Conflict Alerts

Conflict Alerts # 457, 18 November 2021

Cuba: Between bouts of demonstrations
Porkkodi Ganeshpandian

In the news
On 15 November, demonstrators had carried out a peaceful but somewhat diminished demonstration in Cuba, calling for greater recognition of human and civil rights in Cuba. The peaceful protests had been planned for weeks, despite the lack of permission from the Cuban government for the protests. The anticipatory and preventive move of the state included the besieging of homes of activists and the denunciation of prominent protesters. The Cuban government had also stated that the protests were the results of the illegal interference of the United States into Cuban affairs.
 
In spite of these measures, protesters had shown their opposition by dressing up in white and displaying white objects around their homes, and posting the scenes on social media platforms like Facebook. Forty protesters have been arrested for protesting in Cuba. The state has declared these protests illegal as per Cuba's 2019 constitution.
 
Issues at large
First, the increasing repression of the state. One of the primary agenda behind the peaceful protests in Cuba is the demand for greater recognition of civil rights and freedom. This demand has been particularly boosted due to the fate of the protesters of the July protests. Activists had intended to hold another massive, peaceful demonstration similar to the July event to demand more freedom, and the release of those unfairly arrested in July. However, the state's swift repression of any dissent has vastly subdued the intensity of the protests of 15 November.
 
Second, the negative impact of the covid19 pandemic. Due to the covid19 pandemic, the tourism industry, one of the key revenue sources for Cuba with 10 percent GDP deriving from this sector, was severely impacted. Moreover, the handling of the pandemic was dismal, with deaths per million in Cuba at least six times higher than the global average.
 
Third, the failing economy. Cuba is also subjected to the sanctions imposed by Donald Trump during his presidency, and the continuous trade embargo since 1960. This impacts its economic recovery. This has exacerbated the crisis of the Cubans in procuring even the essentials for daily life due to a raging inflation. Illegal migration to neighboring countries, particularly the US, has also increased due to these conditions in Cuba.
 
In perspective
The fear of the swift and ruthless crackdown of any dissent in Cuba largely undermines the impact of the 15 November demonstrations in the state. However, analysts have stated that the repression, bordering on suppression, is an indication of the disquiet of the Cuban government regarding its security and stability in Cuba. Furthermore, with the dismal status quo in the economic and civil rights conditions in Cuba, the protests would undoubtedly recur. Activists had sought to reenact the intensity of the July protests in November, and this trend is set to continue in Cuba, with the opposition calling for prolonged protests till 27 November.
 
It should also be noted that the frequency of protests in Cuba would require a constant deployment of Law-and-Order forces to quell dissent, which may prove impractical in the long run. Furthermore, the vast international support to the Cuban protests, as indicated by the leaders of the Facebook group Archipelago, is bound to grow, further boosting the efforts of demonstrators in demanding their rights and freedom. These factors would undoubtedly sow the seeds for a more tolerant and lenient regime in Cuba in the future.

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