I hope all is well with you and your families and that you’re gearing up for a wonderful Thanksgiving.
This Thanksgiving, like a lot of immigrants, I’ll feel gratitude for what this country offered my family when we arrived as political refugees from Cuba, in 1967. Libertad is something I heard praised at our Thanksgiving table over the years—along with the fried yuca and black beans.
Libertad is on my mind a lot right now because so many Cubans are suffering for trying to reclaim their basic human rights. You may have read about the countrywide uprising in July and the peaceful marches that Cuba’s dissident community had planned for this past Monday. A severe crackdown, building for months, thwarted Monday’s marches—for the most part. But even with the government’s internet shutdowns, people managed to film the protests that did occur despite the proliferation of shock troops, threats, house arrests, beatings, imprisonments and forced disappearances.
This dissident movement is truly historic. Nothing like it has happened in post-revolutionary Cuba. I’ve pasted links to materials below, if you’d like to learn more.
I want to make sure that you know that these activists have been asking for signs of solidarity and help from the international community for over a year. In Boston, Cubans and their friends have been rallying since the July 11th uprising to raise awareness, distribute information and suggest ways to take action. We’re not alone. Last week, people rallied in more than 120 cities around the world to support this movement.
Our diverse group of 50 Cubans and friends and family rallied at the State House last Sunday, and we’ll meet again this Saturday at the Samuel Adams statue in Faneuil Hall from 1-3 pm.
This is last-minute, and I’m sure you are jammed with work and the stresses of our new reality. But will you join us? Will you speak up for the besieged and jailed Cuban dissidents who can’t?
If you’d like to help in other ways, please begin with Amnesty International’s urgent action call, issued on the 14th to support the marchers who were prevented from marching. This is still a meaningful way to show the government that the world is watching. For other ways to take action, please see the list at the very end of this email.
And how cool is it that Patria Y Vida, which became the anthem for the protest movement in Cuba, won Song of the Year and Best Urban Song! Check it out if you haven’t listened already. It’s a bittersweet win, of course, because one of the singers, Maykel Osorbo, is on a hunger strike in Cuban jail, where he’s been since May for no other reason than singing his song, reclaiming his rights, wanting to be free.
Please share this if you can. We want eyes on Cuba right now.
Thank you very much for thinking about this with me.
Wishing you a peaceful and fun Thanksgiving,
As you review the information below, please note that Cuban special agents and shock troops often wear civilian clothes. This allows the government to blame the violence on average citizens who are “defending the revolution” from common criminals or “mercenaries” of the U.S.
1. 11/15. Act of Repudiation led by the Federation of Cuban Women against activist Saily González. Santa Clara. People who participate in the actos are often rewarded with material items (e.g., food, cars, clothes), favoritism at work or school, reduced sentences if they’ve been charged with a crime. Some are threatened, if they don’t participate, with the loss of employment, the denial of a request they’ve made to the gov’t, etc. And some, no doubt, are sincerely passionate about the revolution, but this long tradition of bribes and extortion should be noted.
The actos increased after authorities called on revolutionaries to combat the “mercenaries” and “provocateurs” wherever they are. “The order to battle has been given. Revolutionaries to the streets!” President Díaz Canel on state-run TV the day of the uprising.
2. Military motorcades began at midnight the day of the planned march, 11/15.
3. 11/14. Men arrested for shouting Libertad in Havana park.
4. 11/15. Activist under house. Guard prevents her from leaving, filming him.
5. Priest describes being threatened with imprisonment if he marches on 11/15. Says will do so (and they did) anyway, that the Bible describes liberty, justice and truth, which is what the Cuban people want.
6. Man with a dissent poster on door narrates agents taking it down, threatening him. 11/16.
7. Activist Carolina Barrera, under house arrest for more than 200 days, narrates agents cutting down 100-year-old trees in order to put up new cameras to surveil her.
8. Intrepid family hangs freedom of speech signs and chants as pro government group runs an Act of Repudiation. https://twitter.com/i/status/1460292437402959872. https://twitter.com/i/status/1460678295402344450 .
9. UNPACU dissidents chant on 11/15.https://twitter.com/i/status/1460325906036269057.
11. 11/14. Havana.
12. Playwright and dissident leader Yunior Garcia under house arrest on 11/14. The white rose is the movement’s emblem of peace. Sign reads “my house has been blockaded.” When agents on his roof saw the foreign press taking photos, they lowered the flag over his window. He and his wife were disappeared for over 24 hours and then forcibly exiled to Madrid on 11/17. 13. Poster for rally this Sunday.
13. Orienting video reports on July uprising.
- NBC video report explaining causes of July 11th uprising. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lu7Se4pczA4
- Canadian article about repression aimed at stopping new protests scheduled for Nov. 15th. https://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/cuba-canadian-march-for-change-democracy-1.6238995
- DW video report and interview with context of 11 July uprising. Mentions only six cities involved, but that was too early and the number turned out to be 50+. https://www.demdigest.org/cubas-astonishing-truly-breathtaking-protests-could-the-regime-fall/ 13. Actions to Take
· Attend events in support for human rights in Cuba.
· Ask your organization to officially endorse the call for human rights in Cuba.
· Sign up with Amnesty International for Cuban prisoners of conscience letter writing.
· Donate to groups like:
o CubaLex—Miami-based legal aid group helping Cubans on the island who’ve been imprisoned
o 14yMedio—independent online news media in Cuba
o Prisoners Defenders—Madrid-based human rights group focusing on Cuban political prisoners.
o Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch (mention CUBAN violations)
· Contact your representatives the House and the Senate.
· Write to President Biden asking for supplying internet access to the island and for leading a coordinated response with other democratic countries.
· Join Amnesty International’s letter writing campaign for Cuban human rights.[i]
· Spread word, follow story, demand more reporting from the media.
President on national state-run news, 7/11/21.
Gracias for reading through all of this!