Sunday, August 8, 2021

Concerning the July 11 protests in Cuba

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Protestors at Maximo Gomez monument in Havana, Cuba.


We are reprinting a statement from the Cuban blog, Comunistas, that provides an extended account of the anti-government demonstrations of July 11.  The original post is here: Frank García Hernández  is a member of the editorial board of Comunistas. We wish to thank Robert Montgomery for providing the English translation. 



Part 1


Six days after the events and after a profound analysis, Comunistas makes known its official position on the protests that took place in Cuba last Sunday, July 11. 


Almost simultaneously and with greater or lesser intensity, on Sunday, July 11, Cuba experienced a series of social outbursts that covered at least 6 of the 14 provinces that make up the country. In the 62 years since the triumph of the Revolution led by Comandante Fidel Castro, Cuba had never faced a situation like this one. 


Although initially, the first protests began peacefully, almost all of the demonstrations ended up marked by violence, which was exercised by both sides. This series of simultaneous anti-government demonstrations is an event never seen before in socialist Cuba. This is a necessary factor to take into account in order to understand the facts. 


It is worth remembering that in Cuba, the last mass protests date back to August 5, 1994, later known as Maleconazo, which was contained in a few hours with the presence of Fidel Castro at the scene of the events. A demonstration of 200 people chanting slogans against the government in a central location is almost inconceivable in Cuban society. However, at least in Havana there was a spontaneous march of at least 3,000 people.


The events in Havana


The protests - the trigger for which was the demonstration in the city of San Antonio de los Baños, located no more than 100 kilometers from the capital - quickly spread to Havana. Shortly after 3:00 p.m. local time, around 200 people took over the central Fraternity Park, later moving in front of the Capitol (official seat of Parliament). 


During the first hour of the protest, police arrests were isolated, allowing, at least tacitly, the march of the demonstrators, who moved towards the central Máximo Gómez Park, located between the Spanish Embassy and the headquarters of the National Bureau of the Union of Young Communists. At that time, more than 500 people were peacefully gathered on the esplanade of the park, while arrests continued to be made on a case-by-case basis. 


Later, a group of approximately 100 people, waving Cuban and 26th of July Movement flags, with socialist and pro-government slogans, peacefully took over the Máximo Gómez Park. At the same time, other groups linked to the Communist Party and the Union of Young Communists, together with cadets of the Ministry of the Interior, ended up occupying the area. 


The demonstrators voluntarily demobilized and it seemed that in Havana, at least where they originated, the protests had ended, almost peacefully. However, it later became known that the march had turned into a long demonstration which was traveling through important streets of Havana. As the protest march progressed, people joined it, and according to unofficial sources, between 2,000 and 3,000 demonstrators chanted slogans against the government. 


At a certain point, the demonstrators decided to go to the emblematic Plaza de la Revolución, where the headquarters of the Presidency, the Central Committee of the Communist Party, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of the Armed Forces, as well as the main national newspapers are located. In the vicinity of the Plaza de la Revolución, the demonstration was repelled by forces of public order and pro-government civilian groups, generating violent clashes between both sides, which resulted in an undetermined number of arrests and injuries. 


At the same time, in the 10 de Octubre Causeway, Havana, seriously violent events took place, where two police cars were overturned. Subsequently, videos of serious acts of vandalism were released, such as the stoning of a children's hospital. The death of civilian Diubis Laurencio Tejeda has been confirmed during the protests. No other deaths have been reported so far as a result of the demonstrations. Violence was exercised both by the demonstrators and by the civilians who came out to confront them, mainly with stones and sticks. The number of people injured on both sides is unknown. The number of people arrested at the scene is also unknown, as well as any subsequent arrests linked to the protests. We still do not know the number of citizens who six days later are still being held in irregular detention.   


While the protests were taking place in Havana, similar events took place in the cities of Bayamo, Manzanillo, Camagüey, Santiago de Cuba, Holguín, among others of lesser intensity, which also ended, or even began, in a violent manner. 



Part 2

Origin and essence of the protests


The protests that took place in Cuba last July 11 cannot be understood as a confrontation between counterrevolutionaries and communists, as the government has tried to make it appear; nor of oppressed people versus dictatorship, as bourgeois propaganda has insisted; nor of revolutionary working class versus politically degenerated bureaucracy. 


The July 11 protests brought together at the same time the three previous perspectives: the counterrevolutionary organizations -paid by the United States- violently attacking the Communist Party; groups of intellectuals who feel their civil liberties severely curtailed confronting censorship and the working class demanding from the Government improvements in their living conditions. However, although this last variant was the overwhelming majority, it cannot be understood as a politically conscious socialist mass, demanding more socialism from the stagnant bureaucracy.


