Report from Cuba on the Occupy Movements

Isbel Diaz Torres

Occupy Wall Street. Photo: Allison Herbert

HAVANA TIMES, Nov. 9 — More than 3,000 people have been arrested in the US since the “movement of the indignant” reached that country.  The figures would be much higher there if one were to add all the victims of police violence.

The “rule of law” that supposedly prevails in the US has proven itself incapable of preserving the civil rights of its citizens.  Authorities there have not hesitated in sacrificing those “principles,” fearing that the movement could extend further, that its aim could become more radical and that it could expose the double standards of the system.

In New York, Los Angeles, Oakland and 70 other US cities, young people have taken to the streets to protest corporate greed and corruption as well as the deep inequalities they experience and that are becoming increasingly rife.

Strikes, protests and demonstration are American civil rights that have been invoked by the people, backed by the laws in force in that country.  The nation’s government “champions” freedom of expression, however it’s now launching tear gas canisters and shooting rubber bullets at demonstrators, running over them with their anti-riot vehicles, throwing them behind bars, beating them up in public, confining their movements and preventing them from meeting.

“The activists arrested have been charged with everything from trespassing on private property and disobeying the orders of authority to disorderly conduct,” reported Granma newspaper, the official organ of the Cuban Communist Party, which this past November 2 ran an article about the protests on its front page.

As is characteristic of undemocratic regimes, the authorities mask political repression as administrative sanctions.  It’s therefore important to show the true sense of what’s happening there, the hollowness of the liberal thesis about their democracy and the magical properties possessed by the market to regulate all of society.

The spirit of indignation sweeps the world

Since May 15 in Madrid, protests have not stopped.  In an exemplary experience, the Spanish have channeled their concerns into action, even in many neighborhoods.

In Paris, young people even went to Cannes to protest the G-20 summit, while in Nice they held the Peoples Alternative Forum.  There the government also took action by preventing protesters from demonstrating in the centrally located Garibaldi Plaza.

In Greece, the manipulations and lies of Papandreou and the inhuman pressure being exerted by the European Community have compelled citizens to take to the streets once again.  Even with the recent resignation of this leader of the “socialist”(?) party, nothing has changed for those in the streets.

Meanwhile, Chile’s students remain on strike after more than six months outside the classrooms, despite having received a direct attack on the headquarters of the Federation of University Students of Santiago this past Friday (Nov. 4).  Their radical critique of an exclusionary educational system and of a rigidly stratified society is something that pleases neither the government nor the economic leaders in that Latin American country.

The Arab peoples, who triggered the world movement, are continuing the international wave.  Of course the last attempt, in Libya, was exemplarily curtailed.  From the inside, the dictator Gaddafi never yielded to the demands of his people; instead, he offered active and violent resistance to change.  However, from the outside, paid assassins and opportunistic killers of NATO—supposedly in defense of the Libyan people—massacred thousands of people of that land.

Thus, there are many voices being raised in today’s world.

Who’s at risk?

 The aims might seem different, more or less radical, but it’s clear that what incites this “indignation” is a predatory global system of alienation and crass consumerism that is ecologically unsustainable. In the US, for example, the criticism of corporations and racist and discriminatory banking policies seem to have produced a consensus within the “Occupy Wall Street” movement.

The existence of conflicts in countries is nothing new of course, but what’s different now is the type (and scale) of organization that has developed.  It’s common for these new efforts to be contemptuous of political party or government systems of any stripe; rather, they insist on the pursuit of empowerment through the direct action by the people.

People no longer believe in speeches and empty promises.  They have been duped for decades and they now understand that nothing can be expected from a justice system designed to serve the powerful.  Now they’ve realized that something can be done.

On a global scale, these principles pose a threat to the current configuration of states, which historically granted themselves the right to decide people’s fates.  Such measures are taken in capitalist regimes as well as other “alternative” state-run attempts, with these latter reproducing “democratic” schemes that differ only in degrees.

A deep feeling of anti-authoritarian is now growing among youth themselves, who a decade ago were considered scum, depoliticized, lost and alienated by consumption.  The political classes did not count on their force, despite being witness to their growing activism and nonconformity.

