What Is Happening These Days in Cuba

[The press all over the world, including Romania, is utterly blind to the current events in Cuba. That is why I asked a friend of mine there to share with us about the situation. Here is what he wrote.]

This year has been really tense, because of the economic pressure from Trump admin. Covid added to it but Cuban gov had a great opportunity to open the economy. They did some reforms but not what people expected or needed. One of the most infamous ones was the opening of stores where you can only buy using foreign currency such as dollars, euros and so on through a magnetic card (no cuc [Cuban convertible] and no Cuban pesos allowed). It’s impossible for Cubans to get that money into the card in a legal way, the only way is some have to send it to you from overseas, it’s persecuted to change currency form hand to hand. So now “normal” stores are being changed into these new kind of stores so Cubans have ever less options which means very long lines, scarcity and strict controls on what you buy. In 2020 covid has been maybe the smallest of our problems.

Small and individual protests, memes and articles have been circulating in social media criticizing everything, also there were some attempts to organize strikes but with no much success 

Then a few days ago a Cuban rapper recorded a video with offensive lyrics to the government. The rapper was put in jail (normal procedure here) but this time a group of artists and activists called “Movimiento San Isidro” (MSI) decided to do a meeting at their leader’s house to protest by reading poetry and making indoor art and show it online. The government started once again to harass them, they closed their street to prevent anyone to join them or provide them food and water. MSI answered declaring a hunger strike, some of them even declared hunger and thirst strike. This lasted like 10 days under violent arrestment which Cubans were able to follow online.

Then on Nov 26 police decided to invade the house and take everyone out of there by force. Social Media went off during a couple of hours, people started to fear the worst. When the internet came back people were really angry demanding to know where the group was taken. The women appeared in their houses a few hours later but most of men were still missing.

On Nov 27 a group of artists decide to go to Culture Ministry demanding to meet with the “Ministro”, they were around ten. Security didn’t allow them to get in so they started posting on social media and more artists started to show up by night time they were over 300, some say 500 demanding to talk, among them some of the MSI managed to arrive. They were able to meet with the “vice ministro” by midnight while government cut power in the zone and once again tried to prevent people to send food and water to the protesters. But nobody moved. That night the group didn’t achieved much really, but the whole nation was watching on Facebook mostly. Since 1994 and the “Balseros” crisis nothing like that happened. 27th of November will be remember as an historic day.

Since that day the government is trying hard to defame the protesters and portrait them as mercenaries or even terrorists. But that protest has inspired youth from all over the country to replicate it and to try to organize more protests. Now people want to protest those new stores, to protests lack of freedom of expression, to protests police brutality, to protest for the liberation of this rapper (by the way: the leader of MSI and another very famous political prisoner were freed today, 2 in just 1 day, that’s very telling). It’s a wave, an awakening of this generation. Nobody can tell where we are heading, nobody could predict what was about to happen that 27th of November and the after shocks. There are even people attacking the new stores (although I think that is part of the government strategy to justify the heavy militarization of Havana that started yesterday).

This is only part of what’s happening, my friend, but literally every hour something new appears. One thing is certain and there’s a phrase circulating on social media that describes it very well: “They took everything from us and they ended up taking also our fear”. Since Nov 27th maybe communism is still standing, but this nation will never be the same.

Author: DanutM

Anglican theologian. Former Director for Faith and Development Middle East and Eastern Europe Region of World Vision International

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