Last July 14 I reported in Liberty — with a spectacular photograph of tens of thousands of Cubans marching along Havana’s Malecón — on the unprecedented, monster protests against the regime staged all across the island on July 11 and 12. Did anything come of this?
According to a report from the Observatorio Cubano de Conflictos, reported in the Cuban American National Foundation’s (CANF) newsletter, plenty.
On those two days, more than 187,000 Cubans participated in 584 protests across the island in 49 provincial capitals and towns. Yet only 1,020, or about one half of 1%, were arrested. And out of this miniscule percentage, only 505 — as of October 2021 — remain in prison, many without formal charges. As the CANF reports, “The result is obvious. The regime neither can nor desires to suppress the totality of the manifestations. Numbers don’t lie, the math is favorable to the Cuban people.”
“The people now not only believe that it’s possible to protest, but that additionally, it is their right to do so and, above all, that it is effective.”
More to the point, immediately after the protests: “Representatives of the government visited marginalized neighborhoods that they’d always ignored, fixing streets and ‘legalizing’ families against which they’d discriminated for years as illegal (squatters) in their own country, offering crumbs to fix serious structural problems, exhibiting a defensive posture with a desperate intent to palliate the situation and delay the resurgence of new protests.”
The CANF goes on to declare that there has been a penetrating change in ordinary Cubans’ perception of their power: “This change in mentality is the most profound change which, like a chemical reaction, has transformed Cuban society in the more than 60 years of Communist tyranny. The people now not only believe that it’s possible to protest, but that additionally, it is their right to do so and, above all, that it is effective.”
The regime realizes this. So, along with the meager offered carrots, on August 17 the government broadened its legal fig leaves by passing Decree-Law 35 and Resolution 105, further restricting what few rights of expression already exist on the island by more explicitly legalizing the repressive organs’ power to censor, to harass, to preemptively detain individuals who might participate in peaceful demonstrations, and to legitimize trials without due process — all practices in which they already indulge, but to which they have now given a veneer of legality. Human Rights Watch has rightfully condemned the new legislation . . . as has Freedom House, demanding the release of jailed reporters and access to Cuban prisons by the Red Cross and the UN.