Havana, Cuba The Cuban Communist government has long admired and respected its musicians. In return, many songs are about the early ideas and charm of the revolution. Lyrics like Pablo Milanes, “It’s better to sink into the sea before we betray our former glory” still make Cubans burst into tears.
However, the violence on the streets of Cuba since Sunday has caused a large number of the island’s most famous musicians to publicly criticize the Cuban government, which seems to have softened its stance on the protesters’ demands. Lift some restrictions About food and medicine.
Los Van Van is Cuba’s most famous salsa band, named after Fidel Castro in 1970 who called people to the sugar cane fields to make the island self-sufficient.
On Tuesday night, the Grammy Award winner issued a statement on Facebook saying: “We support thousands of Cubans who claim their rights… We will always support the people, no matter who they are, no matter what they think.”
Adalberto Alvarez is a pianist, director and composer. He is 72 years old and an old-school gentleman in the island’s legendary ballroom. Going out to express the violence of the people they feel inside, it hurts me…Which side am I here? I am with the people.”
In addition to the members of the legendary Elito Revé Orchestra wrote: “Violence is the last resort of the incompetent.”
These announcements are almost The beginning of the demonstration It was in the town of San Antonio de los Banos on Sunday and quickly spread to Cuba.
It is estimated that there are thousands of people in 40 different locations exhausted due to power outages and without access to food and medicine.
In some places, demonstrations became violent, with people throwing stones and overturning vehicles. Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel appeared on television, calling the demonstrators “vulgar, indecent and illegal.”
The images of government forces-police, special forces avispas negras (black hornet) and plainclothes Interior Ministry staff-grabbed protesters from the crowd and dragged them away, shocking the entire country and prompting artists to speak out.
And once some of the biggest names had made their views clear, others followed like a flood. X Alfonso, the musician who founded Fabrica de Arte, the most popular nightspot in Havana, spoke, as did Cimafunk who wrote Me Voy, the biggest hit of recent years.
“Not all of us have to think alike,” said Haila Maria Mompie, a salsa singer who has fronted government projects. “Today we should come together, the ones inside and the ones outside… in order to support the truth and to all of those who suffer.”
Like many of the musicians, she asked for restraint on both sides of the Florida Straits, given comments in the last few days from Miami politicians that all options, including military strikes, should be considered. “[We should not be] Try to kill each other like wild animals,” she said.
In other countries, the art world may react this way. In Cuba, however, opposition to the government often leads to silence. Last month, sixty years ago, Fidel Castro explained his expectations for intellectuals and artists in a famous speech. “In the revolution, everything,” he said. “Against the revolution, there is nothing.”
The 2019 Cuban Constitution attempts to consolidate this idea in Decree No. 349, which seems to require that any artistic activity must be signed by a state agency in advance, which has triggered the first signs of new dissent in Havana.
On November 27, 2020, more than 300 art-related young people gathered outside the Cuban Ministry of Culture to protest the police raid on a group of dissidents on hunger strike. “It makes people feel that this kind of protest is possible,” said a person who participated at the time.
Since then, artists have been subjected to regular and continuous repression, including the famous performance artists Tania Bruguera and Luis Manuel Otero. Alcántara), their recent hunger strike ended in detention in a state hospital.
The latest demonstrations stem from a more general dilemma. Due to the lack of mechanical parts—the government says they cannot be provided due to the 60-year embargo imposed by the United States—Cuba is working hard to generate electricity. In some parts of the country, this means longer power outages.
It said that due to the economic impact of the pandemic and its so-called US “blockade,” the government had difficulty paying bills and imported food, and there was a severe shortage. Protesters in San Antonio de los Banos spoke of “power outages and lack of drugs.”
Many demonstrators chanted “Motherland and Life”, Which means the motherland and life. Patria y Vida is the name of the reggae songs by Deschmer Bueno, Gente de Zona and Yotuel. These artists used to work in Cuba but now live in Miami. It attacked the regime with “It’s over” lyrics. This title is based on the ancient revolutionary slogan Patria o Muerte, which is Motherland or Death.
Since Sunday, the government seems to have been Restrict the internet, Although as of Thursday, the situation has eased.
The Cuban government blamed the U.S. intervention for the protest. “We are experiencing a new chapter in unconventional warfare,” said Rogerio Polanco Fuentes, a senior official of the Cuban Communist Party.
The official media announced on Tuesday that a 36-year-old man, Diubiz Laurencio TejedaHe was killed in a violent protest in La Ginella, a suburb of Havana, on Monday night, saying that the Ministry of Interior “mourned his death” but pointed out that he had a history of criminal activity.
According to Amnesty International, more than 100 people who participated in the demonstration are still missing and presumably arrested.
By Wednesday night, the government admitted that the protesters might have some legitimate concerns.it Shelving restrictions The amount of medicines and food that passengers can bring to the island (So far, the medicines in the luggage of arriving passengers are limited to 10 kg (22 lbs).) The government also waived these items from July 19 to December 31 Customs fees.
Diaz-Canel said: “It may be necessary to apologize to those who may have been confused and abused in the chaos caused by such incidents.”
On Thursday morning, the new tone continued to strengthen: “May Cubans never lack unity, respect and love for life,” the president wrote on Twitter.
COVID restrictions mean that there are few flights into the country, so it is not clear how much impact the removal of restrictions will have.
Not all Cuban artists are far away from the authorities. Silvio Rodriguez, often referred to as Woody Guthrie or Bob Dylan of Cuba, said that the demonstrations were “prepared and encouraged by the imperial regime.”
For artists, a pandemic means a very difficult time. As places such as La Tropical, La Bombilla Verde, Diablo Tun-Tun and El Mejunje fell into darkness, they have been separated from the audience and income for more than a year.
Rafa Escalona, director of the music magazine AM:PM, told Al Jazeera that the appearance of the musician’s statement is important. “More striking is [the musician] The better,” he said.
Earlier, he made a joke on Twitter: “At this rate, and in accordance with its policy of censoring any artists who deviate from the official discourse of the government, I don’t know what Cuban radio and television will broadcast from now on.”