The July 11 protests could be characterized in nine essential points:


The great majority of the demonstrators were not linked to counterrevolutionary organizations, nor were the protests led by counterrevolutionary organizations. The main cause of the demonstrations was the discontent generated by the terrible shortages caused by the economic crisis, the economic sanctions imposed by the U.S. government and the questionable and inefficient management of the state bureaucracy. It was the shortage of food and cleaning products, the existence of stores in freely convertible currency which can only be accessed through foreign currency and which accumulate an important part of the supply of basic products; the long lines for the purchase of basic foods such as bread; the shortage of medicines; the restriction on the deposit of dollars in cash in banks; the price hikes in public services (transportation in Havana increased the fare by 500%); the cutback of gratuities; the drastic increase in inflation; the increase in the price of basic products; and the long power cuts, the objective factors that caused a scenario conducive to a social outburst.  


Part 3


At the same time, let's not forget that Cuba is going through its biggest economic crisis in 30 years. Cuba needed the visit of 4 million 500 thousand tourists and stable prices in the international market for its Gross Domestic Product to grow at least 1% in 2020. In 2020 Cuba only received 23% of the tourists needed, or 1.5 million tourists, and the world economy went into crisis. The decrease in foreign visitors caused the loss of about 3 billion dollars in 2020. Cuba imports about 80% of its food and the government spends about 2 billion dollars on this.


Except for a discreet recovery in China, the rest of all Cuba's trading partners fell into economic recession. As of June 2021, Cuba had only received a little more than 130,000 tourists. Most of the country's reserves had been consumed by 2020. The costs of public attention in confronting the coronavirus have caused serious damage to the Cuban economy. To this must be added the serious sanctions imposed by Donald Trump, which have not been lifted by President Joe Biden, intensifying the already accumulated impact of the blockade.  


However, the reasons why the Cuban economy is in crisis do not matter to the working family at the time of serving the table, even more so when the political legitimacy of the government is progressively deteriorating.


2. The political legitimacy of the Government is considerably diminished. The official political discourse is far from being effective; it does not reach the youth. The political propaganda of official youth organizations is alien to the youth. As an example of this, among the participants in the protests there was a large number of young people (at the moment it is impossible to give an exact figure). 


At the same time, the political wear and tear of several years of crisis and the accumulated errors of the state administration in general. In addition, the current government does not have the political legitimacy of the historical leadership of the Revolution. The separation between the country's leadership and the working class is increasingly visible, and a gap in living conditions is being questioned.


Part 4


3. The protests originated in working class neighborhoods and those with the greatest social problems. Social inequality is a growing problem in Cuban society. Poverty. Social neglect, the precariousness of public and social policies, the scarce supply of food and basic products from the State, as well as impoverished cultural policies, are predominant characteristics in the peripheral or lower-income neighborhoods. In these areas, political awareness tends to diminish, imposing the rigor of precariousness and survival over ideology. In addition, political discourse often runs parallel to the daily needs of working people. In contrast to this socioeconomic situation, in the imaginary of these economically vulnerable neighborhoods, the country's leadership is associated with high standards of living.


4. The protests did not have a majority character. The majority of the Cuban population continues to support the government. Although it is true that the demonstrators had support among part of the neighbors of the areas where the events took place, an important sector of the population also rejected and has rejected the protests. Although the protests in Havana gathered in general around 5000 people, it would be a complete lack of objectivity if we were to say that the demonstrations had a majority support. In spite of the political deterioration suffered by the Cuban government, the latter is gathering the political capital of the Revolution, capitalizes on the image of Fidel Castro and maintains a hegemony over the socialist imaginary. It is largely due to these factors that it achieves considerable political legitimacy among the majorities. 


5. There were no socialist slogans in the protests. The slogans launched in the demonstrations were centered on "Homeland and Life", "Freedom", "Down with the dictatorship" and offenses against President Miguel Diaz-Canel. "Patria y Vida" is a slogan born from an openly right-wing song, propagandized from Miami and by the right-wing opposition. The other slogans mentioned have the character of demands for citizens' freedoms, which does not imply socialist demands. Beyond the claims against censorship and the demand for greater civil liberties, the slogan "Down with the dictatorship" is a slogan used and capitalized by the Cuban right wing and the counterrevolution. Members of the Editorial Committee of Comunistas spoke with several demonstrators who were not against Fidel Castro or Socialism, but were demanding better living conditions. However, this differentiation was not made explicit in the protests.


Part 5


6. A minority sector of intellectuals was linked to the protests. A minority group of intellectuals, mainly grouped in the 27N movement, demanded civil liberties, centered on the right to free creation and expression. However, this was not the central character of the protests. To a large extent, this was due to the fact that the demands of dissident intellectuals did not respond to the needs of the majorities, who were demanding basic demands for a better life.


