Cuban armed forces wear civilian clothes #Forum2000online

September 9, 2021

The protests in Cuba on 11 and 12 July, which the media consider unprecedented, are the largest in Cuba since 1994. Lucia Argüellová interviewed Tania Bruguera, a Cuban performance artist detained by the Cuban government for her protest activities on several occasions in the last years. In this #Forum2000online Chat, Bruguera assesses the role of the pandemic, social media, and Cuba's socio-economic development during the protests.

The government has been demanding sacrifices 

The combination of shortages, blackouts, economic troubles, and political complaints explain why Cuban people decided to take to the streets to see if they could exercise their civil rights. The country has been showing only its democratic face to the world. “All of this is a theatre to pretend that it is not a dictatorship and therefore receive money from other countries.”

Cuba has also taken an alternative path to vaccination, deciding to develop its own vaccine. However, this decision has slowed down the vaccination process. "The Cuban government has increasingly demanded sacrifices," says Bruguera. 

"People's houses are crumbling and there is no medicine." But it is the government that decided to refuse the import of medical aid.

Social media against the regulated internet

Social media platforms have become a separate battleground for protests. Although the government has control over official media channels, protesters have been able to harness the power of social media to tell personal stories that stand in contrast to government propaganda. 

“People started using social media to see what the activists were doing."
Shortly thereafter, the government came up with a decree regulating the use of the internet. People have been threatened in connection with their activity online.

The government’s measures are equivalent to its fear

In the aftermath of the protests, the government issued series of summary trials without the presence of lawyers or a defense. "It has been treated as a police matter instead of a law matter."

During the protests, “you saw all these tourist buses, and out of them you saw coming people dressed in civilian clothes, with sticks, going towards the protesters.” Mrs. Bruguera adds that these imagines were never shown on TV. 

“This is part of the rage that you feel in Cuba – people knew it was a dictatorship, but we never thought that such images would come out of Cuba and such shameless action would come from the president.” 

In this interview, you will learn that:

  • Protests were sparked by political and social demands in combination with grave shortages.
  • Cuba took its own path in developing the vaccine for covid. 
  • Social media play an increasingly important role in Cuban protests. 
  • The government responded with repressions and strict internet regulations.
  • Cubans are not allowed to bring medicine from abroad.
  • Protesters were shocked by the brutality of the dictatorship even towards minors.

Tania Bruguera is a performance artist and activist who is known for her politically charged artworks, usually focused on the political situation in her homeland Cuba. As a result of her art actions and activism, Bruguera has been arrested and jailed several times. In 2015, she founded the Institute of Artivism/Instituto de Artivismo Hannah Arendt (INSTAR) and since recently she works as a Senior Lecturer at Theater, Dance & Media faculty, Harvard.

The interview was recorded on September 7, 2021, and moderated by Lucia Argüellová, Head of the People in Need’s Latin American Program.