Nov 15, 2021 - World

Cuban authorities crush protest plans in crackdown on dissidents

 Police officers walk along a street in Havana, Cuba, November 15. On the day of the scheduled protest, streets are quiet after a government crackdown.

Police officers walking along a street in Havana on Monday. Photo: Yamil Lage/AFP via Getty Images

The Biden administration denounced Cuban authorities' "intimidation tactics" during a clamp-down on activists who planned to hold a civil rights protest on the Caribbean island Monday.

Why it matters: Protesters were hoping to build on July's massive anti-government demonstrations in Havana and other Cuban cities with the nationwide "Civic March for Change." But police and security forces poured into the streets, arresting and even "trapping" activists in their homes, per the Washington Post.

  • National security adviser Jake Sullivan said in a statement that "the Cuban regime predictably deployed a set piece of harsh prison sentences, sporadic arrests, intimidation tactics and acts of repudiation all in an attempt to silence the voice of Cuban people as they clamor for change."

Of note: The crackdown coincided with the ruling Communist Party reopening tourism and schools in an easing of pandemic restrictions after COVID-19 cases and deaths dropped following the inoculation of the vast majority of Cuban citizens with domestic vaccines, Reuters reports.

The big picture: Opposition groups had been seeking to protest food and medicine shortages, and for democratic freedoms that they're currently denied.

  • But activists and protest organizers, including the 39-year-old playwright Yunior García Aguilera, had their apartments surrounded by security forces and government supporters, in addition to a series of arrests, WashPost notes. Many had their phones and internet cut off.
  • Juan Pappier, a Cuba researcher at Human Rights Watch, said "hundreds" of people were still in jail from the crackdown following July's protests, per the New York Times.

Of note: There was uncertainty over the whereabouts of García after Monday's crackdown, but it later transpired that he and his wife had left the country, landing in Madrid, Spain, on Wednesday afternoon, Reuters notes.

Editor's note: This article has been updated with details on García's arrival in Spain.

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