Movimiento San Isidro, The Protest in Cuba that No One is Paying Attention To

Photo courtesy of Belatina, latinx

After the death of Fidel Castro and once Miguel Díaz-Canel became the figure of the supposed democracy in Cuba, the international press seems to have lost interest in the violations of human rights on the island.

In September 2018, a group of Cuban dissident artists decided to raise their voices again and draw attention to the Castro regime’s censorship and criminalization of artistic creation and freedom of speech.

Following the announcement of Decree 349 that threatened freedom of expression, a collective of artists organized a series of actions to “promote, protect, and defend full freedom of expression, association, creation, and dissemination of art and culture in Cuba, empowering society toward a future with democratic values.”

Thus was born the San Isidro Movement, which took its name from the poor and marginalized Havana neighborhood where it is based.

However, as is customary, the Cuban government regime proceeded to repress and threaten the collective’s activities, arresting several of its members, including Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and Maykel “Osorbo” Castillo.

Maykel “Osorbo” Castillo even sewed up his mouth when he was summoned to a police unit for questioning.

As CiberCuba explained, with little more than two years of life, the San Isidro Movement “has put the Cuban government in check on several occasions,” primarily through its actions such as the performance of a protest in front of Havana’s Capitol, the seat of legislative power, which became the group’s first major public event.

“After pressure from various quarters, the Cuban government, through the Ministry of Culture, publicly declared that it would pause in the implementation of Decree 349,” the platform explains, “which was considered in good measure a victory for the members of the group.”

Their most recent action was a hunger strike to demand the release of Denis Solis, a rapper who has been charged with eight months in prison for allegedly disrespecting the authorities.

At the beginning of November, the rapper broadcast live on Facebook when he was expelling a policeman who had gone to search his home in Havana, apparently without authorization.

Solis, who claims to be a loyal follower of Donald Trump, whom he calls “my president,” tells the policeman that he has no right to enter his home, offends him, and complains of alleged abuses by Cuban authorities, the BBC reports.

On November 9, he was arrested, and two days later, a Havana court sentenced him to eight months in prison.

Later, last Thursday night, the Cuban police forcibly evicted the 14 young people who had been on hunger strike for a week, simultaneously suspending social media services, which is the main communication channel used by the Movement.

According to the BBC, hours later, the Facebook page of the state portal Las Razones de Cuba indicated that it was an action by “the Cuban health authorities” with the aim of “certifying the violation of the health protocol for international travelers” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the Cuban International Press Center (CPI), the Cuban government maintains the position that there is no “official reaction” to the “provocation that is being attempted with the issue,” continued the BBC.

In a note on the official website Cubadebate, the media recognized the existence of a hunger strike”. Still, they described the strikers as “people in unfavorable socioeconomic conditions” who “do not work or have criminal records” and who “demand the release of Denis Solis, who is associated with terrorist groups in the United States.”

Meanwhile, Granma, the Cuban Communist Party’s official organ, assured that it was “a new show, instrumented from Washington and Miami” and that it “forms part of the plans for subversion against Cuba.”

Since last week, Cuban artists and intellectuals have signed several petitions for Solis’s release or in support of the strikers, and solidarity demonstrations have also been reported in several cities in Europe, Latin America, and the US.

The case has generated repercussions in different international media, including the US-based The Washington Post, the German DW, and the Spanish El País, which warned that the protest could end in a “tragedy.”

Meanwhile, the European Parliament and human rights organizations such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch called on Cuban authorities to release Solis.