Matt Haycox Daily

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Cuban gov’t puts a lid on mass protests

But for how long?

The Cuban government seems to have successfully put down the mass protests that took place across the island three weeks ago. There are also reportedly many police on the roads, in an effort to stave off any future protests.

Cubans who dared to protest against the socialist dictatorship are now facing mass trials, even while the protests seem to have dried up.

Anti-government protesters gather at the Maximo Gomez monument in Havana, Cuba. Photo: AP

“Many people are in prison without trial just for protesting” said one commentator to the Matt Haycox Daily from Havana.

Protestors who recorded videos of the events have been detained, as have protestors who threw stones at the armed forces or destroyed property.. Others may have been detained simply for being on the street during the island-wide protests.

 It is believed by exile group Cubalex that at least 700 Cubans have been detained since the protests started.

Nicaragua and other countries are now donating food to the country, which is low on basic items.

Miguel Diaz Canell takes a walk in 2019 in happier days Photo: AP Ismael Francisco

Two commentators from Cuba told me that they were staying off the streets – as they did not want to get in trouble with the police.

One commentator told me that he hoped the protests would change things in Cuba, and that they already had to a point, as “now, the government allows the tourists to bring the amount of medicine they want”.

While the Cuban government and many sympathetic outsiders have identified Cuba’s problems as being mainly because of the US blockade of the island that has been in effect since President John F Kennedy in the 1960s – my correspondent had another view.

“Here the internal blockade is worse than that of the United States” he said.

No es facil – a popular Cuban saying, means nothing is easy.

“That’s how it is” my correspondent said. “Everything is shit here. I’m crazy to leave here,” said the young father.

The mark of the CDR

A second commentator told me that things were getting harder. “Nada en casa” – nothing is in the house.

While communicating with me the first commentator said he had just seen a truck with armed guards heading towards the centre of Havana, where protests had been taking place.

At one point President Canal Diaz said that the protests never happened – that it was all a lie. To this my correspondent laughed. “There are dead people,” he said, “a lot of repression.”

It would seem, that with the mass arrests and trial of hundreds of people that something must have happened.

Meanwhile, there was a theory doing the rounds that Cuban Americans who were going to Cuba by boat to deliver humanitarian relief in the form of food and medicines, were perhaps also bringing something more tangible – guns and ammunition. But nothing appears to have come out of that rumour.

Your friendly neighbourhood CDR is never far away

The government started to give away food, no doubt in an effort to calm the situation. But free or not, food is still scarce. It was reported today by CNN that several countries which are close allies of Cuba’s ruling communist party, were making donations of food.

They include Nicaragua and Bolivia. But these countries are also in a bind, and donations from them are unlikely to go far.

But while my two correspondents may both have supported the ideas behind the protests – neither of them was willing to take part.

“I don’t mess with the police” my correspondent said. That view was backed up by another correspondent who said “I don’t go in the streets.”

There were also marches in support of the government

And the government also told some workers to come out and show support for the government – which thousands did. Mind you, it is known that workers are required to show their support of government at its request. Workers who do not show up could endanger their livelihood at the least – and their absence will be noted, in a country where virtually every street has a representative from the CDR – Committee for the Defence of the Revolution.

“Many were forced” my correspondent said about a recent march of government ‘supporters’.

My correspondent noted that one of these marches of government supporters was due to happen.

“These are people who have a position and they owe them to the revolution”.

The march he said because the opposition “were supposedly going to throw themselves ot on the street”.

Meanwhile the Covid-19 pandemic has also been taking its toll. As of July 27, Cuba had reported more than 358,000 COVID-19 cases with 2,560 related deaths, and as much as 68 on a single day.

Demonstrators hold placards during a rally in New York held in solidarity with anti-government protests in Cuba. Photo: AFP

The summer heat in Cuba is getting hotter – and its not pleasant, being tucked away in a tiny apartment in Havana with no air conditioning and a fan whirring at top speed, circulating hot air like a convection oven. With no food, little medicine and constant water shortages and power cuts, frustration may boil over once more.

More protests are to be expected, said my commentator.

But this time, the government is ready – and the police on the streets are ready. Any future protest will have to be less spontaneous and more strategic in nature, if it is to successfully rattle the government into offering greater liberty.

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