I am scared every time I go for a walk in Havana. I’ve been doing it for days to take the city’s temperature. And, although every day I go further away from home, my body does not get used to what it sees and transmits it to me through my jumping chest. Never before had I been afraid to walk through the streets of Havana because never before had I seen them so crowded with convertible vans with armed men dressed in black, policemen with dogs, soldiers, agents disguised as civilians posing as citizens common.
Since protests against the government broke out in at least 50 towns on the island on July 11, the regime has populated the streets with all its might. They shot, beat and imprisoned an undetermined number of Cubans – because the regime cut the internet in the country so that the images would not be made public – who came out to express the disagreement accumulated in the last 62 years. During that Sunday and the following three days – albeit to a much lesser extent – the people drew from their throats the stifled cry of “freedom” and “down with the dictatorship” and the regime responded as it only knows how to do to those who disagree: with violence and terror.
That effervescent flame that took to the streets for hours has already been extinguished, rather, the regime extinguished it for the moment. Now there is, according to the newspaper 14ymedio, more than 5,000 Cubans – a figure that will grow when the internet is restored – among the disappeared and detained, and the streets show a forced, false tranquility. Because many are still on the balconies watching, absorbed, how trucks and police patrols glide before their eyes. Because inside the houses they only talk about the watershed, which means that people got tired, after so much endurance, and went out into the streets without fear. Because all those who were able to withdraw from the streets and return to their homes, returned to the torture of its four walls: empty refrigerators, shelves without medicine, televisions and fans turned off due to the lack of electricity, so returning means to continue uncomfortable and upset with government. And because all the relatives and friends of the detained and disappeared go desperately showing up at the police units to find those they have been looking for for a week.
Days after the protests, the Prosecutor’s Office and the Interior Ministry appeared on national television to warn that the detainees, without clarifying how many, are going to be prosecuted by law. A decision that could play against the regime, because that mass of fathers and mothers and friends are looking like crazy for their children and relatives who, for the most part, are neither opponents nor activists, but ordinary people who came out to express their exhaustion they feel towards the regime that oppresses them. Therefore, it is a mass that is still on the street. The flame that was lit and that the regime forces put out in the most violent way, is a handful of lit ash and only a small spark is enough to make it reignite.
Ultimately, people returned to their homes not to die, not to go to jail, because of the confusion generated by a government willing to do whatever it takes to keep the country in a fist. A government that, instead of listening to the generalized social discontent, now shamelessly misrepresents the facts and says that what happened is a United States operation and that those who carried it out are “mercenaries”, “vandals”, “criminals ”.
The walks around the city these days took me to the police unit of the municipality 10 de Octubre. There I saw a group of men and women with strong faces waiting to be “served” by the officers. One of them, without revealing his name and that of his detained son, told me that they had been clarified that “they cannot speak to the press because that would interfere with due process and then it would be a charge against the detainee.” The man also told me that the officers had huge lists with the names of the people arrested and where they were.
A few blocks from that police unit is the Luyano neighborhood, where the regime forces ruthlessly stormed in to silence the protesters who came out to protest in that area. Days after those scenes, I walked through the neighborhood and Andrés Fuentes, a 52-year-old neighbor, confessed to me: “This was the devil on, doors and windows had to be closed because the shooting was great, like in the movies.”
As Cubans gradually reconnect after the internet blackout, social media is flooding with photos of the missing protesters. But those who took to the streets and were not arrested are not safe either: the police forces are taking from their homes and arresting those who have been identified in the videos that circulate or by other information.
This weekend, going through the worst peak of the pandemic, the regime prepared on the Havana Malecón a type of act that it calls “revolutionary reaffirmation”, to which its supporters were forced to go to counteract the dissident boiling on the island. . Selling the image of national unity has always been a priority for Castroism.
Abraham Jiménez Enoa is a journalist and co-founder of the Cuban independent magazine The sneeze.
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.