Protest call in Cuba goes unheeded as organizers bottled up
HAVANA (AP) — A call for protests went unheeded Monday as some of the organizers complained that government supporters had surrounded their homes so they couldn’t go out, while others said they were warned by Cuban police that they would be arrested if they took to the streets.
Government critics had hoped to repeat a showing equaling that of four months ago when the island witnessed the largest demonstrations against the Communist administration in recent history.
The organizers sought to hold protests the same day that Cuba reopened to international visitors after 20 months of restrictions due to the coronavirus, but some pandemic restrictions remain for outdoor activities
At the point set for the rally in Havana nobody showed up and the city’s streets appeared calm. Meanwhile, Cuban Americans in Miami held their own rallies to support the hoped-for protests in Cuba.
The Cuban government had denied permission for marches in Havana and other cities.
“Demonstrating is a civic right. Under the circumstances in which we are and with the tools we have, everyone has that right,” one organizer, filmmaker Raul Prado, told The Associated Press by telephone.
Prado said many people were “suffering the consequences” of publicly expressing a willingness to demonstrate. He said authorities cut off their internet service, police in uniform or in civilian clothes were stationed at homes and some government supporters chanted revolutionary slogans at them.
The demonstration was called by playwright Yunior García and his group Archipelago, which is an online discussion forum with 35,000 members.
García had sought to make solo protest walk on Sunday, but he was prevented from leaving his apartment building by supporters of the government. They also hung Cuban flags from the roof of the building to block the windows of his apartment to keep him from communicating with anyone outside. The flags were still there Monday and a guard stood at the door.
The phones of García and other coordinators of Archipelago group remained interrupted.
The march was called to demand the release of prisoners, especially those who were arrested in the July protests, an expansion of human rights and a national dialogue.
Though the streets were quiet, many young people turned to social media to post photos of themselves dressed in white — organizers had called for dressing in that color.
Entrepreneur Saily González, who is a moderator of the Archipelago forum, uploaded a live broadcast showing her in white clothes while government supporters dressed in red chanted revolutionary slogans and insulted her.
Squares and parks in Havana were taken over by government supporters Monday to hold cultural activities accompanying Cuba’s reopening to international visitors and to commemorate the 502nd anniversary of the founding of the city.
During an internet broadcast, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez mocked the protesters and opposition supporters in Washington, saying they were dressed up, but had nowhere to go.
“There were those who artificially created other expectations outside Cuba that did not occur. They dressed for that party. Our party, Cuba’s party, is marvelous and will continue to be in the coming days until the end of the year and next year. Well, some of my colleagues in Washington seem to have stayed dressed up for a party of theirs that has not happened,” he said.