Heavy State Security Presence & Arrests in Mayarí, Cuba

The July 11th protests and the aftermath in my city in Holguin, Cuba  

By Osmel Ramírez

Photo: cubadebate.cu

HAVANA TIMES – People had no time to react or think about repression or subsequent reprisals of power that crushes the individual detained with no rights. The desperation is so great; the shortages, the obstacles and the penalties are so many. Plus, the quarantines, hunger, and no medicines is so hard to live with; that they had to lose their fear and go out to protest.

It started in San Antonio de los Baños on the outskirts of Havana and spread all over Cuba. It took me a while to believe it. Could they be running to catch some sort of transport? They asked over the phone from one Cuban to another. But little by little it became credible because it was gigantic.

A special program on the official television with the despicable Humberto López ended up in convincing those manipulated by official propaganda and without internet. They believe the story that on social networks everything is fake news.

So, just like everywhere else, people from Mayari started to organize going out on the streets using a local Facebook Buy and Sell page. Some were enthusiastic to go, according to the comments, the same happened in the larger city of Holguín and other municipalities. Some young people and business owners arrived shouting ‘Patria y Vida’ (Homeland and Life), and ‘It has already started, go out to the street.’

In the Cocal neighbourhood a group was getting ready to march through the town’s main street to the center. A business owner named Julio Antonio Lopez Rodríguez (alias Koqui), set out on his moped with another person behind and moved through the main streets of the city encouraging people to come out shouting ‘Patria y Vida’. Then torrential rain started and lasted several hours until nightfall of this now historic July 11th, and the momentum was lost.

By the time the rain stopped the streets had been taken over by a Ministry of Interior (MININT) presence. Likewise, the army activated command posts of military defense and they began to recruit the reserves. The word on the street is that the country is in ‘phase 1’ activating and mobilizing the Defence Councils.

To prevent the spread of a national protest among people and looting of shops and warehouses, they mobilized all the administrators of state retail businesses and food service units, along with political agents and community officials to protect these state properties.

The main potential targets that were highly militarized were the shops that sell in US dollars. For months they have been the object of popular rejection because they sell only in a foreign currency. They were the target of assaults by angry crowds in various parts of the country.

Since Sunday, police cars and motorbikes with officers patrol the streets of the city constantly, as if there was no shortage of petrol. Internet was suspended here since Sunday night and it became more dangerous to walk in groups.

“The objective is that people remain disconnected and hearing only the official message,” said Confesor Verdecia, a local human rights activist. “The strategy is always the same, highlight the protests as an act of mercenaries instigated by the ‘empire’ (EUA) and not a legitimate popular reaction”.

“I have contacts with thousands of people in the opposition inside and outside of Cuba, and no one told me of any special organization for yesterday, Sunday. It was the same as usual on the social networks, but there was no sign of anything coordinated. This was something spontaneous and the truth is, that is the only way things work in Cuba. Anything organized fails because the State Security neutralizes it immediately.

“I went to the street like others to show up and join in, but very quickly the rain started and the internet didn’t work. Even though there was no protest here what happened Sunday was incredible. I still find it hard to believe that people have been that courageous. This country is waking up and now I believe that yes, we can have hope that this is going to change and that one day we will have democracy and freedom. I am hopeful, if this continues we have to be part of it”.

The lack of communication makes it impossible to know all of the incidents and the details. In this municipality in the Guaro area, a small town ten kms from the main municipality, an opponent Teresa Miranda Cespedes began banging saucepans at 9 o’clock at night in support of the protests all over the country and this was counteracted by a hate rally on the part of local official agents.

“Everything seems to indicate that they were ready for whatever I would do, they stopped me. Vulgar and offensive people, the same as the neighbourhood defence committee (CDR). One of the women wanted to attack me and I had to defend myself with stones to make her back off,” Miranda Cespedes told Diario de Cuba.      

On Monday morning, July 12th, Koqui, the business owner who did the rounds of the city encouraging people to come out on the street shouting ‘Patria y Vida’, was detained in a dramatic operation by MININT and is still imprisoned and in isolation. Neighbours and family members confirmed that if he is not released quickly, they will go back out on the streets to demand his freedom. 

Read more from Osmel Ramirez here on Havana Times.

Osmel Ramirez

I'm from Mayari, a little village in Holguín. I was born on the same day that the Vietnam War ended on April 30, 1975. A good omen, since I identify myself as a pacifist. I am a biologist but I am passionate about politics, history and political philosophy. Writing about these topics, I got to journalism, precisely here on Havana Times. I consider myself a democratic socialist and my main motivation is to try to be useful to the positive change that Cuba needs.

