In Cuba, in dozens of cities, people went out to the streets of the communist country on Sunday night; now police are mostly seen in the streets of the communist country. It was the biggest protests against the government in decades. The protesters blamed the regime for the economic crisis and poverty in Cuba.
Much is unclear about the current situation. “There is no more communication in Cuba,” says Edwin Koopman, journalist and writer of the book The Havanas rustlers. “Many communication channels are flat and we just dont know what exactly is going on there.”
“The police and military are catching people on a large scale. Well-known critics of the regime, active on social media, have now been arrested. We dont know how many there are, but there must be hundreds of them.”
The pressure on the protesters seems to be working. According to Koopman, the demonstrations had emerged spontaneously and there was no leader with a clear purpose.
“Tough to Idenate”
“In that respect, such a regime is easy,” he says about the government of Miguel Díaz-Canel. “You make sure they dont communicate, you put the internet down and let people pick up and then people get anxious.”
Koopman thinks it will be less restless in the coming days, but he stresses that it is difficult to tell the developments. “In the countryside, for example, you can film what you want, but if theres no internet, you cant share it either. You can only track the situation through witness reports.”
In the strictly controlled Cuba, its unique that so many people demonstrate. Just going out to the streets in protest is forbidden. The protests were followed in the Netherlands too; Eddy Barandirian was at Dam Square in Amsterdam yesterday to demonstrate himself to express his support to the people in Cuba.
“I studied there, Im gay and being gay in Cuba is certainly not easy,” he says. “My family was threatened and I was against the government. I met my friend in Cuba and thats how I ended up in the Netherlands.”
According to Barandirian, the Cubans are slaves to the government and the people in the country have no rights. “If you demonstrate, youll be beaten up or you get arrested. Youre not free, youre government property. My family wont leave the house.”
Cuba is struggling with the worst economic crisis in decades as a result of sanctions imposed by the United States. There is a shortage of everything in the country. Stores are empty, there are barely any drugs and the country is struggling to control the coronavirus.
Journalist and activist Victor Manuel Duenas says things get worse every day. “People die from corona. The country refuses to participate in the Covax program. They have developed their own vaccine, but that vaccine doesnt work well and people get infected. The healthcare system is really mess there, with 6,000 infections a day.”
The 27-year-old Duenas has lived in the Netherlands for a while and has family in Cuba. He hasnt been able to get in touch with them since yesterday. “Im really worried not only about my family, but also the people who protest. I got reports that 27 people are missing. We dont know where they are.”
Duenas hopes more critical sounds will come from Europe. “The more countries condemn the action, the more demonstrators will feel supported there”. US President Biden already called on the Cuban government to listen to the population and meet its needs instead of “enriching themselves”.
“Power preservation no matter how”
Merchant expects calls like this to have little effect. “The Cuban government is really not going to move. I do not rule out easing, such as importing goods and transferring money to family from abroad would be easier. You saw a relaxation after demonstrations in 1994, for example. Because in the end, there is only one thing on the list for this government and that remains in power. Doesnt matter how.”
Eddy Barandirian hopes that these demonstrations will bring another Cuba closer. “When I saw the demonstrations, I was happy and sad. Ive heard two people died. But I have hope too. Maybe the Cubans will get the freedom they never saw.”