Today those who dissent are more visible, and therefore they have more strength.  They’ve seized onto new technologies, turning those into weapons against the very ones who designed them for the manipulation and alienation of human beings.  The democratic essence of these tools has been exploited and used creatively for anti-capitalist and anti-authoritarian organizing.

Thus, the “Occupy Movement” in the United States is deepening the debate over itself and around the situation that it confronts.  Twenty percent of US youth remain unemployed, a condition that they are forcefully attacking.

Meanwhile, the right in power is taking measures.  The top one percent of Americans, who amass 25 percent of all the national income are momentarily putting aside their “pretty” speeches about human rights until it’s safer for them on their thrones.

16 thoughts on “Report from Cuba on the Occupy Movements

  • I agree, Mark, these parks are not designed for camping. That’s why politicians should act or promise action & make the problem go away rather than dragging people away. . The key to any mass-occupation is public support & I am talking about a mass of people gathered in 1 location, not camping in parks as a general pastime. Sorry, my point is that the crowd should always win & call the shots. In our local city there was a propane cookshack set-up & people & businesses supported the movement by bringing food & firewood even though, they could not stay for long.
    I read your earlier post & I am in agreement that once support wanes, the park will need cleaning-up. Your city was a unique situation, but I think the similarity is that that may have been the case here as well.
    The cadre of organizers here still don’t feel like giving up or that the message got sent although the protest carried on for weeks, so they’ll be back!

  • I applaud Havana Times for publishing on this topic.

    Im from NYC and was there for the 2nd month anniversary of OWS, I marched across the Bklyn Bridge w 33,000+ others and protested along w many Latino immigrants and women in the first all-women organized action of OWS.

    The article’s emphasis on YOUTH in the movement is misguided: what makes OWS so threatening to the powers that be is its broad based coalition: students and youth yes, but also 60s protesters now bringing their organizational skills and experience to bear, grandparents (many grey groups in evidence), immigrants, workers of all ages, and the vulnerable in general.

  • Hubert,
    I hope you read this since I am responding so late.
    My comment regarding the media in the U.S. was in reference to the fact that the U.S allegedly has the freedoms of speech and the press but the reality is that if those freedoms are limited to voices who own the various media, those freedoms are illusory.

    Of course OUTRIGHT dictatorships do not allow its people to print or say what they want.

    What most fail to realize is that the United States is in fact a “dictatorship of the dollar” .

    It is an oligarchy under which those two freedoms are rendered moot by the reality of who owns the media.

    What is worse, a country under which the people know that they have no rights (DRK) , or a country in which the vast majority of the people have been brainwashed into thinking that by having the freedom to say what they want somehow translates into meaningful freedoms under an oligarchic system ?

    Where is a change more likely over time?

  • Kenny, overnight camping is not allowed in most public parks. The reason is they are not designed for that purpose. They usually lack amenities such as bathrooms, showers, cooking facilities, and electric power. The small downtown parks the occupiers chose to set their encampments up in are particularly ill-suited for this purpose. That’s what public campgrounds are for.

    By occupying these small public downtown spaces, the rest of the public was denied access to them for legitimate purposes such as eating one’s lunch or visiting with friends.

    In setting rules for allowable uses of public parks, local governments are not passing judgment on the cause a civil society group is promoting. The same rules and sanctions would apply if a Tea Party or anti-abortion group put up tents and camped overnight to promote their causes.

  • Mark, look up the meaning of “occupy”.

    How can you tresspass in a “public” park? It is for the use of the public. The “public” has decided to occupy it.
    “Public” officials are supposed to serve the needs of the public, not the other way around. If the public requires a porta-potty for a public event, then it should be provided. The “public” pays taxes , you know. I can’t understand how “public” officials are given the authority to think on behalf of the public to determine what is safe or healthy, as if the collective public has no brain. The “public authorities” assert their authority because they have an authoritarian mindset & a police force at their command. The public must rise up & assert their power & their place in society, or else they will only be able to do what is permitted by “the/their?” government, which is to go home when told. The “public” IS society & POPULAR movements should be calling the tune for their governments who should be listening & carrying out the directives of that public body. Instead, you have A PUBLIC being ruled by government authoritarians, scrambling to avoid it’s wrath!

