Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Cuba Turns Off Critics’ Open Mic

Cuba Turns Off Critics' Open Mic

The Cuban artist Tania Bruguera, who splits her time between the United
States and Havana, traveled to Cuba in recent days seeking to pull off a
bold experiment. She called on Cubans from all walks of life to meet at
Havana's iconic Revolution Square on Tuesday at 3 p.m., where they would
take turns at a microphone to outline their vision for the new era in
the country. Word of the event, which was billed as both a performance
and a street protest, was shared on social media using the hashtag
#YoTambiénExijo, which means "I also demand."

Ms. Bruguera's plan was the first test of whether the Obama
administration's decision to normalize relations with Cuba earlier this
month would prod the Castro regime to be more tolerant of critical
voices. Disappointingly, but not surprisingly, the government barred
prominent critics, including Ms. Bruguera, from reaching the square.
Some were detained and others were reportedly prevented from leaving
their homes. In the end, the performance wasn't held.

Authorities in Cuba appear to have wrestled with how to prevent Ms.
Bruguera's project from turning into a mass gathering of critics. They
allowed her to travel to the island, though she had publicized her
project well in advance. In recent days, officials from the state-run
arts council summoned her for a meeting. In a statement, the council
said it had made clear to her that her plan was "unacceptable," because
of the location and the "ample media coverage" in outlets that are
critical of the government. Officials proposed that the event be held
instead at a cultural site, according to the statement, and said that
the government would "reserve the right" to bar people whose "sole
interest is to be provocative."

It became clear early on Tuesday which people authorities had in mind.
State security personnel detained journalist Reinaldo Escobar, the
husband of popular dissident blogger Yoani Sánchez, outside their home
and prevented her from leaving, according to the digital news site the
couple runs, 14yMedio. Eliécer Ávila, a young government critic who
leads the political movement 'Somos +' — which means, "there are more of
us," was taken into custody alongside Mr. Escobar.

By stifling critical voices, the Cuban government is showing its
unwillingness to tolerate basic freedoms most citizens in the hemisphere
enjoy. This move, unfortunately, will amplify the criticisms of those
who opposed Mr. Obama's historic shift on Cuba policy.

Heavy-handed tactics by the Castro government will give them ammunition
next year, when Republicans will control both chambers of Congress, to
stymie the Obama administration's steps to ease the embargo through
executive authority and dim the prospects of legislative change to pare
back the web of sanctions Washington imposes on Cuba. That result would
be a shame and, in the long run, self-defeating for Havana.

Source: Cuba Turns Off Critics' Open Mic - -

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