HAVANA, Nov. 13th Tensions are high in Cuba, as activists vow to move ahead with a march scheduled for Monday while the island’s government insists it won’t take place.
Yunior García, an actor and playwright, and leader of the protest that has been planned announced he would march a day before, alone and in silence while holding a white rose, a symbol of peace. He said in a Facebook post he was doing it “on behalf of all citizens who have been deprived of their right by the regime to demonstrate on 15N,” (Nov. 15th).
The march was organized among coordinators of a group called Archipelago that García and others launched over the summer following unprecedented and historic anti-government protests where thousands took to the streets, resulting in a crackdown by authorities. Hundreds of Cubans, including leading dissidents, remain behind bars.
Archipelago, a group formed for political debate, with 20 coordinators on the island and 10 outside, has quickly risen in popularity. It has about 35,000 followers on Facebook.
“Archipelago has made it clear we support Yunior García’s decision. And if the regime allows it, he will march on Monday as well,” said Jorge Castro, one of the group’s coordinators based in Bolivia.
Castro, 27, studied microbiology and worked in Cuba’s biotech industry until he left the island a year and a half ago.
“I looked at the future and didn’t see any prosperity. I didn’t feel free,” said Castro echoing a common sentiment among his generation in Cuba.
The march is part of a series of civic events planned by Archipelago beginning Nov. 14 that include “caserolazos” or pot bangings, dressing in white, and hanging white sheets on balconies.
“I can assure you the coordinators of Archipelago have complete conviction to protest on Monday,” Castro said, adding he is also sure authorities will do everything they can to guarantee they don’t step foot outside their homes that day. He said solidarity marches are also planned in over 100 cities around the world.
Cuba’s communist government says they will not allow the protest to happen. State-run television has taken aim at García in lengthy reports that accuse him of being financed and directed by the United States. Cuba’s foreign minister addressed diplomats in Havana on Wednesday and said the protest is a “destabilizing operation designed in Washington.”
In one of many tweets by Cuban government officials blasting the U.S. government, Rodriguez wrote, “the Cuban government cannot allow the U.S. to organize and promote a destabilizing provocation without failing to comply with its fundamental moral obligations.”
The demonstrations that are supposed to take place throughout the island coincide with the day Cuba reopens its borders to international tourists, after strict measures that kept its borders shut for up to eight months at one point.
The Catholic Bishops of Cuba, an entity that normally refrains from commenting on island politics released a statement Thursday expressing its concern over the climate in Cuba.
“Any act of violence among us, whether physical, verbal, or psychological gravely injures the soul of the Cuban nation,” the statement said.
They also stated there needs to be a mechanism “where without fear of intimidation and reprisals every person can be heard.”
How events will play out in Cuba during the next couple of days is uncertain.
“Right now we have no idea what will happen and it will really depend on the willingness of people to suffer brutality and the legal consequences of the state’s repression,” said Lillian Guerra, a professor of Cuban and Caribbean history at the University of Florida, referring to the arrests and reports of beatings and abuse following July’s protests.
Guerra said the statement from the bishops is unprecedented.
“Since 1961,” she said, “we have seen nothing like this.”