1,000 Cubans protest restrictions in Havana

Written by Faina Zitzman, CNN

On Thursday afternoon, for the second consecutive year, pro-democracy demonstrators marched through Havana in a nationwide protest against the Cuban government.

But it was not to make your political leanings known, but to emphasize your peacefulness.

The demonstration, organized by a series of Twitter accounts, was called “Cuba 24 Hours of Peace.”

Cuba has for decades maintained a rigid political system where it declares every individual and group that doesn’t want to submit to its system is as suspect as any undesirable, and is thus considered an “internal threat.”

Two years ago, the government deemed thousands of its citizenry to be internal threats. Dissident Yoani Sanchez (also a journalist and author) was arrested, and for a month spent enduring beatings.

Over a six-year period, from 1998 to 2011, hundreds of activists were detained every year, and many were put in prison for a significant portion of their lives.

Raul Castro at the National Congress of the Communist Party on May 17, 2017. Credit: EPA/Aduro Rodrigues Rojas

The catalyst for this nationwide demonstration is recent events. In December 2017, Cuba’s president, Raul Castro, announced plans to ease restrictions on travel for Cubans. Many were hopeful that a cultural and social landscape changing fast would usher in a culture that embraced freedom of expression.

In February, anti-Castro graffiti appeared at 11 sites in Havana, punctuating the proposal. This prompted Julio Armando Suarez to shoot a video for AFP about an idea for a “citizen of the people.” In a genre you would expect to see in the White House, Suarez riffs, “It is not easy to see people of the people that are upset (with the government),” noting that the argument for freedom of expression will never win out, because it seeks “to destroy the institutions.”

Thousands of Cubans from across the country protested the government on Thursday. Credit: AFP/Getty Images

In the video, Suarez adds, “The government wants to silence you all,” and protests against propaganda propagated through television news shows, newspapers and other outlets.

“It is very painful to see this kind of thing occur here,” a participant in the protests said. “But we have no other option. Here is this world with people that is the same and very similar to that of the United States.”

Thousands of people have taken to social media since the announcement to express their various views. A group of vocal Cuban expats has even joined in with others worldwide to protest the security and oppression inside the country.

Periodically, individual citizens write articles recounting their experiences in Cuba and urge other to do the same. One of the most recent posts has been about the Cuban government’s renewed control over one of its staple substances, sugar.

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