The July 11th protests and the aftermath in my city in Holguin, Cuba
By Osmel Ramírez
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.