Posts Tagged ‘Cuba’

When we reported last night about the social media push to Free Cuba, in light of recent events in Cairo, there was a grand confirmation of a massive demonstration in Havana at 5pm EST on February 21. The anti-Castro, pro-democracy movement on Facebook, which had reached over 4,000 fans in a span of just two weeks, was eagerly anticipating the spark that would ignite regime change in Latin America’s oldest Communist government.

Earlier tweets from the BBC’s Cuban correspondent didn’t deter them. One tweet in Spanish from the BBC’s Fernando Ravsberg, who is based in Havana, said the following: “The call for protests on Facebook to begin on Monday did not cause any great results.” Ravsberg also tweeted this: “Friends, I went out this morning around the city and returned at noon. No protests and police presence was as normal as any other day.” When we shared these tweets with the Cuban exiles who formed the majority of the Facebook page, we were told that Ravsberg was a puppet of Fidel. Yeah, the BBC is a puppet of the Cuban government. FREE CUBA! THE TIME IS NOW!

In addition, the very vocal and prolific blogger Yoani Sánchez had nothing to say about February 21. Just another normal day. We would think that is Sánchez knew that something was actually materializing, she would have used her vast social network (she also guests blogs for the Huffington Post) to shout that the resistance was happening and that Cairo had come to Havana.

Then, as I dug a little bit more, around 6pm EST tonight, I found a YouTube video that apparently filmed an empty park today in Havana, the same place and time where the demonstration was to take place:

Now, most anti-Castro critics will argue that the video has no factual proof that it was filmed on February 21 at exactly the same place and time where the demonstration was scheduled to take place. True, the video has no proof. But in the world of social media, the message is just as important as the facts. If indeed the video was filmed accurately, then you would think that the few Cubans who actually GET Internet access would have been given a hall pass to upload a video to show to the world that all is well in Havana.

So I dug a little more, and found a site in Cuba that contained photos of the same plaza, claiming that the author had just taken the photos there. Here are just a few of the photos:

Besides the presence of a tank (ok, maybe the government did know something was up), it looked like another later afternoon day in Havana.

Of course, we are not so naive to think that what we showed here was indeed proof, and the Miami Herald did report over the weekend that a “melee” had occurred last Friday in the town of Holguín:

A top Cuban hip hop duo that lashes the ruling system with its lyrics reportedly sparked a clash with police last week when they tried to visit two youths jailed since Dec. 25 for playing their music too loudly.

The reports included contradictory information and could not be independently confirmed, but coincided in noting that the group Los Aldeanos was at the heart of a “public disorder” Friday in the eastern city of Holguín.

Havana human rights activist Elizardo Sanchez Santa Cruz said he had received reports that about 80 people were detained and five were injured, apparently by rocks thrown at police from a crowd of 1,500 youths that had gathered around the Aldeanos.

So, what is it? What is actually happening in Cuba? Since the press is limited, you have to scour different source to try and find a story. There is still hope from the Free Cuba Facebook crowd that the February 23 anniversary of the death of political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tomayo will spark some demonstrations on the island.

But here is the problem with the current Free Cuba Facebook group: the vast majority of them are Cuban exiles living outside of Cuba with Internet access and Facebook accounts. The Social Media Revolution in Cairo happened because the people who sparked it through social media were also the people who acted in the revolution. With all the antagonistic feelings between Cubans in Cuban and Cubans outside of Cuba, the posting and ranting of FREE CUBA status updates feels like the Boy Who Cried Wolf right now. There is no mainstream coverage of these events, because, quite frankly, NOTHING IS HAPPENING IN CUBA.

The only blog from Cuba we found that even mentioned resistance was the bilingual one called “I Will Not Shut Up, I Will Not Leave” in English. Their latest post calls for a Cuban resistance on February 23 to remember Zapata Tomayo:

The National Orlando Zapata Tamayo Civic Resistance and Disobedience Front is calling on all activists and members of the Cuban resistance to participate in the “Zapata Lives!” march, which will take place throughout the nation on February 23rd, the one year anniversary of the assassination of political prisoner Orlando Zapata.

Brothers, Sisters, Cubans… this 23rd of February will be the most appropriate moment to declare that we are all resistance, and that Boitel and Zapata live on!  Paying homage to this Cuban martyr also means paying homage to all the martyrs Cuba has had during all its years of political imprisonment.  In this same manner, by doing this we also accept these martyrs as symbols and guides in the struggle for peaceful changes towards democracy in Cuba.
Compatriots, on this 23rd of February, notify the neighbors of your municipality or city in Cuba that the flame of resistance is now stronger than ever.
Brothers, the name of your movement does not matter, nor does its political affiliation or association.  It is the time to unite all of our voices in one demand and to scream wherever we can be heard:  Zapata lives on!  We are all resistance! The streets belong to the people!

Could something happen in the future? Sure, if the majority of Cubans on the island actually had access to the Internet and social networks. But they don’t. So the FREE CUBA Facebook fans keep posting messages of freedom and action, but no one is listening. Or are they?