Osmel Ramirez has 174 posts and counting. See all posts by Osmel Ramirez

3 thoughts on “Heavy State Security Presence & Arrests in Mayarí, Cuba

  • “Patria y vida” ? According to Dan, what does this phrase suppose to mean? He states the well publicized political Revolutionary phrase: “Patria o Muerte” according to Dan “ . . is clear.” The latter is certainly death defining to be sure. You are either with us or against us. It certainly strikes fear in anyone’s psyche if one chooses not to accept that credo. How about patriotism and life infused together? Is that such a bad thing; is that worth fighting for?

    I suppose to really understand and empathize and be able to properly communicate the significance of “Patria y vida” one has to be born, raised and have undergone tremendous misery, suffering, lived in unbearable conditions, have had no freedom of expression, and be in constant fear of repression, and the list goes on.

    A totalitarian state, as Cuba is, is unforgiving. As the historic slogan coined by the Castro Revolutionaries clearly states you, as a Cuban, have a very clear choice. You either obey, honor, accept and live according to communist ideology as defined by totalitarian elite rulers on this island, or you face the stark reality of death – a death by a thousand cuts.

    Take it or leave it. Those fortunate and with resources have done exactly that. They have fled the totalitarian hell and found freedom, food, security, the right to free speech, elsewhere in the world. They have opted for life.

    Unfortunately, the majority of Cubans without the adequate resources or through a strong since of patriotism have chosen to stay. They have given their leaders an extremely long run way to make incremental improvements in their daily lives – a run way of 60 plus years. To what avail?

    Patriotism is great if one has a full stomach, medicine when sick, some money, or the ability to earn some, to buy a toy for a toddler who is probably suffering from scabies because the government does not have the resources nor the willingness to do anything to eradicate a simple solvable health condition.

    The majority of Cubans living in these deplorable conditions ask themselves is this life – in Spanish “vida”? Is this what vida in Cuba is suppose to be like. There is complete hopelessness among the majority. There is complete hopelessness particularly among the youth who have had to watch their grandparents, parents, and now they themselves suffer. Enough is enough of this brutal “vida”.

    What the majority of Cubans want and are willing to work and aspire to is a “vida” – a life – a life worth living. A life where one works hard earns enough to eat and to support a family and his hopeful for the future.

    Patria o Muerte is very, very clear. It is a stark two valued orientation: you are either with us (o) or you are against us. There is no middle ground. This 1950s communist ideology was popular in its heyday as in Russia versus the West. It almost led to a nuclear war. Since then, the communist world has embraced economic prosperity for its citizens and lifted them out poverty and given them “vida.” Cuba has not. Cuba is still mired in the 1950s totalitarian ideology where an archaic senseless slogan defines the nation. North Korea comes to mind, sadly.

    It is 2021. Cubans no longer live or want to live in a two valued world. There is room for comprise; there is a political middle ground. Patria and Vida symbolizes a togetherness, a path forward, a path whereby a Cuban can have both patriotism towards his country and also have a life worth living. It is not an either or option. Cuba can have Patria and Vida, a comprise, a middle ground, a way forward. Patria and Vida makes absolute sense plus is worth fighting for as demonstrated on Cuban streets. Vida, life worth fighting for.

  • For those who want to know where the term Patria y Vida, substituting Patria or Muerte, came from and became so popular, it is from a protest song by several highly popular Cuban musicians released in February 2021. Here is the link: https://youtu.be/XPoDKmvMD8o This is a subtitled in English version.

  • Is there anything more vacuous and meaningless than the slogan of the day, “Patria y vida” ? What does it mean ? The Martiano “Patria o muerte” is clear. Patriotistic altruism. The willingness to defend Cuba from imperialist aggressors. “Patria y vida” is supposed to juxtapose this, but how ? Isn’t there vida in Cuba now ? How many lives has the Revolution saved with it’s emphasis on medical care for all ? Doesn’t it have one of the lowest mortality rates in the World for a country of its economic level ? Isn’t it the ONLY country in Latin America along with Costa Rica, which never, since 1959, had death squads, disappearances, and massacres ?
    Is “Patria y Vida” the same substance as the chants up here USA ! USA! USA !, or “Freedom isn’t free” ? It’s just a trope, a sound bite that resonates with those to lazy or unequipped to think for themselves. One thing is certain, if it comes to replace Patria o Muerte, Cubans on the island will quickly come to see that what the regime change engineers really meant was not Patria y Vida, but Patria por Vender.

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