In Episode 80 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg examines the actual politics of the Cuban protests—and how much of the response by supposedly progressive forces in the United States has been highly problematic. While opposing the embargo, and the inevitable attempts by US imperialism to exploit and co-opt the protests, we must guard against words and actions that abet the repression. Hundreds have been detained and at least one person killed as the protests have been put down by security forces. By uncritically rallying around the regime and portraying the protests as CIA astroturf, we not only make ourselves complicit with rights abuses—we help bring about exactly what we fear, showing the protesters that their only allies in the US are on the political right.
Seemingly spontaneous protests broke out in Cuba on July 11, with demonstrations reported across the island—from Pinar del Río in the west to Santiago in the east. In Havana, hundreds gathered along the Malecón seawall, which was the scene of a brief uprising known as the Maleconazo in August 1994, amid the economic agony of the "Special Period." The demonstrators later marched on the iconic Capitolio building. Slogans included "Freedom," "Down with the dictatorship," "We are not afraid," "Homeland and life" (a reference to the official slogan "Homeland or death"), and "Díaz-Canel, singao [jerk, asshole]," a reference to President Miguel Díaz-Canel.
So-called "dissident" FARC factions that have refused to accept the Colombian peace accords and taken refuge across the border in Venezuela now appear to be waging a local insurgency against the Nicolás Maduro regime. A group calling itself the Martin Villa 10th Front announced in early May that it had captured eight Venezuelan soldiers on April 23 during a battle in Apure state, near the Colombian border. On May 31, Venezuela's National Bolivarian Armed Forces announced that the soldiers had been freed in a rescue operation. But the independent Caracas Chronicles reports that the eight were actually released under terms of a deal negotiated in Cuba. The deal was said to have been brokered with the help of the National Liberation Army (ELN), a second Colombian guerilla group which remains in arms and whose leadership is based in Havana.
The US Department of State once again designated Cuba as a state that sponsors terrorism on Jan. 11. In 2015, the Obama administration removed Cuba from the State Sponsors of Terrorism list, which currently includes North Korea, Iran and Syria. In a press statement by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, the State Department accused Cuba of "repeatedly providing support for acts of international terrorism in granting safe harbor to terrorists," and stated that by adding Cuba back to the list, the US "will once again hold Cuba's government accountable and send a clear message: the Castro regime must end its support for international terrorism and subversion of US justice."
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.
Another one to file under #OrwellWouldShit. The UN General Assembly has elected China to the Human Rights Council—despite the country holding some one million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps. China was supported by 139 of the 191 nations that voted, and was one of 16 nations that sought the 15 available seats. (The General Assembly also elected Russia, Cuba, Uzbekistan and Pakistan, all similarly accused of human rights violations, if not quite such ambitious ones.) US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized the election of countries with "abhorrent human rights records," stating: "These elections only further validate the US decision to withdraw and use other venues and opportunities to protect and promote universal human rights." The US left the Human Rights Council in June 2018. (Jurist)
A march for abortion rights turned violent in Mexico City Sept. 27, as a group of women wearing ski-masks and armed with hammers clashed with police. Members of the Bloque Negro feminist collective joined the protest after departing from the headquarters of the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), which they had been occupying for weeks and had turned into a shelter for victims of gender violence. With their path to the city's historic center blocked by riot police, some threw paint balloons and Molotov cocktails, and charged the police lines. Some of the women also bared their breasts, even as they wore goggles and helmets. Authorities said 11 police were injured in the confrontation. The demonstration was part of a Day for Decriminalization of Abortion in Latin America & the Caribbean on the eve of International Safe Abortion Day, Sept. 28. In Mexico, abortion is only legal in the Federal District and southern state of Oaxaca during the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. In the rest of the country, it is only permitted under limited circumstances, such as in the case of rape. (Mexico News Daily, Yucatan Times)
The United States government further complicated the future of peace in Colombia on May 13, adding Cuba to its list of countries that do not cooperate fully with counter-terrorist efforts. The State Department cited Havana's failure to extradite leaders of the National Liberation Army (ELN), Colombia's last active guerilla group. Colombia requested extradition of the ELN leaders after the group claimed responsibility for an attack on a Bogotá police academy in January 2019 that killed 22. Havana responded that the ELN leaders had been brought to Cuba for peace talks with the Colombian government, and that it was obliged to honor terms of dialogue, which included protection from arrest. Colombia's government broke off the talks after the Bogotá blast; civil society groups in Colombia have since been urging both sides to return to the table.