Cuba’s dictatorial government is reportedly cracking down on massive, pro-democracy demonstrations, with dissidents and allies now saying that Cuban police are “arresting, beating, and killing” protesters.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday that Cuban police are “beefing up” patrols, allegedly at the behest of Cuba’s president, Miguel Díaz-Canel, who has made clear he will respond to the pro-democracy movement with force. An internet blackout, however, has descended on the country, making stories of Cuban officials’ response to the protests difficult to confirm, the AP noted.
“Authorities appeared determined to put a stop to the demonstrations. More than a dozen protesters were detained, including a leading Cuban dissident who was arrested trying to attend a march in the city of Santiago, 559 miles (900 kilometers) east. The demonstrators disrupted traffic in the capital for several hours until some threw rocks and police moved in and broke them up,” the AP reported. “Internet service was spotty, possibly indicating an effort to prevent protesters from communicating with each other.”
“On Monday, Cuban authorities were blocking Facebook, WhatsApp, Instagram, and Telegram said Alp Toker, director of Netblocks, a London-based internet monitoring firm,” according to the AP.
“We’ve seen how the campaign against Cuba was growing on social media in the past few weeks,″ Díaz-Canel said late Monday, defending the government’s decision to throttle Internet service. “That’s the way it’s done: Try to create inconformity, dissatisfaction by manipulating emotions and feelings.”
Diaz-Canal has his own access to social media; he remains on Twitter giving official government updates on the situation on the ground in Cuba.
Florida media outlets report that dissidents have been using SMS messaging services to get video and narrative about the protests out of the island nation. One South Florida resident told Miami’s Local 10 news that “his friend in Havana sent him text messages asking him to tell friends in Miami that Cuban police officers were arresting, beating, and killing unarmed civilians.”
Video posted to social media, often through intermediaries in the United States, seems to confirm reports that Cuban police are engaging in a violent crackdown of pro-democracy demonstrations.
The videos are shocking, though because of the blackout, they remain unconfirmed.
“@DiazCanelB ordena cacería de manifestantes”
— Norges Rodríguez (@norges14) July 12, 2021
I am receiving many videos from contacts in Cuba.
— Giancarlo Sopo (@GiancarloSopo) July 13, 2021
Reuters was able to confirm, Monday, that “high-level dissidents” have been arrested and that their whereabouts are currently unknown.
“Jose Daniel, the leader of Cuba’s largest opposition group, the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), was arrested as he left home to join the protest in Santiago de Cuba in the east of the country on Sunday. His whereabouts [are] unknown, UNPACU activist Zaqueo Baez” told the news organization. “Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara and Amaury Pacheco, two members of a dissident artists’ collective that has made headlines spearheading a broader protest movement in Cuba in recent years, were arrested on their way to protest in Havana, Pacheco’s partner Iris Ruiz told Reuters. Otero Alcantara was in jail while Pacheco’s whereabouts were unknown.”
They are also sending videos confirming that the protests are still going on, regardless of what the official Cuban government says is happening.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), has been instrumental in sharing videos of the protests.
— Yusnaby Pérez (@Yusnaby) July 12, 2021
The protests reportedly began on Sunday, after days of increasing COVID-19 infections, alongside food and medicine shortages.