7. The lumpenproletariat played a significant role. In the protests the lumpenproletariat played an important role. These groups engaged in looting and aggressive actions of vandalism, which distorted the peaceful beginning of the demonstrations in Havana.


8. It is becoming more and more obvious that the propaganda of the counterrevolution had an organizing character in the protests. Although this was not the main factor that triggered the protests, it is undoubtedly undeniable that the United States orchestrated a strong right-wing campaign in the social networks, openly focused on the overthrow of the Cuban government. This campaign had a strong impact on an important sector of the population. It is necessary to take into account that 4.4 million Cubans have access to social networks from their cell phones. 


9. The demonstrations ended up being marked by violence. In Havana, initially, except for isolated events, the demonstrations in the center of the capital took place peacefully. However, in the capital, the demonstration degenerated into a serious confrontation with police forces and pro-government citizens when the demonstrators tried to gain access to the Plaza de la Revolución where the Central Committee of the Communist Party, the seat of the Government, the Ministry of the Interior, the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces and the headquarters of most of the national newspapers are located. At that time, violent events took place on both sides, causing serious injuries among civilians. At the same time, violent groups carried out acts of vandalism and attacked communist militants and government sympathizers with sticks and stones.




Why was comrade Frank García Hernández, founder of our Editorial Committee, arrested?


Comrade Frank García Hernández, who was on his way to a friend's house, with whom he had been with since the beginning of the demonstration, accidentally ended up at the scene of the violent confrontations that took place near the Plaza de la Revolución, but just as they were coming to an end. Comrade Frank had been present at the protest from the beginning, but as a Communist Party militant. When the demonstrators left the Máximo Gómez Park (around 6:00 p.m.), Frank and the comrade assumed that the protest was over, which is why they both went to the girl's house. She lives less than 200 meters from where the violent clashes took place between the demonstrators and the police forces, who were trying to prevent the protest from entering the Plaza de la Revolución. 


According to Comrade Frank, when they arrived at the corner of Ayestarán and Aranguren streets, shots were fired into the air. They both ended up inside a pro-government group which was marching accompanied by police officers. At that moment, Comrade Frank accidentally meets Maykel Gonzalez, director of the pro-LGBTIQ rights magazine Tremenda Nota, a publication that has reproduced the texts of Comunistas. Maykel Gonzalez had participated in the course of events, from the birth of the march to the violent events between the two groups, taking part of the demonstrators, although without carrying out any violent acts. 


When the protests were coming to an end in the presence of Comrade Frank Garcia, a police officer arrested Maykel Gonzalez, falsely accusing him of having thrown stones at the forces of public order. In view of this, Comrade Frank Garcia, as a Communist Party militant, tried to intercede calmly between the officer and Maykel Gonzalez. While trying to convince the policeman, asking him not to arrest Maykel Gonzalez, Frank Garcia was also arrested by the officer. The police officer accused Frank of violent acts and of being on the side of the demonstrators. This accusation was later proven false by the authorities. 


The arrest took place at around 7:00 pm. Both were taken to the nearest police station. Subsequently, around 1:30 a.m., Frank was taken to another detention center, where the facts were immediately clarified, proving that he had not participated in violent acts, nor in the group against the demonstrations. Together with the director of Tremenda Nota, Maykel González Vivero, comrade Frank García Hernández was released on Monday, July 12 at around 8:00 pm. During his detention of just over 24 hours, Frank affirms that he was NOT physically abused or tortured in any way. Frank Garcia is not currently being held in house arrest, but is under a precautionary measure that regulates his ability to move, limiting his access to his workplace and medical care. However, Frank is not required to make any statements to the authorities regarding his daily movements. The legal measure is part of the procedure to be followed until his non-participation in violent acts or in the demonstration is officially demonstrated. 


The Editorial Committee of Comunistas is grateful for the impressive wave of international solidarity that arose to demand the release of Frank García Hernández. Soon, Comunistas will publish a detailed report of the internationalist campaign, through which a just recognition will be made to the people and organizations that fought for the freedom of our comrade. 


It is worth noting that during the protests no other member of the Editorial Committee, collaborator or comrade close to our publication was arrested. Based on our elementary sense of revolutionary justice, this does not prevent us from demanding the immediate release of the rest of those arrested during the July 11 demonstrations, as long as they have not committed actions that have attempted against the lives of other people. 




Somewhere in Cuba, July 17, 2021, Comunistas Editorial Board


Note and comments


NOTE: At the time this statement was published, Comunistas was aware of the call made by the government and the opposition to demonstrate in the streets. Apparently, both sides have called for a rally at the same point in Havana, known as La Piragua. Comunistas rejects both calls as irresponsible, taking into account the seriousness of the health situation of the coronavirus, with more than 6,000 cases per day. But with greater force we condemn any possible act of violence that may occur in the clash between the two groups. 





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