By Ronal Quiñones
HAVANA TIMES – A day of protests is expected here in Cuba, which could go down in History like the July 11th protests, even if they aren’t as big in scale and impactful.
Lots of anti-government groups on the island have decided to invoke their constitutional right to protest and request authorization to protest in different points across the country.
As was to be expected, as soon as this announcement was made, the government mobilized and the first thing they did was call a National Defense Day on the same day, November 20th.
It’s worth explaining that this event takes place every year, but it hadn’t been organized since the beginning of the pandemic, as you’d expect. However, it doesn’t normally take place at this time of year, when its normally Meteoro (atmospheric phenomena) exercises, which have been developed to assess preparation in the case of hurricanes and emergency situations.
The National Day of Defense, as the name indicates, is basically a military exercise, and it involves every professional rank of the Armed Forces, Ministry of Interior and similar bodies, as well as members of the reserve, which is a large part of the working population.
The fact they called it for this day was a clear scare tactic, because while some people were thinking about taking to the streets dressed in white peacefully, others will be carrying weapons on the streets, which is just about as rare in this country as a store without a line out front.
The protest’s organizers were sensible and decided to avoid confrontation and moved up the date to the 15th, but it will be very difficult for them to manage to get so many people to join.
The leaders of the protest have already been suffering constant harassment from the authorities, both in private and in public. First of all, they’ve reported this on social media when they could, where they speak about all kinds of pressure on them and their families, threats of being taken to court and having their communication blocked. Likewise, all of Cuba has seen the slander campaign against them in the media, mainly on the National News, which continues to be a great shop for government propaganda, and it is still effective amongst the greater part of the population that doesn’t have regular access to the Internet.
All of this could be seen coming a mile away as soon as they announced their intention of holding a protest, but it was inevitable. The protestors want to do things properly and by the book, so there is no justification for violence.
However, the Ministry of Justice said that it was a protest being orchestrated by the US and with the mission of ending the socialist project, something that the Constitution overrules in its first article, by saying that this model is irrevocable.
If this is the case, then you can’t protest. Not now, or EVER. At the end of the day, the government will say “The Empire” is behind any protest in Cuba that demands basic rights.
Following this logic, Section 61 is just there for fun, establishing rights for assembly, demonstration and association, always with respect for public order and without violating the Law.
While Cuba’s highest authorities have spent the past two months visiting critical places, the places they’ve prefered to only give a sidelong glance for decades, and where especially violent concentrations broke out on July 11th, they are extremely afraid of something similar happening again.
So, I don’t think that the streets will be taken in the same way they were before. Anyone who’s walked around some parts of Havana during this time after 6 PM, will have seen the impressive police deployment along the city’s main avenues.
This is without the threat of a protest, imagine if they knew. They just won’t let them move.
That said, does that mean they should take a step back? Not at all. If there’s one thing this attempt of public spirit has proven, it’s that the government doesn’t care at all, and the best way to do this is to go down the lawful road so that the entire world can see it’s a farce and that the Constitution doesn’t recognize Cubans’ basic rights, in practice.
This is the way the entire planet can see that if you do things the right way, nothing will happen in a more-or-less normal place, but if you do it against a totalitarian State that makes the Law and also the trap… well, it’s a different story.
It’ll be another drop that spills from the cup of patience of the rest of democratic governments, who the Cuban people are asking to take more action, apply greater international pressure, more disdain towards the dictatorship.
The only people who can stop events from unfolding violently are other countries, who need to isolate this leadership to the point that they call a plebiscite and it’s the Cuban people who decide, directly and secretly, whether they want to continue with this system or to try something different.
When Cuba stops being invited to the main international forums because its government doesn’t represent the majority, then they will have to accept a democratic path, just like has been done lots and lots of times across the world, with even the bloodiest of dictatorships.
When they don’t want to extend their hand to our leaders, when the doors they knock are closed, when they really feel this disdain in their veins, then, they will have no other choice but to hear the truth from their citizens, the ones who are crying out for Freedom! and not bread.