A group calling for an end to the repressive government in Cuba has a simple message for Canadians who are thinking of visiting the island this winter: Don’t.
“Tourists see the beautiful hotels and the beaches but don’t understand they are propping up a government which has no respect for human rights,” said Alba Serena, one of the organizers of a rally that attracted 150 people in front of the TVA headquarters Saturday.
“The media has ignored the situation in Cuba,” Serena said. “We see stories all the time about how bad things are in Venezuela, but all we see about Cuba is the beaches. People need to know that you if go an hour away from those beaches, there are people who are starving.”
The Montreal gathering was part of a series of events held around the world in support of San Isidro Movement, a group of artists and intellectuals formed in 2018 to protest against a government crackdown on freedom of speech. The movement attracted international attention last week when it decried the arrest of rapper Denis Solis. He was sentenced to eight months in prison for contempt for calling a policeman a “chicken in a uniform.”
Two members of the group, Cuban artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara and academic Anamely Ramos González, are being held incommunicado after being arrested last week. Amnesty International has described the two as prisoners of conscience.
A large number of protesters were detained last week and at least eight members of the group are on a hunger strike.
“The people who were arrested were released the next day, but now they are confined to their homes and there are policemen outside,” Serena said.
Cuba has long blamed an economic boycott by the United States for its domestic problems, but Serena said the government neglects its people.
“All they care about is the tourists and themselves,” she said. “There are people who are living on sugar and water and kids have nothing but a slice of bread with oil spread on it. Kids are bullied at school by the teachers if their parents complain about conditions.
“Tourists see a paradise, but that’s not the reality for the 11 million people who live there.”
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