Cuba Crushes Dissent Ahead of Protest
The homes of government critics were surrounded by uniformed police, state security agents or pro-government supporters holding picket signs, human rights activists said.,
Dissidents in Cuba remained forced inside their homes Monday, as a number of state security agents deployed across the country to prevent them from participating in a planned protest.
The homes of government critics were surrounded by uniformed police, state security agents or pro-government supporters holding picket signs, human rights activists said.
“My house has been under siege for three days,” Manuel Guerra, a doctor in Holguin, in eastern Cuba, said in a text message. “Cuba is in mourning.”
In a highly unusual move, Cuban activists had publicly announced plans for “The Civic March for Change,” a nationwide rally on Monday afternoon to protest the lack of freedom under a Communist Party that has ruled the island for more than six decades.
The organizers, many of them young artists, had hoped to reignite the marches that prompted thousands of Cubans to take to the streets in July to demand food, medicine and liberty, but in recent days, they toned down their plans over fears of violence.
On Sunday, a leader of the movement, Yunior Garcia Aguilera, had planned to march alone holding a white rose, but government supporters blocked him from leaving his house, videos posted on Facebook show. At one point, he peeked through the blinds of his apartment window, until someone on a higher floor lowered a huge Cuban flag, blocking his view.
For weeks, the government has been denouncing Mr. Garcia in the local news media, which dampened the prospects of others joining the protests, according to Maria Antonieta Colunga Olivera, a journalist. “They have torn him to pieces on Cuban national television and they have discredited him in every possible way,” she said.
Ms. Colunga, too, has come under government scrutiny. She said a police car was stationed outside her home in Havana all day Sunday, a practice the government has increasingly used as an intimidation tactic.
On Monday, dissidents shared videos and photographs of police officers and government supporters surrounding their homes.
In Santa Clara, Saily Gonzalez, an activist, posted a video of herself hanging white sheets outside her house as a symbol of freedom, as neighbors who support the Cuban revolution shouted her down and called her a dog.
Alexander Figueredo Izaguirre, a doctor in Bayamo, said security officials had been in his neighborhood since Sunday. Photographs taken that day showed an empty street with two police and military vehicles parked on the corner.
“Here in Bayamo, they have everything militarized,” Dr. Figueredo said.
The Cuban government declared the protest illegal, and the state-run news media has repeatedly characterized the dissidents as puppets of Washington.
“Cuba will never allow actions of a foreign government in our territory trying to destabilize the country,” Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said last week. “We will not permit it.”
Hundreds of people are still in jail from the protests that erupted in July.
Juan Pappier, a Cuba researcher at Human Rights Watch who has been closely following the protests, said the government would most likely succeed in quashing the protest. Anyone caught participating could face a year in prison, while anyone accused of throwing a rock — even without evidence — could be sentenced to 10 years, he said.
“I think there’s a strategy of total suppression — not even repression,” Mr. Pappier said. “They don’t want the demonstration to happen.”
Oscar Lopez contributed reporting.