The 353 public protests that took place in Cuba in November 2021 represented a slight increase compared to 345 the previous month, the Cuban Conflict Observatory points out on its latest monthly report about public protests on the island, released this Wednesday. Yet this happened despite the government-mandated repression and military occupation of the country to prevent a Civic March for Change called by the Archipiélago platform for November 15 (15N).

OCC points out that the radicalization of the protests continued last month, most of them (266) being staged for political and civil rights motives. These represent 76% percent of all those that took place. The watchdog organization underlines the fact that an upward curve has stayed steady month after month ever since OCC began counting public protests in Cuba in September 2020 (42).

Civic March for Change: # 15N

The report of the Cuban Conflict Observatory (OCC) notes that the month that just ended was marked by a wrestling match between civil society and the government around 15N. The criterion to decide who won this 15N clash should not be the number of citizens who took to the streets compared to those who demonstrated on July 11, but rather the disproportionate number of military, police and paramilitary troops and material resources that the government thought was enough to discourage a July 11 Part Two.

Tens of thousands of military, police and paramilitary forces were mobilized for weeks to preclude citizens protests. Arrests characterized by police brutality began on 12 November, while more than fifty dissidents homes were subject to permanent siege. Lawfulness watchdog CUBALEX documented 87 arbitrary detentions in just four days. In the end, many people did not go out and demonstrate, not because they were afraid to, but because their homes were literally locked down.

Despite this scenario, OCC counted solely on 15N 79 protests in all 15 provinces and the special municipality of Isla de la Juventud.

Setting up a State of Terror

In anticipation of the civic march, the government’s military and paramilitary bodies visibly occupied the country “meter by meter” for the first time in more than six decades, acclaimed independent journalist Yoani Sánchez pointed out.

As a deterrent to potential 15N protesters, the government continued to announce arbitrary and excessive sentences given to July 11 peaceful protesters (including 23 minors); fascist-style  beatings took place in streets and prisons; potential protesters were threatened with being deprived of their parental rights; detainees and their families were subject to psychological torture, and prominent dissidents were arm-twisted to leave the country.

The notion that a dictatorship holds power in Cuba is now a general consensus both among the island’s population and the international public opinion.

The government cannot win this battle

Inside the island, Cuban bishops and Protestant leaders have spoken out on the country’s situation in less ambiguous terms than in the past, while local priests and nuns took to the streets on November 15.

Neighbors refuse to participate in acts of repudiation against activists and coordinators of the Archipelago platform. Workplace managers can’t count on their employees to support firing 15N sympathizers.

Twenty university students, members of the Young Communists Union, said they wanted out of the organization. In a prison in Villa Clara, inmates arranged their own protest by wearing white, refusing to participate in a repudiation of a political prisoner and staging a 24-hour fast.

When parents learned that their children would be politically manipulated on 15N to participate in street games orchestrated to block the passage of demonstrations, they decided not to send them to school. That day, more than 50% of school absenteeism was reported. There was literally a boycott of parents to the repressive maneuvers of the government.

Outside of Cuba, more than 120 foreign cities witnessed acts of solidarity organized by Cubans from the diaspora, many of them with participation or support from the local population. This solidarity mobilization and a galvanization of the nationalist sentiments of Cubans who have lived abroad for more than half a century has been an achievement of Archipielago’s convocation to the 15N march.

Finally, the November “conflictometer” released by the Cuban Conflict Observatory observes that, five years after the death of Fidel Castro, the “grandchildren of the revolution” would not content themselves with reforms anymore. They are demanding instead a change in the current governance regime, this modern Mafia State in which a fledgling, dictatorial military oligarchy calls the shots while the Communist Party and the National Assembly just comply.