HAVANA TIMES – The Cuban government has refused authorization, via its local authorities, for a peaceful protest that has been scheduled for November 15th in several provinces. Official press announced the news accusing the initiative of being “destabilizing in nature“. This is the first formal and widespread call across the country to hold an unofficial political protest in Cuba, in the past 60 years.
Alexis Acosta, Mayor of Old Havana, signed a letter addressed to Yunior Garcia, leader of the Archipielago group, in which he says that “the reasons put forward for the protest are not legitimate. The promoters and their public projections, as well as their ties with some subversive organizations or agencies funded by the US government, have the clear intention of bringing about a change in Cuba’s political system. This confirms that the announced protest, which is being organized simultaneously in different provinces across the country, is a provocation as part of a strategy “to change the regime” in Cuba, which has been orchestrated in other countries“.
In Santa Clara, Cienfuegos and Las Tunas, those requesting authorization received identical copies of the same document, signed by their respective municipal governments.
The Archipielago platform says that the decision is still to hold a civic and peaceful protest on November 15th, in spite of the Government’s refusal.
“The government’s response proves yet again that there is no Rule of Law in Cuba, that they aren’t even willing to respect their own Constitution and are violating Cubans’ human rights,“ a brief statement reads on the platform’s Facebook page.
The initiative’s organizers believe that the authorities’ response makes a joke of Supreme Court president, Ruben Remigio Ferro, who previously said that Cuba would respect the right to protest. “The government’s response is full of deceit, slander and lies. The government’s response is a crime,“ they say.
“Our personal decision will be to protest in a civil and peaceful manner for our rights, on November 15th. We will respond to authoritarianism with civility and more civility,“ they conclude.
Four reasons are being used for the protest: the release of political prisoners, especially those detained on July 11th; the end of violence; respect for every Cuban’s rights; and solving problems via democratic and peaceful channels.
On Monday October 11th, Archipielago had announced that officials from municipal assemblies of People’s Power had summoned signatories of the authorization permit for the Civic Protest for Change, that was first scheduled for November 20th and has now been moved to November 15th. Requests were filed in eight provinces: Havana (20/9), Holguín (21/9), Santa Clara (22/9), Nuevitas (Camagüey, 22/9), Cienfuegos (27/9), Guantánamo (28/9), Pinar del Río (1/10), Las Tunas (7/10) and Camagüey (12/10).
The initial date of the protest was November 20th; but it was moved forward when it was announced that a series of military exercises would take place on this day by the Revolutionary Armed Forces.
In recent days, many signatories of these requests have been interrogated and coerced by State Security. Others have been under police surveillance at their homes. Doctor Manuel Guerra, a resident in Holguin and member of the Archipielago platform, was arrested arbitrarily and released a few days later. Yunior Garcia has been the target of a slander campaign from party-line profiles on social media and in state-controlled media. Ever since the government’s negative response to the protest was announced, reports note the arrest of Daniela Rojo, Archipielago’s admin, other activists being cut off from the Internet, as well as cases of home surveillance.
Sally Gonzalez Velazquez (Santa Clara): “While we were handed a letter with many signatories (there were 22 in Santa Clara), I was given a response addressed to myself. The first thing they did was void, ignore the other signatories and of course, the civil society that has stood up for the protest, especially on social media. The authorities have decided to ignore the popular support that this civic and completely peaceful initiative has had. It’s important that the world knows that the Government in Cuba doesn’t allow its citizens, civil society, to demonstrate.
“The Government is using laws that best suit its interests and are ignoring the constitutional rights of their citizens. Even the Institution, which in this case is the National Assembly of People’s Power, is responding to the Government instead of to the people as they should. This is totalitarianism 101. It’s important to also know that many signatories are under police surveillance. Many activists have had their Internet access cut, and others have been threatened. We are asking for everything by exercising our rights. We aren’t asking either: we’re demanding. There are hundreds of political prisoners in Cuba and we’re not going to leave them on their own. This is also a protest to stand in solidarity with those who stood up on July 11th and were arrested arbitrarily.”
David Martinez (Cienfuegos): “At the time of announcing their negative response, they said that any protest against the Government, Communism or the socialist system is organized by the CIA or funded by the US government, which is completely absurd. They have to prove that I’m receiving funds from abroad to support this claim. You just have to be against the current situation and system, to want change in Cuba.“
Leinier Cruz (Guantanamo): “We aren’t from another country. We are Cubans who want to express our disagreement with a lot of the country’s problems. Just like the Government protects and ensures order at officially-organized marches, they should also do this with every other request. People who disagree with the Government should also have legitimate channels to express their nonconformity.“
Leonardo Fernandez Otaño (Havana): “We have seen an authoritarian State take off its mask. When faced with a citizen-led initiative, the only thing it knows how to do is go back to chanting slogans, to the old structures that don’t tell us anything. It’s time for citizens to act responsibly, betting on reconciliation and for a peaceful transfer or power. Pacifism against authoritarianism. The most interesting thing about all of this is that they have seen Archipielago as a real player, with all of their language, and they know that it’s a player that can organize. I believe this is the authoritarian State’s greatest fear. Right now, we have to think with cool heads and be a lot more intelligent. We have transparency and the ability to be democratic on our side. The only thing we can do is be prudent and have good judgement as citizens, listening to every proposal that comes from different social actors and from different Archipielago members. This is what drives us to articulate ourselves further.“
Full text from the response to the application for a peaceful protest:
Having read the document presented, about many signatories’ decision to hold a protest soon, we inform:
Article 56 of the Constitution, which is referred to as a legal basis for the protest, stipulates the requirement of legality and “respect for public order and compliance with regulations established by the Law when exercising your right to protest.“
In terms of legality, the protest is not considered legitimate because of the reasons put forward. The promoters and their public projections, as well as their ties with some subversive organizations or agencies funded by the US government, have the clear intention of bringing about a change in Cuba’s political system. This confirms that the announced protest, which is being organized simultaneously in different provinces across the country, is a provocation as part of “regime change” strategy in Cuba, which has been orchestrated in other countries.
Plus, as soon as it was announced, the protest received public support from US lawmakers, policy makers and the media that encourage actions against the Cuban people, in an attempt to destabilize the country and they urge for a military intervention.
Article 45 of our Constitution stipulates that the “People exercising these rights is only limited by the rights of others, collective security, general well-being, respect for public order, the Constitution, and laws.“ Article 4 states that “The socialist system that this Constitution supports is irrevocable,“, so that every action against it is illegal.
The Cuban Constitution was widely debated and approved by popular referendum, obtaining 86.85% of votes, an overwhelming majority that chose the socialist system in a free and sovereign way, as well as its irrevocable nature and the right to fight, by all means possible, against anyone who attempts to overthrow the established political, social and economic order.
Bearing in mind the above arguments, it’s clear that while a constitutional right is being invoked, it can’t be exercised against other rights, guarantees and key postulates in the Constitution, which determines the illegal nature of the protest.