Cuban Police Shut Down Free-Speech Demonstration

Just days after President Obama announced the full restoration of diplomatic relations with Cuba, the Cuban government shut down a high-profile free-speech demonstration planned by dissidents seen as a “test case for public dissent.”

The Guardian reports that at least three dissident leaders—Antonio Rodiles, Eliezer Avila, and Reinaldo Escobar—were detained ahead of a demonstration planned by performance artist Tania Bruguera intended to allow Cubans to voice their opinions about the government. Many of the leaders involved in this and similar protests have expressed opposition to the United States’ move to restore relations without securing human rights concessions from the Cuban government. But the free-speech event never took place:

The crackdown came around lunchtime on Tuesday, just hours before local performance artist Tania Bruguera was due to stage an open-microphone event in Havana’s most politically sensitive square.

Police had denied Bruguera a permit for the “Yo tambien exijo,” [I also demand]” demonstration and warned activists not to participate, but several had indicated their willingness to participate in this test case for public dissent.

The authorities did not give them a chance.

Cuban authorities took a relatively subdued approach to responding to dissidents immediately following President Obama’s announcement; the Guardian reported that the silent protest march staged weekly by Damas de Blanco in the week following the announcement did not result in the “usual arrests and violence.”

However, the “Yo tambien exijo” event, in which Bruguera intended to give anyone who chose one minute to voice their views on the Cuban government, apparently proved to be more of a threat to the communist leadership than any potential pushback from the U.S. 

Image via AP: Dec. 20, 2014 protest of U.S.-Cuba deal in Miami. 


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