Washington D.C., November 15, 2022. — Today, one year ago, hundreds of Cubans were called to march for change, thanks to an initiative lead by a group of citizens known as Archipiélago, that sought through the mobilization to demand the recognition of human rights in Cuba and the release of persons deprived of their liberty for political motivations (political prisoners). The leader of this movement, the activist and playwright Yunior García Aguilera, asked for permission in September 2021 to hold the peaceful protest, but Island authorities prohibited it, reasoning that the march was financed by the United States government with the intention of changing the political system of Cuba. As such, the citizens’ announcement was repressed by the state, which detained 103 people, including a 15-year-old minor, according to the organizations Justicia 11J and Cubalex.
Initially, the march was planned for November 20, but the government announced a series of military exercises that day, and for that reason the date was changed to November 15. However, days before the protests took place, the Cuban government –which had not recognized the right to hold the protest– led a strategy of repression and harassment in all 15 provinces and the special municipality of Isla de la Juventud in order to impede citizens taking to the streets as they had in July 2021, when thousands of people peacefully protested reoccurring failures in electricity, the shortage of food and medicine, and the serious economic crisis, problems that continue today without resolution.
On November 15, also known as 15N, security forces ensured their control over the Island, impeding peaceful protests from being held. Activists, human rights defenders, independent journalists, artists, jurists, and other groups were harassed to prevent them from going out into the streets. Between November 12 and 17 last year 400 repressive actions were registered, such as house arrests, police summons, arbitrary arrests, and cuts to internets services, according to the Observatorio Cubano de Derechos Humanos.
Among those who faced state repression were the members of Archipiélago. The leader of this group, Yunior García, fled the country after he was harassed by State Security; and settled in Spain. Additionally, the activist Daniela Rojo, also part of the movement, was reported missing in the following days.
Why is this date important for the Cuban people?
“Sadly, the march of 15N was not realized because of various factors that the Cuban state was able to take advantage of, like the date change. But what did occur was important for the population in general. It still demonstrated that it was possible to articulate an announcement like this, and that with the right leadership that it is possible to mobilize the people to demand their rights,” affirmed Fernando Palacio, director of the Center for Development and Leadership Studies (CELIDE).
The repression exercised against the announced protest evidenced the human rights violations committed by the Cuban state, which impeded at all costs citizens going out into the streets. “It was a grand campaign coordinated by Archipiélago. It demonstrated that there has been opposition and that more leadership is needed,” expressed José Ernesto Morales, representative of the Consejería Jurídica e Instrucción Cívica in Cuba, who at the time was being held in de facto house arrest, after men from State Security swarmed his home and prohibited him from leaving.
15N represents the attempts by independent civil society to make their claims heard through peaceful and public protest, according to the norms set forth in the Constitution. Still the state disregarded the constitutional right to protest and persecuted organizers.
Currently, the Cuban state continues to repress and harass people who take to the street to demand better life conditions, and for the constant violations of their human rights. In May of this year, the National Assembly of People’s Power approved a new Penal Code that maintained ambiguous crime definitions and increased the penalties of certain crimes, like those that refer to public disorder. Accordingly, this law, which comes into effect on December 1, sanctions acts considered “provocatory”, without specifying this terminology. This could be translated into higher levels of repression against those who participate in public protests.
Race and Equality demands that Cuba authorities guarantee the right to protest as it is established in the Constitution of the country. We also ask that they cease the repression and harassment against activists, jurists, independent journalists, leaders, artists, and human rights defenders. We urge the Cuban state to guarantee human rights, in conformity with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man. At the same time, we call on the establishment of mechanisms that allow them to hear the dissident voices of the island, implementing democratic ways capable of finding a path out the economic and social crisis that grips the island.
 CNN Español. ABC de las protestas del 15 de noviembre en Cuba. November 15, 2022, available at https://cnnespanol.cnn.com/2021/11/15/abc-protestas-cuba-15-noviembre-orix/
 International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights. La represión de las históricas protestas del 11J en Cuba. July 6, 2022, available at http://oldrace.wp/es/blog-es/la-represion-de-las-historicas-protestas-del-11j-en-cuba/
 Observatorio Cubano de Derechos Humanos. OCDH reclama la liberación de los prisioneros políticos y de conciencia en Cuba. November 17th, 2021, available at: https://observacuba.org/ocdh-reclama-liberacion-prisioneros-politicos-conciencia-cuba/
 International Institute on Race, Equality and Human Rights. Raza e Igualdad alerta sobre nuevo código penal que recrudece la criminalización del ejercicio de derechos fundamentales. June 14, 2022, available at http://oldrace.wp/es/cuba-es/raza-e-igualdad-alerta-sobre-nuevo-codigo-penal-que-recrudece-la-criminalizacion-del-ejercicio-de-derechos-fundamentales/