On May 21, the Granma newspaper, the official organ of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Cuba, published an article entitled “Protests and repression continue in Colombia”. It was not the first time that state repression against citizens was denounced. The same happened in front of protests in Chile in 2019 with an article titled: “Data shows police brutality in Chile”, and in protests in the United States in 2020 where a sensational headline asked, “Where are the murderous policemen done? ”. However, in the face of police violence, harassment, arbitrary arrests and kidnappings of opponents, journalists and artists in their own country, these same newspapers remain silent.
the black spring of 2003
In the early morning hours of March 18, 2003, during a coordinated action by agents of the State Security Department or the Cuban political police, 75 people were arrested, including opponents, journalists and activists accused of collaborate with “the enemy” and support the United States. Cuba’s economic blockade. In addition to the arrests, computers, files, photos, typewriters, faxes, among other items that served as evidence were confiscated.
A few days later, between April 3 and 7, summary trials were held in which they sentenced them to prison terms ranging from six to 30 years, without the right to a fair trial, or at least to a defense. The aim was to send a political message to the US government to discourage any form of aggression against Cuba, using the island’s dissidents as scapegoats.
To give an appearance of legality to the action, Law 88 of 1999 or the “gag law” was used, which established the aim of “typifying and sanctioning acts intended to support, facilitate or collaborate with the objectives of the law. ‘Helms-Burton’ Law, blockade and economic war against our people, aimed at disturbing internal order, destabilizing the country and liquidating the socialist state and the independence of Cuba. ”In other words, any action rejection of actions by the Cuban government that could be associated with individuals or members of the United States government allowed this provision to be used to punish, prosecute and imprison.
And while many defendants did not even know James Cason, head of the Office of American Interests in Cuba, this official was used as an excuse for the mass arrest, claiming that they were “participating in the subversive activities” he was carrying out. The truth is that while these opponents, activists and journalists have had to face this totalitarian justice, Fidel Castro did not retaliate against the US government official and only used his own citizens as a means of demonstrating his power.
The black spring of 2021
Although the repressive actions have not ceased since 2003 and there have been many cruel springs for Cubans who think differently, this spring 2021 was special as it would celebrate the 8th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) which Raúl Castro would retire from public life. Thus, upstream and in anticipation of any opposition action, members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) were surrounded by the police and the surveillance and control of the State Security Department increased.
As a result of this preventive strike against unarmed and peaceful citizens, 60 UNPACU members went on a hunger strike to reject the unwarranted repression and surveillance. Twenty-six days after the announcement by José Daniel Ferrer, leader of UNPACU, the hunger strike ended after the end of the police siege of the organization’s headquarters in Altamira, Santiago de Cuba. But far from the end of the days of repression, new forms of intimidation, harassment, kidnapping and confinement have started.
At the start of the CPC Congress, the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara performed in his house a performance to recreate, through a “vile tourniquet”, the precariousness of life and the “incarceration” suffered by Cuban society. It wasn’t long before the State Security Department arrived and, in addition to entering without a court order and arresting the artist, confiscated his works and began the dark days of April. During the month of April, the artist was detained several times, along with several other activists, and was soon detained at Calixto García Hospital for almost a month.
Prohibition to demonstrate
On April 30, Esteban Rodríguez decided, after not being able to visit Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, to demonstrate in the middle of Obispo Street, in Havana, with other activists and journalists. It was a peaceful expression of citizens against repression. But any manifestation of discontent is unacceptable in a dictatorship and it is for this reason that Esteban and his companions were taken by the State Security to a police station. Since then, they have been detained for “public disorder and resistance”. While some have been released, others like Esteban will be transferred to maximum security prisons.
Esteban is not the only one and this spring he has had many other names such as that of journalist Ileana Álvarez, detained at her home for reporting; Manuel de la Cruz was expelled from the institute where he worked for attending a party with Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara; Maykel Osorbo, a rapper, has been arrested several times and taken without objective reason to a maximum security prison.
In this way, Miguel Díaz-Canel seems to copy the strategies of 2003 to show his power and discourage any source of discontent. Meanwhile, the pro-government media disguise themselves as democrats and human rights defenders when it comes to judging repression in other countries. But when it comes to reporting on the repression against UNPACU, the same Granma says that they are “subversive centers”, and alludes to the hospitalization of Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara as “the last one. farce against Cuba ”.
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