Emboldened by dictator Raúl Castro’s declarations that, thanks to President Obama’s new policy on Cuba, the communists “have really won the war,” a group of Cuban dissidents led by artist Tania Bruguera have organized an anti-government rally in the Plaza de la Revolución in Havana– the heart of the communist government.
Speaking to the Miami Herald (via Babalú Blog), Bruguera explained that the artistic project was a reaction to President Obama’s concessions to the Cuban government this month. Bruguera’s project is titled “#YoTambienExijo,” or “#ITooDemand,” and is intended to provide ordinary Cubans an avenue to express themselves. The presentation is simple: Bruguera plans to place a microphone in the middle of the Plaza de la Revolución, for the use of any ordinary Cuban citizen who wishes to express grievances with the government or on any other topic. Every individual will get one minute to speak on a topic, no one is allowed to interrupt, and the speaker is not allowed to use inappropriate language. The performance is accompanied by an eponymous hashtag, which Cubans with access to internet and those in Miami have been using to call for an end to the Castro dictatorship:
— Rubiera Cuba (@CubaRubiera) December 30, 2014(#ITooDemand AN END to the Apartheid so that Cubans may have the same rights that foreigners do in #Cuba (Internet, cable TV, investment))
(#ITooDemand that I am a citizen, not a slave. Individual and not a product of the regime #Cubaisnotfree)
— Mamichuli (@futboleramala) December 30, 2014
(#ITooDemand the right to be an individual and not the property of the state #Cubaisnotfree)
(#ITooDemand that Raúl lift the embargo on the Cuban people)
— Fabiola (@EugeniaRomero56) December 30, 2014
(#ITooDemand Fewer rifles, less olive green clothing, less belligerent language in #Cuba)
The hashtag is also open to supporters of the Castro regime, such as this user, who called for protesters to “respect” the Plaza:
— Nelya Hernandez (@NelyaHernandez) December 30, 2014
(#Cubaisalreadyfree This Plaza is for the revolutionaries– Respect it! #ITooDemand)
The Cuban government is working diligently to discredit the project. Cuban government officials denied Bruguera a permit to organize the rally, and have called the project an attempt to hurt relations between the United States and Cuba in the aftermath of the President’s concessions. The Miami Herald also notes that a statement from the Cuban Union of Artists and Writers claimed that Bruguera was “opportunistic” and an “attention seeker” meaning to hurt Cuban diplomacy, and advised members not to attend the “political provocation.”
The website 14yMedio, run from Cuba by dissident Yoani Sánchez, writes that in its official statement the group claimed that the event was run by “the few local political mercenaries that President Obama himself has considered a failure, by the only people who could expect to benefit from any intent to place obstacles in the way of negotiations taking place,” confirming that the Cuban government has used the Obama deal to claim that the White House no longer believes in a Cuban democracy movement. Mysterious texts were also sent to individuals that had expressed solidarity with the movement claiming the rally had been canceled. Given the resistance from the government so far, it is expected that government officials will attempt to prevent the rally from occurring at all costs.
“I’ll be there. I’m not going to hide. I’m not doing anything wrong. I am just exercising my citizen rights,” she told the Herald in response to the criticism.
The rally appears to be scheduled from 3PM in Havana, and Cuban dissidents in Miami are planning a simultaneous event in solidarity at the same time. That event will take place, appropriately, at the foot of the Tower of Freedom.