By Marc Frank
HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba on Friday announced it would hold annual military exercises on November 18 and 19, leading to a civil defense readiness day on November 20, when dissidents plan human rights protests in all the countries.
The communist-ruled country was rocked by social unrest for two days in July, with the biggest anti-government protests in decades resulting in hundreds of arrests, one death, and calls for US intervention by some Cubano- Americans.
A brief armed forces statement released in state media said defense exercises, canceled last year, would resume in tandem with other activities as a vaccination campaign nears its goal of immunizing the whole. of the population against COVID-19.
The purpose of the November 20 protests, called by a Facebook group called Archipelago, is to call for civil liberties, including the right to peaceful protest and an amnesty for jailed government opponents.
Well-known opponents of the government are among those who remain behind bars after the unrest on July 11 and 12, with some facing long sentences.
Archipelago members say the group has some 20,000 members, many of whom live outside the country.
The government’s defense preparations are part of a military doctrine known as the “Whole People’s War” designed to respond to a US invasion. On the last day, thousands of civilians evacuate work centers, attend to the wounded, participate in weapons training and logistical support such as bullet making and cooking.
Civilians have also been used in the past to support the government in times of public dissent, with protesters harassed by members of local bloc committees known as Revolutionary Defense Committees, for example, or official unions. .
“They intend to further militarize the country for 20N (November 20),” tweeted playwright Yunior Garcia, administrator of Archipelago and leader of the planned protests.
Unlike the July unrest, which was largely spontaneous, the group asked for permission to demonstrate in various cities on November 20, to which the government has yet to respond.
âFaced with the civility of our march, they respond with the threat of arms. Why be so afraid that people will say what they think? Weapons, no! Rights, âGarcia said.
Cuban authorities have long characterized dissidents as small groups in the pay of the United States. They accuse their opponents of working with Washington to stir up unrest during the pandemic and impose increasingly severe economic sanctions in hopes of overthrowing the government.
Residents have faced shortages of food, medicine and more amid coronavirus closures and a blow to the tourism industry, and had to endure long queues, high prices and power outages in recent years.
(Reporting by Marc Frank; Editing by Frances Kerry)