Military to the streets!
By Irina Echarry
HAVANA TIMES – Since the citizens’ initiative to march peacefully on November 20th was made public, expectations have been growing. In the streets I have heard different comments on the subject. Comments from people who do not plan to leave their house that day “just in case”, to those who look forward to the month of November.
A friend told me that surely there would be some infiltrators to create problems and thus justify a police intervention. My friend assumed that they would allow the demonstration because “if so many people request it, the government will not be able to refuse.”
Article 56 of the Constitution states: The rights of assembly, demonstration, and association, for lawful and peaceful purposes, are recognized by the State if they are exercised with respect for public order and compliance with the regulations established by law.
So, in Cuba, demonstrating is a right, as it is to express oneself freely, as long as the speech does not harm others. Such was publicly acknowledged by the president of the Supreme Court, Ruben Remigio Ferro, at a July 24th press conference. He said that thinking differently, questioning reality, and expressing oneself does not constitute a crime, because it is supported by the constitution.
But we are already used to the fact that on the island there are different realities that go hand in hand. Most of those arrested in the wake of July 11 protests remain in prison, some in maximum security prisons and many awaiting excessive sentences. That is why it is not surprising that this October 7, after people in several provinces had formally delivered their letter requesting permission for the march, the government announced armed exercises for November 18, 19 and 20, implicating the military and its weapons, declaring precisely November 20, National Defense Day.
In addition, the activists who promoted the march have been subjected to harassment, repression, and a smear campaign by the government since the first request was presented in Havana.
As a culmination, President Diaz-Canel tweeted hours later a phrase from Ernesto Che Guevara: “Let’s be the nightmare of those who try to take away our dreams.” That, after sending the military to the streets, can be considered an incitement to hatred, to confrontation, especially after having seen the repression of July 11th. Let’s not forget how the president, evidently surprised by the protests in various cities, gave the order “to the revolutionaries” to go out to fight.
Now that they are alert, with time to prepare, what might they be capable of doing? The comments on the page of the official digital media Cubadebate, which replicates the MINFAR note, and those published by some people on their social networks are scary, but they are the result of the aggressiveness with which the government deals with civic affairs.
The march has a well-defined objective: to demand that the rights of all Cubans be respected, the release of political prisoners, and to advocate for a democratic dialogue.
The government does not understand that times have changed; they continue to play politics with cheap propaganda and impositions. They do not know how to deal with citizens in any other way. To a peaceful, legitimate gesture, called by Cubans, who even published a guide to behavior to avoid disturbances, the government responds with weapons and military personnel in the street.
Note: The date of the Civic March for Change has been moved to November 15. We are waiting for government creativity to flow, to see what they come up with now.