“We are going to run out of young people, but hopefully the change will come soon”
HAVANA TIMES – Since dawn on Monday, plainclothes State Security agents could be seen deployed in squares, parks and took over the rooftops near the Capitolio building in Havana. They were part of the operation to prevent a Civic March called for three in the afternoon on this November 15th. In the end, the repression succeeded in preventing the protests from taking place.
“This is hot,” shared Yuniel, a young man who gave testimony to 14ymedio in the vicinity of Central Park. This 28-year-old from Havana was one of the few who dared to leave his home, on a day in which many parents prevented their young children and adolescents from setting foot outside their homes for fear of their being arrested.
Undercover officers who pretended to be in line outside a shop, streets with few passers-by and vigilante groups on street corners marked this Monday. The repression managed to drown out the call to protest but also left a deep malaise among citizens, fed up with the increase in controls experienced on the island after the protests of July 11th.
When the clock struck three in the afternoon, the time agreed for the Civic March, the almost deserted streets in some areas of Central Havana, Old Havana, Cerro and Plaza de la Revolucion were the panorama that could be seen. Many restless political police officers on the street corners, the occasional passerby in their daily work, and some people dressed in white.
“Here on Prado there are police, military and many state security, the atmosphere is very tense. I also see the international press, red berets, and civilian mob types. When I was walking here I saw a small group dressed in white going up to Central Park, but very small,” described a young woman from the downtown walkway, who insisted on pointing out the presence of many disguised police, especially dressed in blue and red.”
A couple young people were arrested in the vicinity of the Paseo del Prado while shouting “Patria y Libertad” (Homeland and Freedom) under the terrified gazes of some neighbors who were watching them from balconies or windows. The two men, yet to be identified, were quickly intercepted, and arrested by police, according to a video posted on social media.
Galiano, one of the main streets of Centro Habana and used by the protesters on July 11, remains closed to vehicles from its beginning on Malecon Avenue to Reina Street. The street, a commercial artery with many portals and close to Paseo del Prado, was considered as an alternative for those summoned this 15N.
The day was atypical, without bustle or lines. “In one of the Carlos III stores they were selling bread and ham in national currency,” Yuniel said. One of the shop assistants showed her fear saying she was “dying to go home” but she had to be there until 9 pm. “They forced us to work,” she assured.
The bank branch on Calle Aranguren, which normally closes at 3:30 pm, closed early.” Today and tomorrow it closes at two in the afternoon,” said a guard to an astonished customer. Many private businesses did not open their doors and others warned their customers that they were suspending home delivery until Wednesday.
Dozens of activists, artists and independent journalists have been detained in the last hours or remain under siege since Sunday to prevent them from leaving their homes. One of the few people who has been able to evade the police siege was the independent reporter Iliana Hernández, who left to march at 3 pm.
“My mission was to show them [the government] that it was not impossible to escape as I have done on other occasions,” Hernandez said in a video shared by CiberCuba. She also assured that at some point in the next few hours they will arrest her, but said the important thing was that at three in the afternoon she was on the street “dressed in gray because today is a gray day for Cuba.” She added: “It is sad that we have to live this way, but we are fighting not to have to live like this anymore.”
Despite the surveillance, some went out dressed in white to tour the city, the color that the organizers of the call had promoted. Others showed their sympathy with the March in different ways. A 60-year-old state worker proudly showed the screen of her cellphone with an image of her cousin “making an L with her hand the symbol of freedom” and let 14ymedio know her support for 15N.
“I do not see an end to this, if every time someone disagrees, they respond with a hate rally,” said the woman. “We are going to run out of young people, this is the saddest thing, but hopefully [the change] will come soon.”
Meanwhile Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez, described as a “failed operation” this Monday the call for a peaceful march, declared illegal by the Government.
“There is a lot to talk about all the good that has happened, and there are also some things to reveal about this failed operation they tried to articulate and has been a complete failure,” speaking in a live broadcast from the Foreign Ministry on Facebook.
Rodríguez dedicated a large part of his speech to highlighting Cuba’s reopening for tourism and spoke about the #CubaVive label used by the ruling party in the last hours to show that the Island is living in “normal tranquility.” The hashtag also appears on several posters used by the Rapid Response Brigades and repressors in hate rallies against opponents and members of the Archipelago platform.