    Keep up your concern. The worst defeat of humanity is orchestrated though it’s own indifference, apathy, or unawareness. Obviously, the “public” courts need reform as well.

  • As a person supportive of the Occupy Movement’s goal of reducing inequality, and who had some initial involvement with the local occupy action in my city, very little in the above article rings true.

    While there may have been 3,000 arrests, the vast majority were of folks who refused to leave illegal encampments on private or public property. These folks spent zero time in custody and were subsequently released without charge. The issue had nothing to do with free expression or assembly, but rather of unauthorized trespass.

    In my city a few professional activists hijacked the occupy movement, and thereby lost much of the public support and goodwill the occupiers had the outset. These activists “occupied” a downtown park for over 7 weeks by illegally camping there. They refused to leave the park even after a court order was obtained ordering them to do so for reasons of public health and safety. When the police finally moved in, a few of the activists chose to be arrested rather than voluntarily leave.

  • “Where else would I run an organization with 330,000 employees? I have my own army in the NYPD, which is the seventh-biggest army in the world” – Michael Bloomberg, Mayor of New York (December 2011)

  • I must correct your perversion of truth that I’m sure you posted her in an attempt to mislead.. In NYC and in many other places, protesters that harmed nothing or no one were brutalized. This was a direct attempt to discourage others from joining the protest and it was an attempt to incite violence, but it hasn’t worked.

    Your statement: “but within any large gathering of left forces in the states there always exists a core goup of professional activists who like to occasionally break a window or throw a rock and then call it a human rights abuse when they get peppersprayed. so again, what happened in oakland is horrible, but at least half the blame goes to that core group of so called activists who intentionally provoke.”

    I’ve been participating in protests since I was knee high to a grasshopper and I have NEVER witnessed any individual or “group of professional activists” being destructive or provocative. There is no such thing as a professional activist.

    Who are you, Rob, and what are your intentions?

  • We’re not living in a police state? Tell that to someone living in NYC who is black or Latino when they are stopped and frisked without just cause.

    Cuba’s provision regarding contempt for authority (desacato) penalizes anyone who “threatens, libels or slanders, defames, affronts (injuria) or in any other way insults (ultraje) or offends, with the spoken word or in writing, the dignity or decorum of an authority, public functionary, or his agents or auxiliaries.” Such actions are punishable by three months to one year in prison, plus a fine. If the person demonstrates contempt for the President of the Council of the State, the President of the National Assembly of Popular Power, the members of the Council of the State or the Council of Ministers, or the Deputies of the National Assembly of the Popular Power, the sanction is deprivation of liberty for one to three years.

    When a Cuban living in Cuba honestly stands up against injustice committed by the Cuban government, it is admirable and sacrificial.

    In the US, we stand up against injustice but our cries are not heard. And if our protests are a threat to the US elites, the police brutalize the protesters and often force the protests to stop.
    The US Department of Defense’s Annual Level I Antiterrorism (AT) Awareness Training for 2009 misinforms Department of Defense (DoD) personnel that certain First Amendment-protected activity may amount to “low-level terrorism.” (See:

    Our popular media is a big propaganda machine that lies to its viewers, perverts the truth, and encourages cruelty. In the US, we have so called “freedom of speech” but does it mean we are free?

    I believe that Cuba and the Cuban people are more evolved than most, and that when the change that must happen in Cuba happens, Cuban’s will be on their way to freedom and a better quality of life. I think Cuba will achieve freedom before the US does.

    And to my friend, who is the writer of this article, I love you. A big hug and a kiss to you.

  • Hey, Sam, great to read you…
    our thoughts are with you, guys

  • Great article on new “occupy” movement here in the states. This weekend in Oakland we are holding a march in solidarity with the Egyption Revolution and will be hosting a visitor from Egypt who will be speaking about their movement and building stronger ties of solidarity between our two countries. Also, many people here in the states have been in close communication with comrades in Greece, Spain, Chile etc… This is a real global movement. And as you say, while some of the rhetoric and politics may differ I think that everyone recognizes this as a global fight against unrestrained capitalism and authoritarianism (state and corporate).

    One of the most inspiring moments was when the unions, specifically the Longshoremen’s Union, helped create those closest thing to a general strike in the Bay Area since the 1930’s. You has 20,000 people in street marching together…the stories…including that of a “children’s brigade” who marched on Bank of America…was very inspiring.

