Tensions are high in Cuba as activists vow to continue a march scheduled for Monday while the island’s government insists it will not take place.
Yunior García, actor and playwright and leader of the planned protest, announced the day before that he would march alone and in silence with a white rose, a symbol of peace. In a Facebook post, he said he was doing this “on behalf of all citizens who have been deprived of the right to demonstrate at 15N by the regime” (November 15).
The march was organized by coordinators from a group called Archipelago, which García and others launched over the summer after unprecedented and historic anti-government protests that saw thousands take to the streets, resulting in tough crackdown on the part of the authorities. Hundreds of Cubans, including leading dissidents, remain behind bars.
Archipelago, a political debate group created with 20 coordinators on the island and 10 outside, has quickly grown in popularity. It has around 35,000 followers on Facebook.
“Archipel has made it clear that we support Yunior García’s decision. And if the regime allows it, he will also march on Monday, ”said Jorge Castro, one of the coordinators of the group based in Bolivia.
Castro, 27, studied microbiology and worked in Cuba’s biotech industry until he left the island a year and a half ago.
“I looked to the future and saw no prosperity. I didn’t feel free, ”said Castro, repeating a common feeling of his generation in Cuba.
The march is part of a series of civic events planned by Archipelago from November 14th, which include “caserolazos” or popping pots, dressing in white and hanging white sheets on balconies.
“I can assure you that the coordinators of the archipelago are fully convinced that they will protest on Monday,” Castro said, adding that he was also sure that the authorities will do everything possible to ensure that they do not have one that day Stepping foot out of their home. In addition, solidarity marches are planned in over 100 cities worldwide.
Cuba’s communist government does not want to allow the protest. State television targeted García in lengthy reports accusing him of being funded and directed by the US. Speaking to diplomats in Havana on Wednesday, Cuba’s foreign minister said the protest was a “destabilizing operation designed in Washington”.
In one of many tweets by Cuban government officials denouncing the US government, Rodriguez wrote, “The Cuban government cannot allow the US to organize and promote destabilizing provocation without fulfilling its basic moral obligations.”
The demonstrations, which are slated to take place across the island, coincide with the day Cuba reopens its borders to international tourists after tough measures that kept its borders closed for up to eight months.
The Catholic Bishops of Cuba, an institution that usually does not contain commentary on island politics published a statement Thursday expressed concern about the climate in Cuba.
“Any act of violence among us, whether physical, verbal or psychological, seriously injures the soul of the Cuban nation,” the statement said.
They also stated that there must be a mechanism “where anyone can be heard without fear of intimidation or reprisals”.
How events in Cuba will develop over the next few days is uncertain.
“Right now we have no idea what’s going to happen and it really will depend on people’s willingness to suffer brutality and the legal ramifications of state repression,” said Lillian Guerra, professor of Cuban and Caribbean history at the University of Florida. Recalling the arrests and reports of beatings and ill-treatment following the July protests.
Guerra said the bishops’ testimony was unprecedented.
“We haven’t seen anything like it since 1961,” she said.