Cuba: Historic Protests, No Confusion

By Irina Echarry

Protesters in Havana on Sunday July 11, 2021. Photo: Yamil Lage/AFP / Axios.com

HAVANA TIMES – I can’t stop thinking about something Miguel Barnet said at the VIII Congress of the Communist Party in April, which went something like: the revolution isn’t on social media, but in the streets.  He was supporting official discourse in terms of the credibility of content posted about Cuba on social media.

Ever since 2018, when mobile data came to Cuba, the government has had to deal with criticism and questioning from activists, journalists, artists and the general population, who vent their frustrations on social media.  In the government’s mind, social media is a danger, and it’s true, the hegemony of official discourse is fading with Cubans’ access to them.

However, up until the protests on Sunday July 11th, the government hadn’t suffered so much in such a brief period because of the Internet. It was thanks to social media that we were able to see events live in San Antonio de los Baños, where the protests began: a completely peaceful march, where people of all ages were present and the word “Freedom” could be heard loud and clear.

After San Antonio, the flame spread across the island, and these live-streamings on social media showed how people lost their fear and took to the streets to protest, inspiring others. Inspiration is a powerful weapon. The island quickly filled with protestors.

The government’s response was to cut Internet access from that same Sunday to stop pictures of the protests and government repression used to stop them, from circulating quickly. Even with mobile data access being cut, some people still managed to access these platforms using different channels, and they uploaded videos and saw what others were posting.

That’s how we found out about the riots. Yep, there were some people who broke windows and looted shops, threw rocks, and hit police officers. However, we also saw the abuse of police forces, the sticks and stones those “defending the revolution” used, of the protestors who were violently arrested, thrown into trucks, of the pepper spray, fear, and many other things.

Disconnecting the internet is totally coherent with official discourse, not only because Cuba’s communications monopoly belongs to the government/Party, but also because they want to be the only authors of the social and political narrative in the country.

However, the videos are there, many people saved them. It doesn’t matter that they are trying to distort them now. It makes no sense to think that Cubans can forget something so momentous, that has never been seen before by several generations born after 1959, except for TV and reports from other countries.

It’s absurd to deny that this was a social explosion, that people weren’t only tired of medicine or food shortages. It’s madness for the government to say that they only see criminals or manipulated and confused people in the thousands of peaceful people we see in these videos.

Of course, there are media campaigns against the government (not against Cuba), the blockade/embargo is real and is affecting the entire population, but it is unsettling to see them only fixate on the external factors. They only ever look for an outside reason, and they ignore, overshadow and discredit the Cuban people.

People didn’t take to the streets because it’s the trendy thing to do or because of money, anyone listening to their demands will realize this. No matter how many times the Party/government leaders want to say it, I don’t see anyone confused there. The Cubans marching in the annual May 1st parades seem more confused or manipulated, as these are organized from above and are compulsory for many and very few Cubans take them seriously. I’ve seen more sincerity in these July protests than never before.

It’s our reality, it’s not only on social media anymore, people have taken to the streets to demand their freedom. It’s unfortunate that government discourse remains so monotonous. Even amidst the cut of Internet access, Diaz-Canel returned to the airwaves to warn: “we won’t let ourselves be intoxicated by social media because they want to show a Cuba that isn’t real.”

If they carry on like this, with this worn out discourse, minimizing internal problems and people’s tiredness with their reality, then they will gradually lose their credibility.

Read more from Irina Echarry here.

Irina Echarry

Irina Echarry: I enjoy reading, going to the movies and spending time with my friends. Many of the people I love are dead, or are no longer in Cuba. I will do my best to transmit my thoughts, ideas or worries via these pages so you can get to know me. I will give an idea of my age, since it helps explain certain things. I’m over thirty-five, and I think that’s enough information. I don’t have any children yet, or nieces or nephews. There are days when I transform myself into a child with no age at all in order to see life from another angle. It helps me break the monotony and survive in this strange world.


