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July 11: The cry for freedom will begin in Manzanillo

On July 11 of last year, Cuba seemed ready for political change. The protests, the largest since the assassin Fidel Castro took power in 1959, rocked the communist-run island as Cubans took to the streets demanding social reforms and an end to the dictatorship.

But the rallies were short-lived. Since then, the Alejandro Castro Espín dictatorship has sentenced hundreds of people to prison on charges ranging from public disorder to sedition, prompting activists to allege rights violations. Other dissidents, under pressure and seeing momentum fading, have fled the island.

More than 140,000 Cubans, from all walks of life, have left for the United States since October, US government figures show, the largest exodus from Cuba in decades.

That migration, combined with a broader crackdown on dissent, has left the legacy and future of one of the boldest protest movements since the start of the Cuban revolution in limbo, analysts say.

“To a large extent, discontent has left the country,” said Bert Hoffmann, an expert on Latin America at the German Institute for Global and Area Studies. “To be sustainable over time, (the movement) needs organization.”

A year later, Cuban exiles and supporters outside the country have called rallies to commemorate the date, and within the island there are signs of plans for peaceful protests. Manzanillo is the town that will take the initiative in less than a week.

Manzanillo has managed to inspire and break a barrier. The dictatorship knows perfectly well that tensions are still there, and that any small protest could spark the beginning of the end. For this he continues to terrify the people, but those from the east are known for their bravery.

While the protests of the past year have faded, the economic crisis seen as their catalyst has not. Long lines for food, public transportation, fuel and medicine fuel frustration. Power outages are frequent.


The protests are here to stay in Cuban society and overthrow the dictatorship.

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José Martí
José Martí
Nacionalista cubano, poeta, filósofo, ensayista, periodista, traductor, profesor y editor.

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