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.

Seguir leyendo

The United States History of Systemic Racism: A Primer for Latin Americans, and Some Parallels

Naomi Roht-Arriaza*

Versión en español aquí.

Juneteenth, June 19, commemorates the day in 1865 that the last US slaves were freed. The holiday was celebrated across the United States this year with marches calling for defunding the police and tackling continuing systemic racism, continuing weeks of protests after the police killing of George Floyd and others. These demands for radical change might at first seem unnecessary and extreme – after all, the US recently had a Black president, and slavery ended long ago – but they reflect the way government action throughout the 20th century until today created and supported institutionalized racism.  With the disproportionate effects of both COVID-19 and unemployment on the Black community, these patterns have become obvious.  In particular, the protests respond to the failure of decades of reform efforts to stop the police killing of unarmed black people across the country, a failure rooted in the isolation and control of Black and Latinx communities and the defunding of services to these communities.  The US experience provides an illuminating window into the persistence of racism and racist policing elsewhere in the Americas, as well as some intriguing pathways forward.

Seguir leyendo