6 thoughts on “Cuba: Historic Protests, No Confusion

  • July 26, 2021 at 8:36 pm
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    The photo above is of a pro government demonstration. lol! The man in the yellow with the cap is one of the Cuban Five.

  • July 19, 2021 at 7:37 am
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    Stephan – Watch out for those communist ideologue die hearts !

  • July 18, 2021 at 1:39 pm
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    I hear rumours about something that will happen on July 26th. Does this coincide with The 26th of July Movement? (Movimiento 26 de Julio; M-26-7) My girlfriend is hearing rumours from somewhere. (she is Cuban, living in Cuba). And I am a little concerned to not be able to go back and meet her.

  • July 17, 2021 at 11:25 pm
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    “Diaz-Canel returned to the airwaves to warn: “we won’t let ourselves be intoxicated by social media because they want to show a Cuba that isn’t real.”

    Diaz Canel is a liar it’s very real the communists would get absolutely destroyed in an election against a legalized opposition with access to the airwaves in Cuba.

    That’s why there isn’t one the leaders today in Cuba would even up jailed as criminals.

  • July 17, 2021 at 2:54 pm
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    “If they carry on like this, with this worn out discourse, minimizing internal problems and people’s tiredness with their reality, then they will gradually lose their credibility.”

    Irina is being exceedingly polite in her words “ . . . they will gradually lose their credibility.” The majority of poor, suffering Cubans have known for years and years the present communist elites in power have lost their credibility and sense of relevance in overflowing buckets. It is now with courage Cubans are demonstrating in the streets saying enough is enough. We, the proud inhabitants of this beautiful island have suffered enough and we want change as they vociferously shout and demand. And rightly so.

    Of course the totalitarian communist cadres will not under any circumstances within their control, and they have a great deal of control, relent political power to, according to them, a bunch of hooligans, mercenaries, and outsiders.

    It is sad to see where Cuba’s government must recruit “foot soldiers” with sticks to help them stay in power and use recruits to “teach” their fellow Cubans a harsh lesson for perceived and active civil disobedience. It is discouraging to see and hear of Cubans on one side of the issue provoke, physically beat, psychologically control countrymen/women on the other side of the issue. As Irina writes: “It’s madness for the government to say that they only see criminals or manipulated and confused people in the thousands of peaceful people we see in these videos.”

    The world is witnessing this negative situation play out and is hoping for no bloodshed in the streets. Cubans do not want to spill blood against fellow Cubans. However, if the totalitarian state feels any inclination of loss of political power who knows to what extend they will go to stay and maintain their power. Unfortunately, history teaches us that similar circumstance have in fact led to tremendous civilian bloodshed on the world stage’s streets.

    But, on a more optimistic note, there is also the example of Poland. This country also once controlled by communist ideologue die hearts and receiving their marching orders from Russia – a totalitarian state with historical evidence of violent repression and put down of social upheavals – capitulated and relented to the Polish masses. Why? and How?

    Historically there is some evidence the Roman Catholic Church had some influence in bringing about some modicum of calm and a transition from totalitarian power to a more democratic form of government with citizens having more civil liberties and more opportunity to express themselves verbally and economically without severe repression.

    Can such a scenario play out in Cuba? I do not know. I am sure the world’s witnesses, but more importantly Cubans themselves, even those who have been brain washed from years and years of communist ideology, can see that some sort of peaceful drastic change is absolutely needed for the entire country to move forward economically so that collectively all Cubans can benefit, not just a few elites. Can those Cubans communist ideologues not take a page from the Chinese and Vietnamese current economic successful playbook and prosper and maintain a semblance of currency?

    The current communist government’s “credibility” has been tossed into the trash heap of history. There is no disputing that; there is no current communist credibility left. It is time for new, bold, credible, concrete change and when the Cuban communist elites realize this the entire island will be transformed for the better.

  • July 17, 2021 at 5:48 am
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    Victoria y libertad para Cuba!
    Edward

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