It has been one year since nearly 300 artists and activists gathered and demonstrated for freedom of expression at the gates of the Ministry of Culture in Havana. The artists called for artistic and personal freedoms in Cuba, and for the Cuban government to take part in a dialogue that would allow the Cuban people to have a voice in determining their own future.
While officials initially agreed to listen to what the artists had to say, the regime later refused to take part in any dialogue. Since then, the Cuban government has doubled down on its efforts to silence the artists, activists, and independent journalists who continue to bravely advocate for human rights and fundamental freedoms in Cuba. The regime passed laws restricting free speech online, using them to fine and suspend the telecommunications services of activists and journalists who publish critical facts and opinions.
For those who participated in the July 11th protests, the Cuban government imposed harsh penalties, seeking sentences of up to 30 years in prison. Authorities have repeatedly detained Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, Maykel Osorbo, and Jose Daniel Ferrer, all of whom are currently in prison simply for giving voice to the Cuban people’s desire for freedom.
In mid-November, the Cuban regime sent security forces and a government-sponsored mob to bully playwright Yunior Garcia, who took part in last year’s negotiations and organized calls for another peaceful protest. He has since fled with his family to Spain.
Cubans have repeatedly asked the government to hear their calls to respect human rights, freedoms of expression and to assemble, and democracy. “On every occasion, the regime squandered the opportunity for dialogue, doubling down on a bankrupt ideology and failed economic system that cannot provide for Cubans’ basic needs,” said Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a statement.
“We commend the Cuban people for continuing to call on their government to listen to their aspirations and to demand respect for universal human rights and fundamental freedoms,” said Secretary Blinken. “We urge the Cuban regime to heed their call, and to allow the Cuban people to shape their own future, free from the threat of government reprisal.”