Six months after the massive protest demonstrations of 11 July last year, hundreds of Cubans arrested for taking part in the anti-government protests have been tried since January in various courts in the country on trumped-up charges of “disrespect, public disorder, insulting the symbols of the homeland, incitement to crime, attack” and in some cases of “sedition”, which can lead to sentences of up to 30 years in prison.
Six months after the massive protest demonstrations of 11 July last year, hundreds of Cubans arrested for taking part in the anti-government protests have been tried since January in various courts in the country on trumped-up charges of “disrespect, public disorder, insulting the symbols of the homeland, incitement to crime, attack” and in some cases of “sedition”, which can lead to sentences of up to 30 years in prison. Among them are many minors as young as 16 years old. And they arrested many of them the following day in raids that were a real manhunt.
Although there are no official figures or information in the government-controlled Cuban press, they estimate that more than a thousand people were arrested during the protests and between 600 and 700 are on trial.
One of those on trial, for example, is the young musician Abel Lescay. He is a student at the Instituto Superior de Arte and has been supported by his university and an international signature campaign for his freedom, of which we from the IWU-FI were part. The young man said that on 11-J, he went out on the street and demonstrated peacefully. Surprisingly, the following day they arrested him at his home for appearing in a video of the demonstration arguing with a police officer. Since then, he has been under house arrest pending trial. The prosecution is asking for seven years in prison!
They fabricated these trials based on false accusations. To justify this repression and sentences to years in prison for people who committed no crime except demonstrating in the streets, the Diaz Canel government and the Communist Party of Cuba (PCC) say that the protests were “orchestrated and financed from the United States”, which is a lie. Of course, imperialism tried to use the protests to its advantage. But the root causes are in the austerity policies implemented in January last year by the Cuban government, which deepened social inequality. In Cuba, socialism has disappeared for decades now, but the capitalism of mixed enterprises and profound social inequality. They have combined this with a total lack of rights to complain or protest. In Cuba, you have no right to strike or organise trade unions freely. There is censorship and all kinds of racial and gender discrimination.
While poverty among popular sectors grows, the leaders of the CCP, the military and the new bourgeoisie live like rich people with their privileges.
In January 2021, they carried out a monetary and labour reform with severe consequences. With it, they decreed a miserable wage increase and a notable increase in all prices of basic basket consumption. A typical capitalist austerity measure. So “orthodox” that they announced it aimed to “encourage private investment” and “the majority participation of foreign capital in joint ventures (…) in the financial sector it includes foreign capital firms” (Clarin, 19 December 2020). They announced an increase in the minimum wage, but the prices of food, cleaning products, gas, electricity and transport have increased well above the wage increase. Wages are poverty level, between 50 dollars and 100 dollars, they do not cover basic needs. The government has unleashed more inflation and capitalist speculation with the dollar. The dollar exchange rate was set at one dollar 24 pesos, and in the parallel market, it has already reached 95 pesos. All of which has led to greater shortages and a further fall in the value of wages. The Cuban people queue endlessly for food, suffer power cuts and, during the pandemic, a shortage of medicines. There has been a sharp deterioration in the health service, which used to be internationally recognised as being of the highest standard.
The protests in Cuba on 11 July were therefore entirely genuine. They were motivated by similar reasons to the popular protests in Colombia, Chile, Peru, Ecuador, Honduras and other Latin American countries last year. People took to the streets because they could no longer stand poverty, the downfall of their standard of living.
Of course, American imperialism has its share of responsibility in the Cuban social crisis because of its historic blockade and the latest sanctions. But the blockade, which we have always repudiated and fought against, is only one element, but not the fundamental cause of the grave social situation suffered by the Cuban people.
The blockade, established in the 1960s, used to be much harsher. It failed because of the resistance of the Cuban people and the international support for the Cuban revolution. Today, it is a limited and partial blockade. For decades, Cuba has had commercial and political relations with almost every country in the world. Since the 1990s, under the leadership of Fidel and Raul Castro, they have facilitated private foreign investment in joint ventures with multinationals, especially from the European Union and Canada. The CCP, following China’s lead, restored capitalism to the island. This is the sad truth. This is the real socio-economic framework that explains the unprecedented social outburst of 11 July.
The one-party political regime and the judiciary are at the service of the privileges of this minority and to prevent popular protest.
From the IWU-FI, we consider that the development of popular struggles in Cuba is fundamental to stopping the repressive one-party regime. The solution is not the one offered by the pro-American Cuban right-wing. It is to achieve true socialism with the freedom that brings back the old social conquests of the 1959 socialist revolution. From the IWU-FI, we support and welcome the existence of a Cuban critical left that fights for this third independent socialist political alternative.
Thus, we support all struggles of the Cuban working people for their demands for a decent life and a decent wage, against repression and for their freedoms.
Given the unjust trials of those imprisoned for the popular protests, we call for the broadest international solidarity of the sectors that claim to be anti-imperialist, democratic and of the left, to demand the immediate and full freedom for the prisoners of 11J, the end of the false judicial processes and freedom of expression, of street demonstrations and organisation.
International Workers’ Unity-Fourth International (IWU-FI)
22 January 2022