes. Some have been arrested. The intention is clear: to suppress any attempt to protest.”
The situation on Cuban streets was such that it was even difficult to find passersby in Havana wearing white garments, the color protest organizers had suggested that demonstrators wear.
The public in general avoided wearing white clothing, aware of the connotations it might have for security forces and the possible repercussions.
“My mother warned me not to wear white today, so I wouldn’t have any problems,” a 38-year-old Havana woman told EFE.
A young woman from Holguin told EFE that “here, the streets are full of police and nobody can be wearing white because right away they take them away to question them.”
In addition, many government buildings were covered with huge Cuban flags and officials of assorted government ministries held assorted events in their offices to reaffirm their support for the regime.
The situation for activists, opposition members and independent journalists on the island was extremely delicate.
The Council for the Democratic Transition in Cuba (CTDC) denounced the arrest of its vice president, Manuel Cuesta Morua, and on the social networks, the arrest of the leader of the Ladies in White, Berta Soler, and her husband Angel Moya, were also denounced.
Cuban state security agents prevented other people – including journalists Abraham Jimenez Enoa and Camila Acosta – from leaving their homes.
In addition, groups backing the Cuban government held “repudiation rallies,” a kind of intimidation event, in front of the homes of activists, like Achipielago member Saily Gonzalez.
The leader of that dissident collective, Yunior Garcia Aguilera, was also forced to remain in his home on Monday, EFE was able to determine, and security agents had not allowed him to leave home on Sunday either to stage a pre-15N march alone through the streets of Havana.
A young woman in Havana told EFE that a few days ago she was questioned by security agents and warned that demonstrating would have consequences. “I signed a paper saying that I wasn’t going to participate and that I would continue to behave. … It’s because I don’t want to go to jail,” she said.
The Cuban government considers anti-regime protests to be “illegal” and has not authorized such demonstrations for six decades, saying that US “imperial strategy” is behind them, as President Miguel Diaz-Canel reiterated last week.
The government wants to quell any 15N protests because November 15 has a very particular significance to the regime, that being the day on which in-person activities at schools were to resume after being halted due to the coronavirus pandemic, the island would reopen to international tourism and the festivities surrounding the 502nd anniversary of the founding of Havana were to have commenced.
This return to normality is key for ameliorating social discontent, since the pandemic and the plunge in tourism have aggravated the island’s already-severe economic crisis – accompanied by shortages, long lines and inflation – which has also been worsened by the tightening of US sanctions.
During the day, there was no new activity surrounding the return of accreditation to Agencia EFE reporters and journalists in Cuba, despite the many negative reactions to Havana’s move by foreign governments and organizations supporting human rights and press freedom.