Cubans Give their Thoughts about the 15N Protest

One of the protests in Cuba on July 11, 2021. Photo: Reuters

By El Toque

HAVANA TIMES – Archipielago’s call for a protest on November 15th is an unprecedented event in Cuban society, as the social outcry on July 11th was spontaneous. It’s the first time a social call is being made for a peaceful protest on this scale, to demand the Government for change.

“We might all be arrested on the 16th, or even before that; we’re not afraid. On the 15th, we’ll be making demands for the people who are in prison, we will ask for Rule of Law. I hope that Cuba continues to change on November 15th. Cuba changed with the San Isidro Movement, it changed with November 27th (the gathering in front of the Ministry of Culture), it changed on July 11th and it will continue to change on November 15th. What lies in the future can’t be predicted in societal terms, but citizens are tired and worn-out,” Leonardo Fernandez Otaño, an admin for Archipielago says in a conversation with Jorge de Armas and Enrique Guzman during an episode of elTOQUE’s podcast La Colada.

According to the young historian and Catholic, Cuba is a land of lost dreams. He is motivated to attend the protest by his desire to live in a better country, because Cubans deserve a better life; “they deserve to co-exist in a society where Catholics can educate their children in Catholic schools and LGBTI groups have equal rights.”

Possible scenarios for the 15N protest

While the government’s discourse has emphasized the idea of a failed initiative, Fernandez Otaño believes that the call for the protest and the process that has been unfolding in parallel has not been a failure, as the Cuban government found themselves forced to give a public response. Using official channels to request authorization proved that these channels do not work, as well as proving the system’s authoritarian and totalitarian nature.

One of the scenarios the young Catholic visualizes is what might happen on this day if there is the idea that something similar to 11J is happening: a social uprising. Nevertheless, he hopes for a protest that resembles more what happened on November 27th outside the Ministry of Culture, with small concentrations in certain points.

According to researcher and activist Salome Garcia, one of the guests on La Colada, “before July 11th, many people didn’t openly say they wanted change, that they weren’t willing to carry on tolerating injustice, that they wanted to demand their rights via channels used anywhere else, which is social protest.”

“I don’t think the November 15th protest will be massive, as lots of people are still suffering with their family members being put in jail: mothers, brothers and sisters. They would like to take to the streets and demand freedom for their family members, but they are also afraid, because they think: “if I’m put away too, who will take a bag to prison for my son or daughter, for my husband.” So, they have a responsibility hanging over them, political prisoners continue to be at the heart of this protest,” she adds.

Whichever scenario plays out, there are people in Cuba who are willing to take to the streets on November 15th. A 58-year-old Cuban woman, who was interviewed for this article, says that she will protest without fear and without her knees shaking: “Lots of people from my generation will go with me, because we have a moral duty to support these young people from Archipielago who are taking a chance for change. We owe it to our children, to our grandchildren and to ourselves, because we were a generation that did nothing, but now we are fed up and disappointed.”

“There is a civic and peaceful call to protest and the Government has to respect this,” she adds.

Supporting the social protest in Cuba from any country

Salome Garcia, who has been one of the people responsible for recording the names of those detained on and after 11J, believes in the importance of the diaspora community giving up an extremist discourse and accompanying events in Cuba.

Fernandez Otaño agrees and says that “the call is to take to the streets, wherever there is a Cuban, in the most remote town in Spain, Italy, the US, they can still support it… Authoritarianism is afraid of civic spirit and the invitation from Cuba is to build a social fabric; change is already underway, and people feel like we deserve a better life.”

“From the diaspora, it’s important to show support for the protest,” Garcia highlights. “Protests are being organized in different cities on this day. It would be good to do it a day before or at a time that doesn’t coincide on the same day as the protest here, but it is also important for us to mobilize together more in the long-term, to support those in prison; whether it’s paying a fine, topping up their phones so they can receive a phone call from family in jail, etc.”

“I feel like reconciliation is more and more of a fact in Cuba; that those who leave and those of us who stay no longer have the hate we had in the past; that those who leave, don’t leave for good and those of us who stay, don’t stay for good, because a part of us leaves with them.” Fernandez Otaño says.

