By Irina Echarry
HAVANA TIMES – The atmosphere in Cuba remains tense. The spark that ignited Sunday July 11th throughout the country, generated demonstrations not seen in the last 60 years, but also a large police deployment in the streets. That operation, together with hundreds of detainees, some already sentenced in express trials, anguishes family members. Meanwhile, the shortages of food and medicine, the Covid-19 spike, and never-ending lines, has many people fed up, resulting in chaos.
A confusion impossible to understand without listening to the testimonies of the victims of police repression. Some have already been released and are pending trial or some other measure. One must read the stories of those hundreds of men and women who went out to demonstrate that day or who were simply on the street when it all began and are sleeping in a jail or detention center since that night.
They are heartbreaking stories: mothers who have not been able to continue breastfeeding their children; youths who are the sustenance of their houses and their sick parents; people with mental disorders or disabilities locked in a cell; young people who just pulled out their phones, as they always do, and were suddenly forced into a patrol car; people who came out to defend their rights, good people abused in a fury by the military for just shouting a slogan; groups mistreating a single person.
This chaos could not be understood either without listening to the country’s leaders and its official media, which, by the way, have been lately varying the discourse from very strong to moderate; although it is already a little late.
First, the president gave the order for combat, he sent the “revolutionaries” to take to the streets, thereby not only granting freedom of action to the rapid response brigades formed by “the people”, but to the police and military with an impressive combat readiness.
Then they began to say (the president himself, the foreign minister, and the news reporters) that those who came out to protest were vandals and mercenaries. On television assaults on stores or mistreatment of patrols were shown over and over again; and the word for the demonstrations was “riots.”
That discourse remains, but the pressure on social networks and from family members have forced the government leaders to acknowledge (with discretion) that it was not so simple. In the videos of that day, what prevails is peace. And then in the official media some artists and “townspeople” have commented on the need to listen to those who came out peacefully. The president began to speak of love and hearts. And the last thing was that the president of the Supreme Court clarified that demonstrating is not a crime, on the contrary, it is a constitutional right.
In recent days, several countries have made donations of food and medical supplies that the government will use to quiet the demands a little, very little, because the biggest demand was freedom (whatever that means for each of those who shouted).
In the midst of all this movement, many people continue to be imprisoned for demonstrating, there is an immense list of names, some are better known than others, although all are equally important. Some people have been released, but that is also arbitrary. It is impossible to know what determines that some are released and others are not. This creates uncertainty among people. The arrests have not stopped either. The atmosphere is still tense, the streets are quiet, yes, but it is a forced calm.