After days playing cat and mouse, the Cuban government has finally given an official response to the promoters of a peaceful opposition march called for November 15 in different parts of the country: a resounding no. Dozens of people organized around the Archipelago platform, founded by the playwright Yunior García after the protests on July 11, had asked the authorities for permission to hold peaceful demonstrations that day in various cities and towns in Cuba. The reasons for the mobilizations were to demand “the release of all political prisoners, an end to violence, that all the rights of all Cubans be respected and the solution of differences through democratic and peaceful means.”
The call, unprecedented in Cuba – official permission had never been requested to hold an openly opposition march – was originally scheduled for November 20, but after the date was announced, the Government announced military exercises between November 18 and 20. November throughout the country without referring to the protest demonstration. Immediately, Archipelago interpreted the movement as an indirect message and “a threat”, and changed the date to the 15th. This Tuesday the express prohibition arrived: the Executive does not recognize “legitimacy in the reasons that are used for the march”, which considers a “provocation” with “destabilizing purposes”.
Yunior García, like the rest of the activists who presented letters to various municipal governments requesting permits, invoked article 56 of the Constitution to march on 15-N, which protects the right of assembly, demonstration and association for lawful and peaceful purposes. In the spirit and the imaginary of this baptized as Peaceful march for change It was the precedent of the protest demonstrations that shook the island on July 11 and 12, but unlike then, when the explosion of discontent in the population due to the economic hardships suffered and the demand for freedom was spontaneous, now it entailed a Explicit political challenge, since there was an open claim to the Government to respect the existing legal spaces to peacefully express in the streets its disagreement with the system.
“It is clear with this response that the Government is not willing to engage in any kind of civilized dialogue or to open political spaces to citizens,” Garcia said hours after receiving the notification from the mayor of Old Havana, Alexis Acosta, prohibiting the march that he and a score of signatories had summoned in the capital. This sought to walk in silence the boardwalk and some streets of the historic center to deposit a wreath in front of the statue of José Martí in Central Park, next to the Parliament, an act in which they estimated the participation of some 5,000 people.
In the letter, similar to the one that the promoters of mobilizations in Santa Clara, Cienfuegos and other cities of the country received on Tuesday, the municipal authority responds to García that “the promoters and their public projections, as well as the links of some with subversive organizations or agencies financed by the US government, have the manifest intention of promoting a change in the political system in Cuba ”. In Acosta’s opinion, “this reaffirms that the announced march, whose organizational scheme is conceived simultaneously for other territories of the country, constitutes a provocation as part of the ‘regime change’ strategy for Cuba, tested in other countries.”
The official response insists that “as soon as it was announced, the march received public support from US legislators, political operators and the media that encourage actions against the Cuban people, try to destabilize the country and urge military intervention.” After reproducing the usual mantra of mercenarism used to discredit political opponents, the mayor of Old Havana invokes the Constitution itself to prohibit the demonstration. “In its article 4, it is defined that ‘the socialist system that endorses this Constitution is irrevocable’, therefore any action taken against it is illegal,” he says, disavowing the argument of the conveners that article 56 of the Charter Magna supports them the right to peaceful demonstration. “Although a constitutional right is invoked, it cannot be exercised against the other rights, guarantees and essential postulates of the Constitution itself, which determines the illegal nature of the march,” says Acosta.
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With this door closed so forcefully, García and the members of the Archipelago are now debating what to do. “It’s outrageous, they themselves disavow the president of the Supreme Court [Rubén Remigio Ferro], which after the July protests said that it was not a crime to think differently here, but rather a constitutionally recognized right. If anyone believed that Cuba only had some democratic deficits, it is clear that it did not. We are facing a totalitarian regime that excludes anyone who thinks differently, there are still hundreds of J 11 detainees ”.
García and several members of the platform were part of the unprecedented protests by artists who on November 27 of last year and on January 27 demanded from the Ministry of Culture greater spaces of freedom and the cessation of police harassment against members of the so-called San Isidro Movement – whose leader, Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara has been imprisoned since the 11J demonstrations. On his political agenda is to promote political changes in Cuba by legal and peaceful means, including marches in the streets such as the 15-N, perhaps the first great pulse in this strategy.
At a time when discontent and discontent over the critical economic situation are growing in the country, some thought that this time, after the seizure of 11-J, the miracle of the government picking up the glove and authorizing the march was possible. It has become clear that no. “The Constitution of the Republic was widely debated and approved in a referendum by 86.85 percent of the voters, an overwhelming majority that freely and sovereignly chose the socialist system, its irrevocability and the right to fight by all means against anyone. that he tries to overthrow the established political, social and economic order ”, the mayor of Havana responded to Yunior García in his letter. It remains to be seen what the next chapter will be in this unprecedented political pulse in Cuba that has only just begun.