Afro-descendant activism takes center stage in Cuba’s July protests

Caleb Weaver*

Versión en español aquí.

Massive and seemingly spontaneous protests erupted across Cuba on Sunday, July 11, with thousands of people taking to the streets in over fifty cities, including a crowd of 2,000 in central Havana. Although these protests appear to have taken Cuba’s government by surprise, President Miguel Díaz-Canel quickly rallied the one-party state’s response, deploying the National Police (PNR) and armed forces (FAR), including special forces known as “black berets,” and calling government supporters into the streets for counter-protests. The streets of Havana and other cities remained ‘militarized’ for the following several days.

As the dust settled on the protests, civil society and independent media began to denounce a series of abuses in the government’s response, including one confirmed death: 36-year-old Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, who witnesses say was shot in the back during a confrontation between police and protestors in the La Güinera neighborhood of Havana. Tragically, Diubis’ mother died by suicide a week later, with family members reporting that she had been bereft since her son’s death. Other documented abuses include beatings, arbitrary detentions, and sexual assault of detaineesOne set of viral videos shows a special forces member bursting into a house with his gun drawn and the aftermath of an apparent shooting in the house.

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Colombian Democracy in the Streets

Vivian Newman*

Although protests in Colombia have been increasing since the 1990s, they have grown noticeably following the signing of the peace agreements in 2016. Until then —with few exceptions— protest marches were stigmatized as infiltrated by guerrillas, limiting them to union members, public university students, LGBTI people, and informal workers, excluding other minorities with legitimate claims and an immense apathetic society. A significant part of Colombian society has now demonstrated an increased public expression of its discontent. The government, disconnected from the streets, has failed to understand and manage the new democracy.

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Social Protest: A Misunderstood Right

Relevant Aspects of the IACHR Report «Protest and Human Rights»

Javier A. de Belaunde*

The Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the IACHR published its report «Protest and Human Rights» in December 2019. It appears timely when massive demonstrations are being held in the streets and squares across the region. The reasons behind the demonstrations vary, but the response of most governments is common: repression and human rights abuses. Peaceful protest remains a misunderstood right. This report aims to correct this situation by defining the inter-American standards applicable to protest and denouncing the criminalization of protest as an anti-human rights process.

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