AI – Amnesty International (Autor)
Here’s why thousands of people are taking to the streets in Cuba:
On 11 July thousands of people took to the streets in Cuba to peacefully protest over the economy, shortages of medicines, the response to COVID-19, and harsh restrictions on freedom of expression and assembly.
Amnesty International is closely monitoring the situation and will be updating this page with the latest information as it emerges. We verify and fact-check each piece of information we receive, but when the information comes from other organizations we clearly specify the source. The Cuban authorities do not allow independent human rights organizations to visit the country, and independent human rights lawyers are prevented from working in the country.
What we know so far:
Between 136 and 187 people detained or their whereabouts unknown: Human rights lawyers at the NGO Cubalex have produced a working list of 136 people – mostly activists and journalists – who have been detained by the authorities or whose location is unknown following Sunday’s protests. The NGO Cuban Prisoners Defenders says it has submitted a list of 187 names to the UN.
Internet cuts: The United Nations Human Rights Committee has declared that “states … must not block or hinder internet connectivity in relation to peaceful assemblies.” However, network data from Netblocks has reported that several social media and communications platforms, including Whatsapp, Facebook, and Instagram were disrupted in Cuba from 12 July. This is not the first time this has happened. Authorities have almost complete control over the internet in Cuba, and as the country has moved online authorities have controlled and censored the internet. In 2019, during the constitutional referendum, the Open Observatory of Network Interference (OONI) similarly found that independent media had been blocked and that ETECSA, Cuba’s only telecommunications company, had changed its censorship techniques.
Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, one of the leaders of the San Isidro Movement, who Amnesty International has named prisoner of conscience three times since March 2020, is among those detained, reportedly at Villa Marista (state security headquarters). Prior to the protests, Luis Manuel had posted a video indicating his intention to join the protests.
What happened on Sunday?
The Cuban authorities have used the criminal law to imprison and silence alternative voices in the country for decades. Along with arbitrary dismissals from state employment as a tactic to strip people of their livelihood, this has created a profound climate of fear in Cuba for decades.
Sunday’s protest seemed to symbolize a breaking of this fear. Many ordinary Cubans protested for the first time in years over the economic situation, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, lack of medicines and restrictions on freedom of expression.
The San Isidro Movement is one group, composed of artists, academics, LGBTI people and alternative thinkers who have been generating dialogue over harsh restrictions on freedom of expression in the past months and years. They have been constant targets of the authorities’ repression for this.
What will happen next and how have the authorities responded?
While the protests on Sunday were largely peaceful, the authorities deployed police and security forces to disperse and detain protesters. President Díaz-Canel called on “revolutionaries” to confront protesters. Reports of how many are detained range from more than a hundred to thousands. It is reported that at least one person died in the context of the protests. It is unclear if the authorities will release people, or whether the protests will start again.
The Cuban government has attributed the shortages to the longstanding embargo imposed by the United States. The embargo does hinder or limit the possibility of assistance, as Amnesty International has said for decades, and as United Nations experts and others have highlighted in the past and during the COVID-19 response last year. However, the existence of the embargo is no justification for the Cuban authorities’ repressive response to the protests on Sunday.
What can you do?
You can support and take action by: a) signing our petition here; b) publicly urging the Cuban government to:
You can do this on social media, tagging them using the handles below:
Miguel Díaz-Canel, president of Cuba
Bruno Rodríguez P, minister of Foreign Affairs of Cuba and main spokesperson for foreign audiences
Or by writing to your government officials and representatives to ask them to urge the Cuban authorities to follow the calls above.
Share this hub and check regularly for updates.
© Amnesty International