May Day in Cuba: Celebration or Repression?

Miguel Diaz Canel and Raul Castro waving to the masses at the May Day parade in Havana, Cuba.

By 14ymedio

HAVANA TIMES – Cubalex and Justicia 11J have observed an increase in repressive events against activists, opponents, journalists and family members of people held in detention for political reasons. Between April 26th at 6 pm and May 1st, we documented a total of 80 events, disaggregated as follows:

        Summons/interrogation: 12

        Surveillance/police perimeter: 28

        Arrests: 13

        Forced disappearance: 5

        Warning at home: 8

        Fine: 3

        Other forms of repression: 11

Based on testimonies of the victims, we have verified that this deployment was mainly related to the State’s concern that the traditional celebration of International Workers’ Day, in provinces throughout the country, could have been “destabilized” by the presence in the streets of dissenting voices, in a context of growing popular discontent and the loss of the authorities’ symbolic power.

Added to this are the actions related to two public protest events that took place in Havana in recent days. The first (on the 27th), was carried out by relatives of three of the minors who received long prison sentences for their participation in the July 2021 protests. The second (on the 28th), was led by activist Carlos Ernesto Díaz González (Ktivo Disidente), who remains in detention.

Although the first of the aforementioned events was thwarted by the presence of the political police near the agreed location for the protest, the signatory organizations view it as a milestone on the path to channeling the demands for freedom in the public space by relatives of the protesters.

Likewise, we point out the state’s response in order to prevent future similar events, through the arrest, in San Miguel del Padrón, of the participating relatives: Yanaisy Curbelo (mother of the minor Brandon David Becerra), Rolando Castillo (father of minor Rowland Castillo) and Maylín Fajardo (mother of minor Lázaro Noel Urgellés), who were held at the 11th unit of the PNR.

On the first anniversary of the Demonstration on Obispo Street on April 30, 2021, during which 13 people who expressed their solidarity with artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara were arrested and faced up to 8 months of arbitrary deprivation of liberty, the organizations that have signed this report point out how the strength of Cuban civil society has been increasing as it struggles to recover the civic space.

And in this sense, we highlight the perseverance of activists such as Ángel Cuza, protester of Obispo Street, who was detained on the 28th, when he appeared for a summons to be interviewed by State Security officials, and held until today in the afternoon.

Likewise, we observe with concern the police’s liberal interpretation of the crimes defined in the Cuban Criminal Code. In particular, the excessive use of the crime of sedition, which has recently been directly related to freedom of expression, which, far from being a crime, constitutes a fundamental right, enshrined in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in article 54 of the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba.

We stress that, due to the alleged crime of sedition, 169 of the July protesters could serve up to 30 years in prison (according to the current regulations), and for which soon (when the preliminary draft of the Penal Code is approved on May 14), Cuban citizens could be sentenced to life in prison, or even the death penalty (article 121 a).

We denounce the practice of forced disappearance, which in the days covered by this report has been documented on 5 occasions, as well as the repressive manipulation of the truth of the island, which the Cuban State maintains before international institutions such as the Committee Against Torture (CAT), before whom it recently denied, once again, that this international crime was practiced in Cuba, a violation of the most basic human rights.

We also denounced the political violence exercised against women. Of all the registered events (80), 30 were practiced against them. We condemn the event of physical violence against nurse, and member of the Free Cuban Medical Guild, Welsimys Cruz Pérez, who this morning was attacked by five political police officers, until she bled.

A similar concentration of repressive events in just a few days had been documented by Cubalex and Justicia 11J in November of last year, related to the call for a peaceful march, in the context of the Civic Day for Change. In those days, 93 people were arrested, 8 of them remain in jail to this day.

We reiterate our commitment to demanding the immediate release, acquittal and dismissal of charges against those detained for political reasons. We will continue our work of documenting, denouncing and accompanying, as well as supporting family members and other civil society actors. As Ktivo Disidente, we understand that “all Cubans have the right to participate in the political life of the country.”

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.