Cuban authorities thwarted a planned mass protest on Monday by arresting prominent dissidents or confining them to their homes.
Leaders had called for a “Civic March for Change,” after street protests in July this year.
Opposition figure Manuel Cuesta Morua, the leader of the Ladies in White rights movement Berta Soler, and her husband Angel Moya, a former political prisoner, were among those detained.
The demonstration was called upon by playwright Yunior Garcia and his Facebook group Archipelago, an online discussion forum with about 35,000 members. He was not allowed to leave his apartment, and government supporters hung Cuban flags from the roof of his building to block his windows.
Dissidents wanted to launch protests at 3 pm local time, across 10 cities, including the capital Havana, as well as Guantanamo and Pinar del Rio. However, there were no signs of organised demonstrations.
Social media videos showed some smaller groups protesting, but were immediately countered by pro-government demonstrators. Officers in plain clothes and uniforms were present across Havana throughout the day.
Cuban authorities blame US
The Cuban government said Monday’s protests were part of an attempt by the US to destabilise the Caribbean island.
Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriquez addressed the issue in an internet broadcast. “Our party, Cuba’s party, is marvelous and will continue to be in the coming days until the end of the year and next year,” he said, before adding his disapproval over perceived support from the US. “Some of my colleagues in Washington seem to have stayed dressed up for a party of theirs that has not happened.”
The protest was scheduled for the same day Cuba reopened schools and tourism after pandemic-related closures. “I think Archipelago chose the wrong day. People are concerned about the reopening of the economy and the return to normalcy,” former diplomat Carlos Alzugaray told the news agency Reuters.
Streets were quieter than usual, and some parents chose to keep their children home instead of sending them to school, Reuters reported.
US condemns curb on dissent
The White House condemned Cuba’s attempt to curb dissent.
“In advance of peaceful demonstrations planned for today, the Cuban regime predictably deployed a set piece of harsh prison sentences, sporadic arrests, intimidation tactics, and acts of repudiation, all in an attempt to silence the voice of Cuban people as they clamor for change,” said US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan.