I will return to Cuba when communism ends. Cristina returned home to Spain a few days before last Sunday the biggest protests erupted in her country since 1994 against the regime of the heirs of Castroism.
She has returned outraged after wasting hours and hours in late-morning queues over the last few months to get basic food items and struggling to buy the few medicines available. “There are no aspirins.” He complains from a distance, longing for not being able to help his fellow opponents in their street mobilizations, forcefully repressed and later silenced by the Government of Miguel Díaz-Canel, which decided to cut the internet on the island to minimize damage to the image of his regime.
It was precisely the social networks that gave a national dimension to the popular uprising last Sunday. 27 years ago, during the so-called Special Period, the protests were not so global. On this occasion thousands of people took to the streets throughout the country, although the epicenter was in Centro Habana and Old Havana. There were clashes with the Police, stones
, cries of “homeland and life” and “down with the dictatorship.” In some places, currency stores were looted and several police vehicles were even overturned during the protests, absolutely unprecedented on the island in the last 30 years of the gradual decomposition of the Castro regime.
The Cuban government opens its hand to imports of food and medicine as protests spread around the world
Before the Capitol: thousands of Cubans gathered a week ago to protest the situation on the island. /
There were also hundreds of detainees and wounded. And at least one deceased, Diubis Tejada, 35, killed in Arroyo Naranjo, on the outskirts of the capital. During this week, while the relatives of those arrested gathered in front of the police stations demanding their freedom or at least know something about them, thousands of faithful to the Diaz-Canel Executive took to the streets escorted by the Police, many stick in hand.
trying to show that the rulers have the situation under control and that the revolt of the previous days was simply a plot of Cuban exiles in Miami allied with the United States Government, which would have intensified its blockade to provoke a regime change on the island.
Little else has been known about the mobilizations in recent days. Yes, of the repression: arrest of journalists -including the ABC correspondent- and youtubers; selective internet outages; localized power outages …
Of the poor evolution of the pandemic on the island: 6,479 positives and 67 deaths last Thursday, a new record. And also of the attempts of the regime to wash its image: until the end of the year the importation free of tariffs of food and medicine will be allowed “exceptionally” to travelers arriving on the island.
The pandemic had already unleashed a perfect storm for months on Miguel Díaz-Canel’s attempts to perpetuate Castroism. The virus
has drastically reduced tourism, the nation’s main source of income: from 4.2 million visitors to just 1 last year; healthcare costs have skyrocketed; the power outages have multiplied due to the deficient maintenance of the equipment due to the lack of foreign exchange in the Administration … And people have begun to go hungry, to not have money to buy basic food.
Strong police presence. /
«In the Cuban convertible peso stores they only sell water, hot dog (very bad) and chicken, and the queues are tremendous, from four in the morning. A sack of cement costs the equivalent of $ 50. And light has reached stratospheric prices. Living like this is impossible. I am totally convinced that this situation will put an end to the regime, ”says Cristina, the Cuban newcomer to Spain.
The protests against the Cuban government began on November 27, when dozens of artists and activists of the San Isidro Movement gathered in front of the Ministry of Culture, armed with mobile phones connected to the internet, demanding the end of censorship and creative freedom. , and accused the regime of attacking openly against culture and dissent.
“In convertible weight stores they only sell water, hot dog (very bad) and chicken, and the lines are tremendous”
The great crisis
The pandemic has unleashed a perfect storm over Cuba: without tourists there is no foreign exchange to pay for health and electricity
In that concentration they denounced kidnappings and arbitrary detentions, police fences, prison, physical attacks, torture, disappearances, abuse of women, threats, fines, citations and false charges. Especially in the two big cities of the country, Havana and Santiago. The months of April and May
were marked by harassment by State Security through surveillance cameras in front of the homes of activists, and the cancellation of telephone lines and the Internet, in an attempt to control what in the end has been impossible to stop.
Even so, artists, independent journalists and opponents, tired of fear, multiplied their peaceful activities with public assemblies, installations and a tireless stream of complaints through social networks. In May alone there were more than 230 protests in the streets.
José Daniel Ferrer, general coordinator of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) and a former political prisoner, answered this newspaper by phone from Santiago de Cuba days before the internet cuts began. The network’s arrival in Cuba in 2018 has swept decades of gag. Ferrer challenges President Miguel Díaz-Canel, Raúl Castro’s dolphin, whom he urges to call free elections. “Rectify and put an end to the repression, before time runs out and history judges you.”
Fifteen hunger strikes
He was one of 75 political dissidents jailed during the 2003 Black Spring in Cuba. As an opponent, he has survived numerous arrests, two prison sentences, torture, assaults, beatings, solitary confinement, and
fifteen hunger strikes. The most recent, a collective of 60 people that took place in April after State Security closed the clinic that he runs with his wife, Dr. Nelva Ortega Tamayo,
that provides food and medical services to the elderly living in precariousness.
Ferrer was one of the last to be released after serving eight years in prison of a 25 sentence and another of the death penalty. Forty of the 75 prisoners agreed to go into exile in Spain with their families.
“In 2010 we were 52 of that group, because the government continued to propose freedom in exchange for us to leave the country, and we refused to leave”recalls the political dissident.
From Santiago de Cuba, Ferrer returns to the regime the harassment that he has been subjected to for the last 20 years. “The moment is especially critical with tourism suspended due to the pandemic, one of the main revenues of the government. Aid shipments to those with relatives in Cuba are also stopped. ” “There is an epidemic of scabies and there is not enough medical attention or for those infected by Covid,” says Ferrer, who denounces the sending of health personnel abroad to generate income while in Cuba there is a lack of doctors and there are only students or recent graduates without experience to attend the needs of the population.
“With the official elimination of the dollar – continues Ferrer – now it is necessary to have a bank account backed with international currency, in foreign currency. International stores are for the rich and the level of corruption is alarming.
There is no embargo, food imports enter Cuba constantly as demonstrated by the invasion of chicken from the United States, which however can only be purchased in international stores. Prices have risen worryingly: 1 pound of meat used to cost between 20 and 30 Cuban pesos. The pig now rises per week up to 130 pesos per pound. There is no other embargo than the one imposed by the government on the citizenry, ”says Ferrer.
“More and more space”
“Poverty is a form of control,” says Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, one of the most visible figures of the group members of the San Isidro Movement culture. For the artist, the regime is at a crossroads in the face of the rise of the opposition and its inability to offer solutions to the serious political and economic crisis that the country is going through. “Civil society is taking more and more space and a time will come when the regime will have no choice but to negotiate. It is a question of time ”, it indicates.
The diaspora of 3 million Cubans has risen to its feet and, under the democratic freedoms they enjoy abroad, calls on the host countries to act to put pressure on the regime. It does so these days with numerous demonstrations in front of the Cuban embassies in their host countries. A pincer that squeezes from the island – where 11 million Cubans live – and abroad, who approach positions as they had not done in 60 years of dictatorship, in demand for changes and democracy. The pulse is set and what has to happen with Cuba will be the work of the Cubans. Although from the outside it gives the impression that the Díaz-Canel regime has a tight grip on the island.