Protests in communist Cuba used to be the exception; now they’re becoming the rule. Cuban activists see this as a warning to the communist Castro regime that regime change is coming.
Protest in town of Caimanera sends warning message to the Cuban government, activists say
A recent protest in Caimanera, a town in eastern Cuba, has sent a warning to the country’s government of the potential for further unrest this summer if it doesn’t provide urgent solutions to the shortages of food and medicine and a gas crisis that are crippling the economy and bringing the population to the brink of desperation.
Several videos streamed live on social media Saturday evening showed a crowd of residents in the small coastal town, near the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, chanting “Freedom,” “Long Live Free Cuba” and complaining about the lack of food.
“We don’t want more speeches; we want food,” a man says on one of the videos.
To avoid other protests around the island Cuban authorities shut down the internet nationwide, according to Netblocks, an organization tracking internet use. But the move could not prevent the publication of videos showing Cuban military special forces, known as Black Berets, violently detaining demonstrators in what appeared to be a peaceful protest. Family members and civil society groups reported the detention of at least five residents.
Victoria Martínez Valdivia, the mother of two detainees, told the independent news outlet Cubanet that her sons were beaten by the military officers and that she didn’t know where they were taken.
“They kicked him in the head,” she said of her son, Luis Miguel Alarcón Martínez. She added that her sons did not act violently and protested out of desperation after seeing their nephews’ meager food rations.
“They went out because they couldn’t take it anymore,” she said. “Hearing those little creatures say: ‘I’m hungry,’ that led them to protest.”
In a statement, local Caimanera authorities dismissed the protest, the first of such scale this year, as the work of a group of “drunken people.” But experts and activists said the government shouldn’t be so quick in brushing it off, because they believe the demonstration was, in fact, remarkable and signals a potential for more unrest in the coming months.
Observers noted that Caimanera seems an unlikely place for a demonstration of this scale, as the remote town, with a population of just over 11,000 inhabitants, is under close state surveillance and movement-control protocols because of its proximity to the U.S. Navy base in Guantanamo Bay.
“If the people can rise up in Caimanera, they can rise up in any part of Cuba,” said Orlando Gutierrez, a human-rights activist and coordinator of the Assembly of Resistance, a coalition of Cuban exile organizations. “Given the amount of control and the number of military families that live there, this is an unprecedented blow to the regime.”
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