Young Cubans: Our Parents Are Pressuring Us to Assault Protesters

Riot police officers get on the trucks after a demonstration against the government of Pre
YAMIL LAGE/AFP via Getty Images

Young Cubans reported increasing pressure from their “Fidelista” parents to obey government orders to participate in violent assaults on suspected protesters, Diario de Cuba revealed Tuesday.

Thousands of Cubans demanded an end to the communist regime through peaceful marches in the streets of every major city in the island nation July 11. Dissident groups have organized weekly protests for years – particularly in the largest cities of Havana and Santiago de Cuba – and pressure has mounted on the Castro regime since hundreds of protesters stormed the Ministry of Culture headquarters in November in response to a law banning Cubans from writing songs, painting, filming anything on their phones, or otherwise producing any artwork without first getting a government permit.

While the July 11 protests were largely peaceful, the Castro regime responded by issuing an “order of combat” against the protesters. President Miguel Díaz-Canel, the face of the Castro regime, told “revolutionaries” to take to the streets and violently assault anyone suspected of opposing the regime during a live broadcast the night of July 11.

“We will not hand over our sovereignty, or the independence of the people, or the freedom of this nation. We are many revolutionaries in this people who are willing to give our lives … for conviction,” Díaz-Canel said. “This is why we are calling all the revolutionaries of our country, all the communists, to go to the streets anywhere that these provocations are happening today, from now on through all these days.”

Uniformed police have also participated in attacks on civilians, including opening fire on crowds of unarmed, peaceful protesters.

Since then, the Communist Party has significantly limited internet access nationwide, cutting the flow of videos of police brutality and attacks by pro-regime civilians to the outside world. Speaking to Diario de Cuba, several young Cubans went on the record stating that their parents are pressuring them to follow Díaz-Canel’s orders and attack people known to disagree with the regime in public – a demand they do not want to fulfill.

“My mother says she is a Fidelista … even after seeing blood from the door of her house, [seeing] how they beat the people with sticks, hard,” one woman, Patricia Armenteros, told Diario de Cuba. “They called my older sister to ask her to go beat people at the Capitol [in Havana], and they made my brother-in-law go make sticks to use to beat the protesters but he said no.”

“My sister went because she [did not want to] endanger her home,” Armenteros noted.

René Aportela, another witness speaking to the newspaper, said his father “considers it legitimate to use violent repression against the people to defend the Revolution.” He called his arguments with his father “sharp, pretty ugly, like never before in our relationship” despite the fact Aportela said he personally did not participate in protests, only expressed disagreement with the idea of violently assaulting those who did. His father, he noted, was forced to fight in Fidel Castro’s imperialist war in Angola and was indoctrinated into communism in the military.

Mario Esquivel Santana, another witness, told the newspaper he found his father amid the chaos of the protests. Santana was protesting; his father had responded to the call to form mobs to assault protesters. His father kicked him out of his home after encountering him among the protesters.

“I had to leave with my wife and son. … Literally, he kicked me out of the house where I was born and where he raised me and where he was watching his own grandson grow,” Santana said. In Cuba, as real property ownership is illegal for those who are not Castro family members or otherwise part of the elite, multigenerational living is common. Santana described the current familial turbulence as “state-instigated hatred.”

The roving civilian vigilante squads the Communist Party has organized to attack dissidents are among the few images that have escaped the Cuban internet ban. Last week, Cuban diaspora news outlets circulated images of buses driving into Havana full of men apparently wielding metal and wooden sticks, organized into terror squads. Eyewitnesses have reported door-to-door raids by both police and civilian mobs.

In one of the most harrowing videos to surface from the protests, a witness with a mobile phone managed to record special state security forces, or “black berets,” raiding a residence alongside an attack dog and an angry mob. The police officer in the video shoots a man, believed to have marched peacefully in protests in the city where the video was taken, Cárdenas, in front of his wife and twin two-year-old sons. Police whisked the man away, leaving a large pool of blood in the couple’s living room. The man has been identified as 34-year-old Daniel Cárdenas Díaz. His health status remains unknown at press time, though his wife confirmed to international outlets that he survived the attack.

Despite the repression, protesters have called for a nationwide march on July 21, led by the mothers of the hundreds of imprisoned and missing dissidents persecuted on July 11, to demand their release and, once again, the end of the communist regime.

Follow Frances Martel on Facebook and Twitter.


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