From the San Isidro hunger strike to 15N: a year marked by protests

According to Garcia, “we can’t talk about July 11th without talking about the San Isidro hunger strike, when a group of people held a sit-in at the MSI headquarters in Old Havana, where they read poetry and demanded Denis Solis’ freedom. This led to the sit-in outside the Ministry of Culture on November 27th, and many people outside Cuba also began to mobilize. It’s a great source of strength when people on the island feel like they have support when they take to the streets to demand their rights.”

The activist believes that the protests have served to report problems that affect the population and go beyond the economic crisis. The Government hasn’t been able to respond to citizens’ needs with economic, social, and political measures; on the contrary, it has responded with repression, abusive fines, interrogations, surveillance, controlling discourse on social media and court trials.

“Arbitrary arrests have been made and summary hearings have been held, which have resulted in sentences: we have a 10-year-prison sentence for Roberto Perez Fonseca. Evidence from court officials of a criminal file being fabricated against this person accusing him as a counter-revolutionary can be seen on their social media pages with the hashtag Patria y Vida or SOSCuba, which friends and supporters of the Patria y Vida slogan have posted, sharing anti-establishment videos, etc.” she explains.

On this matter, writer and journalist Jorge de Armas believes that a lot of the time there tends to be a focus on artists and intellectuals, because of their protagonism in the San Isidro Movement and November 27th protest, and the real causes underlying them are ignored; which are the result of an incompetent Government, the inefficiency of a totalitarian State, the imposition of an ideology and, more than anything else, the precarious situation of citizens, who are unable to exercise their rights.

“It’s important to establish a difference between these subjective conditions and objective factors that have been dragging on for a long time,” political analyst Enrique Guzman Karell says. “What’s happened in the past eight months in Cuba has significant weight: the Reforms Process, the results of the pandemic, a more severe economic crisis… There are a series of elements in citizens’ everyday lives that have made people feel like they have been pushed to their limit and they haven’t received any positive answers from the Government.” he concludes.

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times.

18 thoughts on “Cubans Give their Thoughts about the 15N Protest

  • In response to Nick’s conversation with his pal Curt, the answer to his question is yes. I believe that the demonstrations of July 11, 2021, which commenced at San Antonio de Los Banos and spread like wildfire through the cell-phones across Cuba, were spontaneous and not funded by the US or any foreign agency. The cell-phone system and Internet were both shut down belatedly by the Diaz-Canel Junta, which was undoubtedly taken by surprise, not having been forewarned by the CDR or other MININT operations.

  • “Cubans Give their Thoughts”

    God help us get rid of this incompetent unelected dictatorship.
    Good riddance.

  • No one with any sense would suggest that the US does not endeavor to encourage dissent in Cuba. It has a known history of doing so, for example the CIA agent in Santiago de Cuba passed US funds to Fidel Castro in the Sierra Maestra and the US Cuban Democracy Act defines the purpose.

    But Curt tries to suggest that there is a division between those Cubans who seek freedom and those who are “griping” about the lack of necessities. I have news for Curt ! Cubans are seeking both freedom and the necessities of life, not one or the other.

    It is not difficult to interpret Curt’s purpose, which is to suggest that if the necessities of life were readily available, Cubans would sink into that pliable “mass” so desired by the communist regime. The thought of the the majority of Cubans seeking the freedom which Curt himself enjoys does not cross his mind which reflects so accurately that of the regime.

  • Curt,
    Mr MacD will propagandise, he will prevaricate, he will obfuscate, he will pontificate, he presents rumours as facts etc……..
    He has a pro conservative, pro capitalist ideology to promote.
    All of which is absolutely fine by me and totally his prerogative. Aside from clear differences of opinion, I would hold MrMacD to be an entirely decent man.
    But when he’s asked a simple and straightforward question regarding one of his assertions, he won’t answer.
    He won’t answer because a straight answer to my question would clearly refute his previous assertion.
    I myself am in favour of everyone’s right to peaceful protest. That would apply to the USA and all it’s allies including those regimes it sells weaponry and torture equipment to and where public protests are strictly forbidden.
    It would also apply to Cuba, a country the USA used to be in total control of – a total control that was suddenly lost.
    The USA (one of my own personal favourite countries in the world) has spent untold millions of taxpayers money trying to disrupt Cuba ever since that loss of control.
    Nevertheless, I am of the opinion that the Cuban Government should allow the right for Cuban people to protest peacefully. Absolutely. No two ways about it.
    But I can also guarantee that some of those going along on these protests will be recipients of U.S. taxpayers money via the fund specifically set up to cause disruption in Cuba with the ultimate goal of bringing down the Government.
    This is the conundrum.

