A group of 20 Cuban mothers were planning a peaceful demonstration to protest the lack of milk for their children. State Security got wind of it and hunted them down one by one. This is socialism in action.
‘They hunted us down one by one’: State Security prevents protest by 20 mothers in Havana
About twenty mothers had planned to protest in the Plaza de la Revolución with their children in their arms or holding their hands on Monday, July 17th. They had agreed to meet in front of the National Library and then walk one kilometer to the José Martí Memorial.
However, they were unsure of what to do next: Should they carry signs? Should they shout their demands? Should they stay silent and wait for someone to attend to them? What could be less dangerous in Cuba, where citizen protests, even peaceful ones, are criminalized? Monday arrived, the agreed-upon time came, but the women didn’t get a chance to figure out their course of action because the political police dissolved the protest attempt shortly after they started organizing.
On Thursday, July 13th, several mothers, most of whom only knew each other on social media, decided to create a WhatsApp group to have discussions and come to an agreement. The group had a single administrator who added new members. The objective was to coordinate a collective demand to denounce the routine deprivations and abuses suffered by them and their children.
They were also trying to communicate with mothers from all over the country to make it a national protest.
Less than 48 hours after the group was created, the Cuban political police traced the participants through their phone numbers and knocked on their doors.
Around 10:00 a.m. last Saturday, an officer went to Y.’s house and showed her his identification card from the Intelligence Directorate. The visit was brief.
“He asked my neighbor for my name and came to my house. He simply told me that I knew why he was there and that I should forget about going out on Monday,” explains Y., who has two daughters, the youngest being nine months old.
The Guanabacoa resident was not the only one who received the unexpected “visit” that day. “All the moms in the group confirmed they were found and visited at their homes to intimidate them,” adds the source. State Security was able to deploy the necessary resources, fuel, and officers to threaten a group of mothers within a matter of hours.
With the administrator of the group chat, the dynamics were different. “The mom who created the chat was summoned to the Police Station in her municipality and was told that by creating a group of protesters, she was committing a criminal offense and could be prosecuted. We all have children who depend on us. We can’t go to jail,” explained K., another mother who was a member of the group and withdrew from it after the intimidation.
Why did they want to protest?
A few weeks ago, the mothers had been informed at the ration stores (bodegas) that only infants under six months old would receive whole powdered milk (known as “the yellow one”), while those who were older than six months would have access to fat-free milk (“the white one”), prescribed for diabetics in Cuba.
In addition to the fact that the taste is very different between the two variants (which causes many babies to refuse the white milk), several mothers consulted by CubaNet said the diabetic milk has caused vomiting and diarrhea in their children. Some even completely reject it and are not getting proper nourishment.
However, the mothers’ biggest concern was, and still is, that the children need whole milk, not diabetic milk. In fact, “a child of one or two years old should only consume this type of food. This is because the developing brain (…) needs the fat from whole milk,” explains an article published in the National Library of Medicine of the United States. After the age of two, some children can switch to low-fat milk if they are overweight, specifies the publication.
This article and others were shared among the mothers in the group, who now add this issue to the daily hardships they endure, ranging from lack of electricity to food shortages.
“We have long surpassed the limits of what is bearable. We go to a hospital and there are no medications, we have to send our children to school without snacks. Now they take away our milk and give us that flour,” adds Y. “They have pushed us to the brink of madness, and if no one took to the streets today, it’s because of fear. They targeted us one by one, but I don’t know how much longer we can endure.”