Reports from Cuba: At least six arrested for protesting blackouts in Holguin, Cuba

Miguel Garcia reports in 14yMedio from Havana via Translating Cuba:

At Least Six Arrested for Protesting Against the Blackouts in Holguin, Cuba

Elsa Elisa Solís Barrera and Lea Velázquez Ochoa are the two women who have been detained.

At least six people were arrested in the town of San Andrés, in Holguín, after demonstrating on March 8. They are charged with the crimes of contempt and public disorder, according to sources close to the accused.

According to Martí Noticias, four of the detainees spent several days “incommunicado” in the State Security barracks in the people’s council of Pedernales, in the provincial capital. Since last Thursday, they have been waiting in another prison for the results of the police investigation into the protest.

Among the detainees are two women – both imprisoned in the provincial prison – who have been identified as Elsa Elisa Solís Barrera and Lea Velázquez Ochoa. Of the rest, two are imprisoned in the CubaSí prison – Yunior Barrera and Yulier Ramírez – and two others, Reinier Reimón Peña and Warnel Ricardo, are still in the State Security prison.

Elsa Solís’ mother and Yunior Barrera’s sister, Blanca María Barrera, told Martí Noticias that the authorities “have not explained anything” about the situation of the detainees. The woman, sick with worry, regretted not only the arrest of her daughter, but the fact that her 48-year-old brother is far from his children, “two minor children with intellectual disabilities.”

The Holguin activist Dámaso Fernández offered details about another prisoner, Lea Velázquez, who was fined 5,000 pesos. “On Monday, March 11, they confiscated her cell phone and told her that she would be notified. When she went to get the phone, they detained her,” Fernández explained.

The activist said that on the day of the protest, a group of residents in San Andrés took to the streets “asking for freedom, banging on pots and pans and forming a crowd in the park.” Other relatives spoke to Martí Noticias but, according to the media, they asked that their statements not be published for fear of State Security reprisals.

The long blackouts and shortages that the Island is suffering sent Cubans into the street to protest in Santiago de Cuba on March 17. Since then, according to the count of the NGO Prisoners Defenders (PD), a total of 32 Cubans in nine provinces have been “detained, fined and prosecuted.” Only six of them have regained their freedom. The list of prisoners “increases every day at a considerable rate, and many victims (the majority) do not report, especially if they are given a fine or a home confinement precautionary measure, so we think that throughout the country there could have been around a hundred arrests,” warns this organization based in Madrid.

In Holguín, about 13 people were arrested on March 17, and in Cienfuegos and Artemisa, respectively, two citizens were arrested. In Havana there were four detainees and at least one each in the provinces of Granma, Guantánamo, Villa Clara and Matanzas, says PD. However, the NGO warns, given that several detainees in the protests were released with a fine and do not want to be exposed to more serious measures, the number of detainees could be estimated at 100 throughout the country.

Before that date, smaller demonstrations were confirmed by the independent press in several provinces of the country. One of them was the solo protest of Eric Luis Acea Quevedo, 24, who caused damage to an official car in Cienfuegos and who will have to pay more than 300,000 pesos to the State, as sources close to the young man told Martí Noticias. “First they wanted to accuse him of an attack but now they say that he will have to pay a lot of money to the Government and wait for trial in prison,” said a person from Cienfuegos who asked not to be identified.

Acea will have to pay 136,066 pesos for damage to the front windshield, 54,000 for the rear windshield, 44,610 for the door windows, and 73,100 for the labor, body work and paint: more than 300,000 pesos in total. The young man attacked the car with a machete on March 12 in front of Communist Party headquarters in Cienfueguos and was instantly arrested by the Police.

Popular discontent with the long blackouts is at the origin of several gestures of protest against State property. Throwing rocks at windows, cacerolazos (banging on pots and pans) and an increase in police surveillance are increasingly frequent in the areas that suffer the worst part of the energy crisis, as reported previously by 14ymedio.

Holguín is one of the provinces where long blackouts occur, which can last up to 15 hours in a single day. A resident of the popular council of Alcides Pino told this newspaper that, since the power outages began, “the ’incidents’ to express discontent happen practically every day. They haven’t spilled into the street, but there’s no shortage of cacerolazos when the power is off. Discontent is widespread.”

As for the foreign-currency stores, the neighbor says that the authorities have not stood idly by. “They are putting police officers and red berets (state security) at night to guard them to prevent people from breaking the windows. It’s not the first time that this has happened in Holguín,” he says.

Alarm has been raised in Havana, where the Government insists on blaming the United States for the demonstrations of discontent and has unleashed a flood of propaganda that comes from Miguel Díaz-Canel himself.

The president premiered this week on State TV’s new program Desde la Presidencia (From the Presidency), a kind of Cuban Aló Presidente,* in which he crushed the official explanation for the demonstrations: “As long as there is a blockade, as long as there is a worsening blockade and the inclusion of Cuba on the list of countries that supposedly support terrorism, we have every sovereign right to blame the Government of the United States.”

*Translator’s note: Aló Presidente was a Venezuelan talk show that featured then president Hugo Chávez.

Translated by Regina Anavy

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