  • Nick, I tried to explain to Carlyle about the funds that are taken out of our hard earned tax dollars and used specifically to create unrest in Cuba. 20 million dollars per year to be exact. I’m not saying all protesters get US funds, but those who do are the ones protesting for freedom, while the others are rightly griping about lack of food , medicine, and other necessities.

  • At long last Nick is displaying a sense of humour! Hands up those HT readers who consider him a “fairly neutral kind of guy”.

  • Fake news Nick
    I believe in democracy you don’t Nick. That is the reality.
    And we all know it.

    Multi party elections, free media, and free speech. Cuba has none of this.

  • Nick, you try to be “neutral” but you don’t come across that way at all. Above all, any enemy of your enemy (the US government) is your friend or at least has a catch-all excuse for poor management and trampling on its citizens rights. That’s the way you come across regarding the Cuban government/Communist Party. And hey I asked you a question you seem to have avoided. Since you have said: “I’m all for a better social contract in Cuba”, what does that mean to you? What are your suggestions for the Cuban government. Can you say that Cubans deserve the same civil rights you enjoy in your country? Should they be jailed and sentenced for peacefully protesting or even for thought crimes on social media if the government says their ideas or criticism is US inspired or paid for?

  • I’m a fairly neutral kind of a guy.
    Whereas Brad, by contrast, has confirmed that he is all in favour of some disturbingly right wing regimes.

  • Every unelected dictatorship suppressing the people’s voices claim outside interference Nick.
    Are you really that naive?

    You don’t believe in free speech or democracy or otherwise you would not support unelected tyranny.
    Your cards are already exposed on the table.

  • I am all in favour of the right to peaceful protest. Most definitely. Unequivocally.
    But I will say this:
    I know that Mr MacD has his favoured orthodoxy to defend, but is he seriously trying to insist that none of the protesters are in receipt of funding from the USA?
    A very simple question.
    Does Mr MacD believe that none of the July protesters are in receipt of funding from the U.S fund which is set up quite specifically to promote unrest in Cuba???

  • “Cuba Is Obliged to Allow Peaceful Protests, says UN Official”

    Try telling Curt, Nick, Dan and their MININT black booted stormtroopers.

  • Curt, you infer that those who protested on July 11 and those who are planning to protest on November 15, are funded by the US. I know that that is incorrect about the 11th july, so where is the proof that those intended for November 15 are funded by the US?

  • Carlyle, this isn’t my opinion, it is fact! Of course you don’t want to face the truth. I know facing the truth hurts sometimes. What do you think Helms Burton is. Go on the website if you don’t believe me. It is run by an American, not the Cuban Communist Party.

  • Curt expresses his opinion with absolutely nothing to show that the demonstrations of July 11 and those intended for November 15 have received a single cent from the US. He merely toeing the Communist Party of Cuba Party line – as usual!

  • Anyone who has doubts that organized dissident groups receive no funding from the US needs to google “Cuba Money Project and see the truth. The US calls them “democracy programs to support civil society”. I call it interfering with another country’s sovereignty to the tune of 20 million dollars per year coming from our hard earned tax dollars. Much of that money gets pocketed by members of US NGOs, who receive the money from USAID or NED and are supposed to send the money directly to dissident organizations in Cuba.

  • You are absolutely right

  • It would be oh so easy, for the communist regime to just ignore the protests on November 15, which following months of intimidation, repression and long prison sentences for protesters of July 11, are bound to have markedly reduced numbers from those of the spontaneous demonstrations of July 11. For by so doing the Diaz-Canel Junta would avoid the international criticism which will inevitably follow any further violent repressive action.

    Such an intelligent reaction would however, run contrary to the communist psyche. The Diaz-Canel Junta will feel compelled to act, for it has to demonstrate its power and control. Diaz-Canel even although well-educated, has the Stalinist form of Marxism ingrained in his mind, indeed that is why Raul Castro appointed him as his successor. He is obviously intelligent, but not smart and has to be seen as in control.

    Alejandro Castro Espin’s MININT goons will be out in force, not only to quell trouble, but to foment it. Means will be found to describe the protestors as violent – even if it requires the sacrifice of a couple of aged police Ladas and the smashing of shop windows with staves provided to the “revolutionary supporters” organized to oppose the “counter-revolutionaries”.

    Or is all that just imagination?

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