Cuban Exiles, Lawmakers Commemorate Anniversary of July 11 Protests
One year has passed since pro-democracy protests broke out across Cuba, representing the largest popular protest against the island’s communist government since Fidel Castro came to power in 1959.
Frustrated by the worst economic downturn since the end of the Cold War, the government’s continued repression of artists, musicians, and dissidents, and persistent power outages, protesters took to the streets in the city of San Antonio de los Baños on July 11, 2021. Videos of the protests went viral on Cuban social media, inspiring weeks of revolt against the Cuban government across the island. Unlike previous upheavals, like the infamous 1994 Maleconazo protests that took place in Havana, these protests spread beyond Cuba’s main cities and into small towns.
While the Cuban government at the time blamed U.S. sanctions for the state of the Cuban economy and claimed the protests were part of a targeted campaign by the U.S. and other Western actors, protesters squarely placed the blame for the country’s state of affairs on government officials, focusing particular ire toward President Miguel Díaz-Canel with vulgar chants. This prompted massive repression by state security forces, who cut internet service across the island and arrested thousands of protesters, including minors, in successive days. Over 700 people remain in custody, according to exile groups.
Ahead of the anniversary, political prisoners, including Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, one of the most well-known members of the Movimiento San Isidro, a group of dissident artists and musicians on the island, announced they would launch a hunger strike while behind bars. Several high-profile dissidents, among them Angel Moya Acosta, husband of Ladies in White founder Berta Soler, were also arrested in the days leading up to the anniversary out of fears they would organize new protests.
Cuban state media has largely reacted to the anniversary with scorn. In a speech in Bauta, Díaz-Canel termed the protests as “unpleasant events” and focused on the “revolution’s defenders,” portraying the event as a triumph for the revolution. Granma, the Cuban Communist Party’s official newspaper, similarly called July 11 a day of “overwhelming victory.”
Across the Florida Straits, exile groups and Cuban-American politicians have reacted very differently to the anniversary.
“Afro-Cuban artists ignited a movement that inspired everyday Cubans of all ages to stand up in condemnation of decades of repression, censorship, indoctrination, and human rights abuses,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R–Fla.) said in a press release.
Though the communist regime remains in plac
Article from Reason.com