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The militarization of Havana: 'It is the people, not invisible terrorists, who are afraid to go out on the streets'

Justifying such a deployment invoking alleged threats of terrorist actions paid for by the CIA 'is very cowardly,' says a Public Health worker.

La Habana
Special troops and police supervising citizens in Havana.
Special troops and police supervising citizens in Havana. Efe

Susana is 19. Her relatives have forbidden her from going out on the street. They will not even allow her to attend the Film Festival with her friends. Her parents are extremely concerned by the excessive deployment of Special Troops who, for the past two weeks, have been patrolling Havana neighborhoods toting anti-riot weapons and in armed military vehicles.

"It's like being in penitence: from school straight to home, and vice versa. But it is true that there is a lot of tension between people who have never seen a military deployment in convoys or with weapons of such caliber. "It's really scary," said Susana, a university student and resident of Cerro.

The people from Havana who were interviewed considered these movements by "black berets" openly hostile acts against the entire population, and not just a way to intimidate the opposition on the island.

Justifying such a military deployment by citing alleged threats of terrorist actions paid for by the CIA "is quite crass, not to mention very cowardly," said Ernesto Ariel Frómeta, a worker in the Public Health sector and a resident of Centro Habana.

"It is the people, and not invisible terrorists, who are afraid to go out on the streets. Once again the Government has to resort to the invention of phantom military invasions, the massive financing of dissidents, or massive terrorist attacks. How many years have we been listening to such lies? We know perfectly well that they only serve as a pretext to use violence against the people in the face of any sign of discontent," said Frómeta.

The regime's media manipulation of the San Isidro Movement, the hundreds of protesters on 27N and their 30 representatives who opted for dialogue with Culture Ministry Authorities, has not gone overlooked by a significant part of civil society; nor has the government's insistent references, in media controlled by the Communist Party, to Article 4 of the Cuban Constitution, which authorizes the use of violence and weapons.

The aforementioned article of the Cuban Constitution states that "the defense of the socialist homeland is the greatest honor and the supreme duty of every Cuban. Treason is the most serious of crimes, and those who commit it are subject to the most severe penalties. The socialist system endorsed by this Constitution is irrevocable. Citizens have the right to fight against, by all means possible, including armed struggle, anybody who attempts to overthrow the political, social or economic regime established by this Constitution."

"That a demonstration by artists, writers and intellectuals has prompted the Government to resort to an unprecedented militarization of the country, and its bellicose rhetoric, can only be interpreted as indicating serious fear of a social uprising," Social Sciences graduate and Vedado resident Victoria de los Ángeles Madrigal.

"Those convoys of black berets, heavily armed and on armored vehicles patrolling Havana neighborhoods, are the real terror, in the midst of a situation rendered chaotic by the Covid-19 pandemic, and a shortage of food, medicine and basic products," added Madrigal, who also bars his two teenage sons from going out on the streets.

"I haven't talked to anyone who sees this display of military force as protection for the people. People are scared, because nobody knows for sure what can be considered treason or what critical opinions could be interpreted as dissent."

Together with the militarization of the city, the regime has called for the revival of its  "mass organizations" for social control and surveillance, not only with a view to monitoring popular protests, but also any expression of views opposed to the regime's policies, both in the communities and on social media.

Retiree Heriberto Consuegra, a former member of the Communist Party and a resident of Boyeros, recently resigned as president of his CDR.
"The mass organizations are also being manipulated with unclear information that there is no way to verify. I cannot be party to repression and violence against young artists who are articulating what is a pretty old demand: freedom of expression and to make their art," Consuegra explained.

"No one is buying the claim that they are mercenaries and terrorists financed from 90 miles away anymore. Today those who are taking to the streets to protest or show sympathy and solidarity on social media are not dissidents, but rather ordinary people tired broken promises in a country that is more and more surreal each day, or too harsh to love," he concluded.

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