Tuesday, January 11, 2022

#SixMonths after #11J protests in #Cuba: Fact checking the Associated Press report on the 11J protests and "collective trials."

"Caution foreign news agencies! Your representatives in these lands are always in danger of becoming hostages, first, and then collaborators of the rulers." - Yoani Sánchez, Generation Y, August 12, 2014

"Be careful what you wish for." - Aesop's Fable

Today marks six months since Cubans across the island took to the streets in over 50 cities and towns calling for freedom and an end to the Castro dictatorship on July 11, 2021.

Regime officials are doing everything possible to terrorize Cubans with long and unjust prison sentences, and a continued militarized presence on Cuba's streets.   

Family members of Cubans jailed on the island for taking part in the July 2021 protests have been calling on news bureaus to report on the political show trials underway. 

International news services had been silent on the matter. This campaign began with EFE, but expanded to include Reuters, the Associated Press, and Agence France Presse. Above is a graphic by Michael Lima Cuadra, of Democratic Spaces calling for news bureaus to "make their plight visible cover the trials."

Cubans march under a banner declaring "Down with dictatorship" and "Patria y Vida"

This is due to a history of the Castro regime ejecting journalists, and entire news bureaus when they report the news accurately. Chicago Tribune's Gary Marx, the BBC's Stephen Gibbs and Cesar Gonzalez-Calero of Mexico's El Universal were all expelled in 2007 from Cuba for offering reporting, that although bending over backwards not to offend, still ran afoul of the regime.  

Fear is not unique to Cubans, and regime officials have spent decades intimidating foreign journalists.

The Associated Press  was expelled from Cuba in 1969. CNN was the first American outfit to return to the island in 1997, and AP soon followed in 1998.

A cursory Google search find that Andrea Rodriguez has been filing stories from Cuba for the AP since 2003. Over the past 19 years she has witnessed many of her colleagues expelled from Cuba, and has had to adapt to survive. This was not lost on opposition activists

Oswaldo Payá Sardiñas, months before his July 22, 2012 murder by the secret police,on September 20, 2011 videotaped his interview with Andrea Rodriguez of the Associated Press and released it because he believed that what he had told her was not fairly reflected in the article she had written.  In the interview he described how victims in Cuba are criticized because no one dare criticize the executioner and offered the following critique that Ms. Rodriguez did not publish:

"There is a real “moral inversion,” in what the foreign media, intellectual circles, ecclesiastical circles, diplomats and politicians are doing against the people of Cuba and against the dissident right now. They judge the persecuted, the poor, those who are silenced, but they do not dare to judge the government."

EFE's reporting on the trials and the 11J protests has its weaknesses. "On July 11, the largest anti-government protests in decades took place in Cuba, spontaneous and massive demonstrations linked to the serious economic crisis that the country went through." They failed to mention that many of the protesters were calling for an end to the dictatorship, and were singing the lyrics of "Patria y Vida" as they marched in the streets.

However, their reporting ends with a telling note that refers to EFE bureau members losing their accreditation. 

"NOTE TO SUBSCRIBERS: The decisions of the Cuban authorities in recent months have decimated the team of the Efe delegation in Havana, where currently only two journalists can continue to carry out their work. Efe hopes to be able to recover its information capacity on the island in the coming days."

 Andrea Rodriguez of the Associated Press demonstrates how she has survived in Cuba all these years. The AP reported gives the following description of 11J.

"Officials initially appeared to be caught off-guard when thousands of Cubans took to the street in cities across the island on July 11 and 12 to protest shortages of goods, power blackouts and economic hardship — with some also calling for a change in government."

The above description does not match with the videos that emerged of the protests in Cuba with the crowd chanting "libertad", "Patria y Vida" and calls for an end to the dictatorship.

However, the most egregious omission by the AP journalist is leaving out the statements by Miguel Diaz-Canel inciting violence and the regime police and paramilitaries firing on unarmed protesters. This is how she described it.

"At least one person died and several shops and vehicles were vandalized or burned."

It began on July 11, 2021 in San Antonio de los Baños, just South East of Havana when Cubans took to the streets in protest. Others saw it streaming live, and also took to the street in cities and towns across the country chanting "Freedom" and "Down with the dictatorship." 

President Miguel Diaz-Canel appeared on official television threatening: "They [protesters] would have to pass over our dead bodies if they want to confront the revolution, and we are willing to resort to anything."

 Cuban protesters were met with extreme violence by the dictatorship, but they continued to take to the streets over three days before the extreme repression shut them down.

On July 14, 2021 the Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero appeared on television and announced that the dictatorship would "temporarily lift restrictions on the quantity of food and medicine incoming travelers could bring into Cuba."

This revealed the lie that the protests were caused by U.S. sanctions. Cubans were protesting the lack of freedom, and the internal blockade imposed on them by the Castro dictatorship. 

It is likely that more than one person died, but officials only recognized one death. The AP report omits that the overwhelming violence, and the one person killed, was unarmed and gun down by regime agents.

Havana officially recognized one Cuban killed during on July 12th during the protests, Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, (age 36). He was shot in the back by regime officials on day two of nationwide protests in Cuba. Reports have been received that family members of those killed have been threatened to remain silent. 

Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, (age 36) shot in the back by regime officials on July 12, 2021.

 Six months later, and many are asking themselves what can be done?  There is a petition circulating, and still gathering signatures, that calls for international action, and also informs the reader on the nature of the Cuban dictatorship.

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