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Should it come as a surprise that Cuba’s state-run media, GRANMA, makes no mention of this week’s Cuban Social Media movement? Why would it? It is not in their interest to allow non-violent demonstrations be part of their coverage. In the world of Cuban state media, it is better to deny reality than actually admit it.

Instead, we get the following English post by Raúl Castro: The Revolutionary Rebellion in Egypt. There is support for Egypt and what is has accomplished. But do we read about how social media propelled a movement to overthrow a dictator? Instead we get this:

After 18 days of harsh battling, the Egyptian people attained an important objective: to defeat the United States’ principal ally in the heart of the Arab countries. Mubarak was oppressing and plundering his own people, he was an enemy of the Palestinians and an accomplice of Israel, the sixth nuclear power on the planet, associated with the military NATO group.

And we get this:

The United States supplies Israel with the most modern and sophisticated armament, worth billions of dollars every year. Egypt, an Arab country, was converted into the second recipient of U.S. weapons. To fight against whom? Against another Arab country? Against the Egyptian people themselves?

When the population was demanding respect for their most elemental rights and the resignation of a president whose policies consisted of exploiting and plundering his people, the repressive forces trained by the United States did not hesitate to fire on them, killing hundreds and wounding thousands.

Castro also ends with these statements:

Obama is affected by the events in Egypt; he acts or appears to act as if he were the owner of the planet. What is happening in Egypt seems to be his own issue. He has not stopped talking over the telephone with leaders of other countries.

We support the valiant Egyptian people and their struggle for political rights and social justice.

We are not opposed to the people of Israel; we are opposed to the genocide of the Palestinian people and in favor of their right to an independent state.

We are not in favor of war, but rather in favor of peace among all peoples.

So the Cuban government is in favor of peace, but will it allow its own people to express themselves the same way that Egyptians did? Will it allow for democracy to flourish on the island? Will it provide its own people with true freedom of expression and self-determination?

The answer is, quite simply, no.

The reality is clear: it is in the interest of the United States to see a free and democratic Cuba. While Cuba’s Communist leaders form partnerships with China, President Obama eased travel restrictions to Cuba in the hopes of increasing civil society on the island. Yes, a free Cuba will be better for the United States.

Although the irony is that the one group that is salivating for Cuba to be liberated, Cuban American Florida Republicans, are quick to criticize the Obama administration for doing this. As Florida Republican Senator and Cuban American Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said:

They will not make the Castro regime show respect for human rights, and they certainly won’t help the Cuban people free themselves from the despotic tyranny which oppresses them.

So basically it comes down to this: the Cuban government criticizes the Obama administration. Florida Republican Cuba American leaders criticize the Obama administration. The politics of extreme are alive and well in Havana and Miami.

No wonder people are ready to demonstrate and use social media to get their messages across. Politicians cannot be relied upon.

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The following is the English version of the Spanish press release written by “Por el levantamiento popular en Cuba” (“For the Popular Uprising in Cuba”), a social media movement formed on Facebook two weeks ago to promote peaceful regime change in Cuba.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 20, 2011

From February 21 through February 26, individual and mass demonstrations to promote non-violent and peaceful regime change in Cuba will occur all over the world. For a list of all organized demonstrations, visit this link: Organized Events to Promote Regime Change in Cuba.

The demonstrations, which will be held peacefully, has the support of the global Cuban exile community. Additional peaceful demonstrations will also occur in Cuba during the same time period. February 23 marks the one-year anniversary of the death of political prisoner Orlando Zapata Tamayo.

The Facebook page, “Por el levantamiento popular en Cuba” (“For the Popular Uprising in Cuba”), currently has over 4,000 members as of February 20. Members who have joined come from all over the world and have organized a wave of protests in cities such as Madrid, Barcelona, Santiago de Compostela, Seville, Las Palmas, Berlin, Milan, Stockholm, Paris, Portland, Washington, D.C., Miami, Tampa, Los Angeles, and Alberta. Other countries will have demonstrations, including inside Cuba. We cannot list the Cuban cities for obvious reasons, but we can confirm the time and date of a demonstration in the Cuban capital city of Havana, a clear and powerful protest against the current Cuban dictatorship and the regime’s repressive forces.

We insist that all the protests and demonstrations will be peaceful in nature even though there is a very likely possibility that the Cuban government will react violently to stop any activity that will promote freedom in Cuba. The Cuban government has on several occasions reacted in a similar way in front of its consulates in Paris, Barcelona, Madrid, and Norway. For example, last year in Norway, the Cuban Vice Counsel bit a young Swiss woman born to Cuban parents.

We want to communicate our commitment and determination to exercise our right to protest the end of the oldest dictatorship in the Western Hemisphere, a dictatorship that has repeatedly violated human rights and imprisoned individuals who oppose the regime, even though there are strenuous efforts by the European Union to bring democracy to Cuba.

We ask you to please cover this week’s activities and report about these unprecendented number of protests.

We have included links to videos and and other links from media outlets all over the world that have already reported about this initiative.




Diario “El Mundo”

Diario “Nuevo Herald”

Radio Nederland Internacional


From “Por el Levantamiento Popular en Cuba”
Contact: levantamientoencuba@yahoo.com
Twitter: @levanta_cuba

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