Caribbean Theater

Imprisoned Cuban rapper on hunger strike

Supporters of imprisoned Cuban rap artist Maykel Castillo Pérez, better known by his stage name "El Osorbo," warn that his life is in danger one week into a hunger strike, and that he has been removed to a "punishment cell" where he is being held incommunicado. Academic and fellow dissident Anamely Ramos said that when she last heard from him, he was being taken to a prison doctor with swollen lymph nodes. Castillo is a leader of the San Isidro Movement, a collective of Cuban dissident artists and intellectuals, and co-author of the viral song "Patria y Vida," which became an anthem of the mass protests across the island in late July. He has been repeatedly arrested since 2015, including for protesting the controversial Decree 349, which places restrictions on artistic expression. He has been held at the maximum-security Pinar del Río prison since his May 31 arrest for the vague crimes of "resistance" and "contempt." He launched his total hunger and thirst strike on Nov. 11, in protest both of his own detention and the general crackdown on freedom of expression in Cuba. (CiberCuba, Periódico Cubano, PEN America)

Cuba: pre-emptive repression stifles protests

Plainclothes State Security agents began to gather in downtown Havana early on Nov. 15, the day a "Civic March" had been called by opposition networks. In addition to heavy deployment in the parks and squares, armed agents were stationed on the rooftops around the iconic Capitolio building. What the opposition website 14ymedio called pro-regime "vigilante groups" also gathered on street corners. According to the Havana-based independent human rights organization CubaLex, police arrested 11 people, while some 50 identified as key organizers were effectively "besieged" inside their homes to forestall any public gathering. Those arrested had apparently attempted to gather in defiance of the pre-emptive security measures. Some went out into the streets dressed in white, the color that organizers of the call had promoted. A small group of young people were detained on the Paseo del Prado while shouting "Patria y Libertad", slogan of the protest wave that shook Cuba in July.

Haiti: gang warfare hinders earthquake recovery

More than 500,000 people are in need of emergency assistance in Haiti's southern peninsula, where last week's 7.2-magnitude earthquake has killed more than 2,100 people and injured more than 12,200. Aid and medical efforts are hampered by debris-strewn roads, rain from Tropical Storm Grace, a shortage of working hospitals, and gang violence. The private Bernard Mevs Hospital in the capital, Port-au-Prince, where some of the injured have been sent, was closed Aug. 19 as part of a two-day shutdown to protest the kidnapping of two doctors. In recent years, Haiti has been beset by violent gangs who patrol many of the country's transport routes. Some villagers were also reportedly blocking aid shipments, saying they were also desperate for help. The southern peninsula has yet to recover from Hurricane Matthew, which killed at least 546 people in 2016. Prime Minister Ariel Henry has promised to speed up aid efforts—more than 30,000 families have been displaced, and there are fears of cholera due to lack of safe water, sanitation, and shelter. The United States has deployed several helicopters, aircraft, and the USS Arlington to help with relief efforts. France also sent a ship with humanitarian cargo, a helicopter, and more than two dozen soldiers.

Podcast: how do we respond to the Cuba protests?

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. 

Mass protests break out across Cuba

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.

Haiti: president killed amid paramilitary strife

An apparent squad of mercenaries, arriving in nine brand-new Nissan Patrol vehicles, staged a night raid on the home of Haiti's President Jovenel Moïse in the upscale Port-au-Prince suburb of of Pèlerin in the wee hours of July 7, and shot him dead. His wife, Martine, was also gravely wounded. The seemingly professional hit job followed weeks of rapidly rising violence in Haiti. On June 29, three gunmen on motorcycles killed at least 15 people in the Delmas 32 area of Port-au-Prince. Shortly later, gunmen believed to be from the same group carried out the targeted assassinations of prominent women's rights activist Marie Antoinette "Netty" Duclaire and Radio Télé Vision 2000 journalist Diego Charles, who were together at Charles' home in the Christ-Roi neighborhood.

Biden admin grants protected status for Haitians

US Secretary of Homeland Security Alejandro Mayorkas announced May 23 an 18-month designation of Haiti for Temporary Protected Status (TPS). This humanitarian protection allows an estimated 100,000 individuals to apply to remain lawfully in the US. There are three statutory grounds for TPS designation: ongoing armed conflict, environmental disasters, or other extraordinary and temporary conditions. Haiti faces political crisis and human rights abuses, security concerns, and the exacerbation of a "dire economic situation and lack of access to food, water, and healthcare" due to COVID-19, Mayorkas found.

Dominican Republic to build wall on Haitian border

The Dominican Republic's President Luis Abinador announced Feb. 27 that work will begin this year on a wall along the country's 376-kilometer border with Haiti. "Within two years we want to end the serious problems of illegal immigration, drug-trafficking and the transport of stolen vehicles that we've suffered from for two years," said Abinader. Two weeks earlier, Abinader and his Haitian counterpart Jovenel Moise signed an agreement that included a commitment to take measures against "the wave of illegal migration" and to "reinforce border security and vigilance." (AFP)

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