Luke Shaw had already scored the first goal of the final match of the Eurocup when Laura Vargas heard the cries of the people who gathered in the park on Calle Fábrica, in the Havana neighborhood of Luyanó. She had seen on Facebook images of the social protest that had started hours earlier in San Antonio de los Baños, 35 kilometers from her home. She came out as she was dressed: with a T-shirt and flip-flops. She picked up her phone and she and her boyfriend joined the protesters.
Cuba: the perfect storm of July 11
“We were not sure what to do, whether or not to take the main avenue, or what destination to take, in the end we decided to go to the Capitol. At first there were about 50, but we met other groups along the way. I was surprised by the amount of very young people and older adults.A boy, whom I did not know, was saying no to violence, do not allow yourself to be provoked and other phrases to try to keep calm, other people shouted Freedom! Homeland and Life! Until when is this! He was the first one the Police took away. ”
It would be four in the afternoon on Sunday, July 11, 2021 when Laura arrived at the Capitol, the seat of the national Parliament and the zero point of the city. At that time, President Miguel Díaz-Canel began a broadcast on national television.
“We know that there are other towns in the country where groups of people have gathered in certain streets and squares, also motivated by such unhealthy purposes. We call on all revolutionaries to take to the streets to defend the Revolution in all places.”
A combat order was given by the president for the confrontations to begin in the streets. His supporters also came out. Protests were registered in more than 40 localities in all the country’s provinces and the security forces tried to suppress them. This fact is unprecedented in the last 60 years in Cuba, never before have the people taken to the streets en masse to protest against the Government; but its causes They are based on the economic and social crisis that the country is experiencing, aggravated by an increase in COVID-19 cases.
They were not orderly protests. People took to the streets mainly in poor neighborhoods and marginal areas. Those who have to stand in long lines in stores to buy food at excessive prices came out, those for whom the words “economic blockade” and “trust in the Revolution” do not solve the food plate or the medicines they need and are in short supply. , those who have had electrical blackouts almost daily in the last month of more than four hours.
That day they also overturned police cars, looted state stores and, in some cases, threw stones, sticks or glass bottles; but they also received beatings, disproportionate abuses by the security forces, and arrests. A week later there are still people who have not returned home.
For Yunior García, a young playwright who appeared with other artists in front of the headquarters of the Cuban Institute of Radio and Television to demand a 15-minute reply on the air, “on July 11 the myth of the small groups was totally broken. Of course, there is a large part of the Cuban people who are fed up, who no longer want this social pact that has lasted too long and that has rusted, that is stagnant, that is obsolete, that has already entered the terminal phase of obsolescence. ” Yunior was arrested and interrogated along with other young people who did not commit any crime. In its Facebook page has recounted what he experienced in the hours after the protests. “I was detained with the same contempt with which Hitler treated Jews in Nazi Germany. And in my cell for 12 people in the Bivouac, we were as diverse as in a Republic,” he wrote.
There was no leadership, no one told people what they could do or not, or where to go, the flame spread and in each place in Cuba there is a different story. The motivations were personal. In all cases there was amazement and euphoria. Laura and Yunior are just two visions of the thousands who were in the streets on Sunday – and in very few cases, on Monday – and that the Government has called confused, criminals or mercenaries.
The protests were followed by a nationwide interruption of mobile data Internet service and the delegitimization of the events. The official version is that “the events were about riots and not spontaneous peaceful demonstrations, they respond to a foreign plan and are part of a media war against Cuba.” The blockade, the United States Government and the media bear responsibility for these acts.
For a long time, the US government has encouraged plans and financed dissidents in Cuba, it is known; But politics has changed, the rules of the game and the legitimacy of the actors are different, and also the voices that want change.
In Cuba, the Government does not conceive of an opposition, not in a public, regulated way and with political rights. He has lived without it for many years.