Cuban police agents raided the headquarters of the dissident San Isidro Movement (MSI) in Old Havana on Nov. 26 and arrested the 14 activists who were inside the building, several of whom had been on hunger strike for the past week. Simultaneously, authorities cut off access to Facebook and Instagram across the island, in an apparent attempt to prevent images and reports of the raid from being disseminated. A tweet from MSI stated: “Agents of the dictatorship broke into our headquarters, savagely beat our compañeros, took them away and we do not know their whereabouts. We fear for their physical integrity.” Cuban authorities said the raid was carried out over a violation of pandemic restrictions.
A total of nine people, including artists, activists and independent journalists, began the hunger strike Nov. 18 to demand freedom for Denis Solís, a popular dissident rap artist. Solís had been arrested Nov. 9, apparently after getting into an altercation with a police officer on a Havana street, and was sentenced to eight months in prison for the crime of “contempt.”
The San Isidro Movement was founded in 2018 by artists, musicians, journalists and academics to oppose censorship by Cuba’s government. The day after the raid, some 150 of the group’s supporters gathered for a protest outside the Ministry of Culture building. (Havana Times, Translating Cuba, Translating Cuba, 14yMedio, BBC News)
Image via CiberCuba
Cuban dissident artists testify before European Parliament
Cuban artists and dissidents presented testimony to the European Parliament Feb. 26 claiming violations of human rights by the Cuban government. The meeting was scheduled in response to attacks Cuban artists have suffered following the release of the song “Patria y Vida” (Homeland and Life) by Grammy winner Yotuel Romero with the collaboration of dissident rappers Maykel Osorbo and El Funky—members of the San Isidro Movement. The title of the song is a turn on the regime’s official slogan “Patria o Muerte” (Homeland or Death). Since the song and accompanying video were released, Cuban official media have launched a campaign against it, calling the song “an aggression against the national security of Cuba” and “trash,” and calling the artists “whores” and “mercenaries.” It even won three tweets in a single day from President Miguel Diaz Canel. (Jurist)
Cuba passes animal welfare law amid pressure from activists
The Cuban government has passed a long-awaited animal welfare law after decades of citizen demands for such legislation. The Animal Welfare Bill requires state agencies and animal welfare organizations to uphold standards on animal health while prohibiting all forms of animal abuse, with a fine up to 7,000 pesos. The law extends to keepers of livestock, animals in sport, and pets.
The Ministry of Agriculture stated in a recent press release that the decree aims to “regulat[e] the principles, duties, rules and purposes regarding the care, health and use of animals to guarantee their well-being.” Lawmakers hope this new legislation will create a national dialogue about animal rights in Cuba.
The new legislation comes amid mounting pressure from the younger generation of animal activists who have been organizing public protests and social media campaigns, and recently organized a demonstration in front of the Ministry of Agriculture. “This has set an example for all communities that want their voice to be heard,” said movement leader Beatriz Batista. “You have to pressure, pressure.” (Jurist)
Cuban police raid independent newspaper
The Florida-based Cuban Institute for Freedom of Expression and the Press (ICLEP) reports that agents of Cuba’s National Revolutionary Police and Political Police on March 14 raided the Santa Clara offices of independent newspaper Páginas Villareñas, confiscating equipment and briefly detaining two reporters. The newspaper is apparently accused of “usurpation of public functions.” (CPJ, ADN Cuba)
However, reports do not make clear how long independent newspapers like Páginas Villareñas have been allowed to exist at all, or what the circumstances of its founding were.