Mass protests across Cuba, a nation where demonstrations against the government have been tightly controlled in the past, has seen the arrest of dozens including Christian leaders.
Christian Solidarity Worldwide reports: “Protests erupted across the country on 11 July in response to Cuba’s ongoing and severe economic crisis and a record surge in coronavirus cases, before expanding to criticisms of the Cuban Communist Party (CCP)’s decades-long hold on power, crackdown on human rights and pro-democracy movements, and management of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“In response, the government appears to have disconnected the internet in most of the island’s major cities, but reports of violations targeting protesters and religious leaders have continued to emerge.”
There has been an increasing number of arrests of pastors following the weekend demonstrations according to Evangelico Digital, a Latin American news source.
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“Several Cuban evangelical denominations have issued official communiqués in recent days expressing their position following the unprecedented protests …”
“The Evangelical League of Cuba called on ‘the Cuban authorities to listen to the voice of the people and provide solutions based on justice and peace’. In addition, they asked the members of their church to ‘act according to biblical principles’ and all Cuban Christians ‘to remain in prayer for our nation’.
“For his part, the president of the Baptist Convention of Eastern Cuba, Josué Rodríguez, from the city of Santiago was more restrained. The Baptist leader called ‘the pastoral [staff], our missionaries and all Baptist parishioners to sanity. Let’s be wise and balanced in this moment of violence that our people suffer. Let’s avoid excessive stays away from home and take care of our words in the different topics of conversation in which we will participate in these days.’
“The Superintendent General of the Assemblies of God in Cuba, Moisés de Prada, published a video on the Facebook page of his name in which he agrees that the Cuban people need to be heard. ‘The despair, the crisis of medicines, food, the lack of expression, clear, transparent dialogue, has led a people to raise their voices and need to be heard.’
“De Prada emphatically demanded; ‘We are calling for the cessation of repression. We are calling for the cessation of hostilities. We call on the authorities and the people to sanity. Violence breeds violence and the results are harmful,’ he added.”
Evangelico Digital also reports that two pastors who tutor at Carey Seminary in Cuba, Yéremi Blanco Ramírez and Yarian Sierra, were arrested on Sunday. “‘They are imprisoned in a wing of the women’s prison of the city of Matanzas,” said Pastor Jatniel Pérez [Carey’s Cuba Director]. ‘Today the wives of both brothers were able to bring them toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, bedding, underwear and a T-shirt. Just that. Those things for seven days [for those] imprisoned under interrogation and brutal imbalance. Without any hygiene.'”
The BBC reports that Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who succeeded the Castro brothers, “slammed protestors as ‘counter-revolutionaries’ while his foreign minister alleged the demonstrations had been financed and instigated by the United States …”
“There were reports of internet blackouts across the island. Access to mobile internet was rolled out in December 2018 in Cuba but is controlled by the state-owned telecommunications company Etecsa.
“Internet monitoring site Netblocks said access to WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and Telegram had been restricted by Etecsa’s servers. Mobile internet is the main way for Cubans to access independent news and many said the blackouts had increased the sense of ominous unease following the protests.”