Dozens of Cuban activists, protesters and journalists, including a reporter for one of Spain’s main newspapers, were reportedly arrested as Communist Party security forces sought to quell Sunday’s historic outbreak of dissent.
Erika Guevara-Rosas, Amnesty International’s director for the Americas, said at least 140 Cubans were reportedly detained or missing in the wake of what has been Cuba’s biggest protests in decades.
“The idea is to punish those who dare to challenge the government … and send a message” that no further protests would be tolerated, said Guevara-Rosas, who said spontaneous and peaceful rallies had taken place in at least 48 distinct places, including Havana. .
Spanish Foreign Minister José Manuel Albares on Tuesday demanded the immediate release of Camila Acosta, a Cuban journalist who was among those arrested at their home in the capital on Monday morning.
“Spain defends the right to demonstrate freely and peacefully and calls on the Cuban authorities to respect it. We stand up for human rights unconditionally, ”Albares said on Twitter amid reports that Acosta, who works for the conservative ABC newspaper, is charged with crimes against state security.
Earlier this month, the Reporters Without Borders group named Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel as one of the 2021 “press freedom predators” alongside Nicaraguan authoritarian leader Daniel Ortega, and the far-right Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro and called Cuba “The worst media freedom violator in Latin America”.
On Monday, Díaz-Canel described the protests – which come as Cuba faces a severe economic crisis exacerbated by US sanctions and a Covid pandemic that has shattered the island’s tourism industry – as part of a foreign plot to “smash” the communist revolution launched by Fidel Castro in 1959.
Carolina Barrero, an activist based in Havana, said the wave of arrests was aimed at “erasing” Sunday’s protests and ensuring there was no repeat. ” [This] is a dictatorship – that’s what they do, ”Barrero said from her home in Havana, where she has been under house arrest since June.
Guevara-Rosas said the internet shutdowns meant it was difficult to ascertain the precise extent of the crackdown on protesters, who were protesting against food and medicine shortages as well as the one-party regime. But the targets appeared to include prominent human rights activists, independent journalists and one of the leaders of Movimiento San Isidro, a collective of artists and activists campaigning for greater political freedoms.
Marta María Ramírez, 46, feminist and LGBT activist, said she knew dozens of people who had been arrested, including Gretel Medina, a young director who is breastfeeding her baby. “I am very sad about the violent reaction of the authorities,” Ramírez said.
“The police are repressive everywhere. But that’s not what is being proclaimed here – in Cuba they are meant to be an organ of the people, they are meant to protect the people.
On Monday, Joe Biden called on the Cuban authorities to respect the rights of citizens, “including the right to demonstrate peacefully and the right to freely determine their own future.”
In a television broadcast, Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez retaliated, attacking “the extraordinary cynicism and hypocrisy” of American politicians. Rodríguez urged the US president to end the “brutal crackdown” his own police force has inflicted on African Americans and journalists.
Rodríguez also criticized Bolsonaro, after accusing Cuba of “massacring” the freedoms of its people. “The President of Brazil should adjust his performance which has contributed to the deplorable deaths of hundreds of thousands of Brazilians from Covid … and worry about the acts of corruption in which he is involved rather than seeking to distract attention by throwing a shallow eye on Cuba, ”Rodriguez tweeted.
Albares, who was appointed foreign minister in the Spanish Socialist-led coalition government over the weekend, has not condemned recent events in Cuba. In a statement released Tuesday morning, his ministry urged the Cuban authorities to “accelerate the pace of reforms” to help the island cope with the economic crisis and the lack of tourist income due to the Covid pandemic.
Cuban exiles in Miami on Monday announced apparently half-baked plans to make the 10-hour boat trip from Florida to Cuba to provide protesters with supplies, support and possibly even weapons. The US Coast Guard said the flotillas were unlikely to undertake the “dangerous and ruthless” journey through the Strait of Florida and monitor attempted “dangerous and illegal” crossings.