    I was in Cuba at the time of this march but am back in the Bay Area and am happy to tell friends here that there are people in Cuba following these events and standing in solidarity. I personally don’t see any difference between the Cuban State paying their workers $30.00/month and laying off massive numbers of people and the global push towards austerity within Capitalist countries. I was glad to discuss this with some people in Havana and look forward to discussing this more with you and others.

    Thank you for this article…I will try and post more 🙂

  • John,

    You say, there is no nation on Earth that has a less informed or a greater disinformed public than the United States and this under freedom of the press and freedom of the press
    Have you ever considered the North Korean slaveholding state as a serious contender to that title?
    I think even the US Left is mistakingly believing that the world revolves around the US of A.

  • Well rob, I’m sorry you had to listen to my “garbage”, but I do consider you are living in a police state, and that’s what my friends from Chicago (protesters) think too.
    Thanks for your comments

  • Freedom of the press and freedom of speech in the United States are empty rights.
    Yes we are free to write and say what we want but it is those who own the media who are the ones who determine what the public will see, hear and read. The effects of top-down media in the States is not much different from the same thing in Cuba except that the Cuban people are much more politically and socially conscious than are the largely brain-dead people of the United States.

    In the case of the Occupy Wall Street encampments and demonstrations, the U.S. media ignored them for about two weeks and then when these movements and demonstrations became too large and widespread to ignore they belittled them by showing the bongo drummers, clown suited demonstrators , concentrating on the window breaking anarchists in Oakland who like the bongo drummers and were the exceptions and not at all representative of the OWS people as a whole.
    This tactic of course was a means to divert attention to the very serious and legitimate 99% against the 1% reason that the movement has drawn such huge numbers of participants from all walks of life.

    Many question the motives and correctness of the demonstrators simply because they have been fed a constant stream of deprecating propaganda from the media which like Fox News presents a “balanced”
    reportage that is, in effect , a lie since presenting false images along with the true reasons for these massive demonstrations in equal measure is simply a very effective and time proven method of confusing the already dumbed-down U.S. public.

    The police and those in power do not have to remove the OWS people by force since that often backfires when the violence against peaceful demonstrators when viewed by the public on the nightly news creates a wave of revulsion against that violence.

    It is far more effective to confuse the public as to the reasons for the OWS movement by presenting false comparisons and by largely ignoring either the entire OWS movement or the reasons for it.

    Need proof?
    Go out into the street and ask any U.S citizen what Bin Ladin’s reasons for the 9/11/2001 attacks were.
    The events of that day are what led the U.S into the six or so wars in which it is now engaged and those reasons should be understood by most people. My guess is not five out of 100 people will be able to either give those three reasons or be able to find Iraq or Afghanistan on a map or for that matter pronounce Iraq correctly.

    My point being that freedom of speech and freedom of the press means nothing if the media is tightly controlled by those who wish to preserve the status quo.

    There is no nation on Earth that has a less informed or a greater disinformed public than the United States and this under freedom of the press and freedom of the press.
    More on the OWS movement at:

  • “The activists arrested have been charged with everything from trespassing on private property and disobeying the orders of authority to disorderly conduct,” reported Granma newspaper..

    i wonder how activists occupying any part of havana would be treated by the authorities? would the writers of granma be offering critiques of the govt response to cuban protests, or would they consider the protesters worms?

    though what happened in oakland is surely gross, most of the protests have been peacefull, officers and “dissidents” alike. but within any large gathering of left forces in the states there always exists a core goup of professional activists who like to occasionally break a window or throw a rock and then call it a human rights abuse when they get peppersprayed. so again, what happened in oakland is horrible, but at least half the blame goes to that core group of so called activists who intentionally provoke.

    furthermore, i take issue with the writers snide comments on the issue of free speach/rule of law. there obviously exists many flaws with these united states, but when it comes to free expression and taking to the streets we have no competitors, period. people in authority do occasionaly over step boundries, but because of our 1st amendment speech rights we are able to debate those oversteppings and often correct them. so though i consider myself to be on the hard left, i cannot listen to any garbage about how we in the states are living in some kind of police state.

Comments are closed.