Pro-democracy activists in Cuba say they will take to the streets on Monday to demand freedom and basic rights, despite a move to prohibit demonstrations by the country’s regime.
For months, Cuban activists have been planning a “Civic March for Change” in support of civil and human rights, following the widespread rallies that erupted on July 11 amid a nationwide shortage of basic goods.
At least 1,000 Cubans were detained by the Cuban Communist Party following those protests. Hundreds still remain in jail, according to analysis by civil rights group Cubalex.
Demonstrators have long called for an end to the communist regime.
Miguel Díaz-Canel, who heads the Cuban Communist Party, has banned the public protests, arguing that they are part of a U.S.-backed destabilization campaign and an attempt to overthrow the regime. U.S. officials have denied the allegations.
Demonstrators say they plan to participate in a string of rallies across the island this week.
“I believe in a diverse country and I think we have to completely do away with the one-party system which limits too many individual rights,” Cuban playwright Yunior García, 39, who leads an online opposition group called Archipiélago, told The Guardian.
The group, which has some 31,500 members, attempted to get official permission from the Cuban government for the march, but their request was quickly shut down.
“I believe that the role of art is to awaken,” García separately told the New York Times. “We have to shake things up so that people with dignity that make up society decide to change things.”
“We stand firm. We want to march and demand our rights,” Archipiélago member and poet Daniela Rojo, 26, told NPR outside her home in Havana. “The pressure has been intense against those who’ve called for the marches.”
Rojo, a single mother, who was detained for 23 days following the rallies in July, told the news outlet that Archipiélago members have faced police questioning and detention, while some have been fired from state jobs.
Those who do not feel comfortable rallying in the streets have been encouraged by protest organizers to hang white sheets outside their homes, the New York Times reported.
Earlier this month Cuban Foreign Minister, Bruno Rodriguez accused individuals organizing the rallies of being funded by the U.S. Archipiélago members interviewed by the Times denied receiving funding from the U.S. government.
“The U.S. government knows that, with its actions, it is provoking instability and violence,” Rodriguez said.
Rojo told The Guardian that she wants her children to grow up in a country “where they can express themselves freely.”
In a statement on Sunday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken urged Cuba to “reject violence, and instead, embrace this historic opportunity to listen to the voices of their people” ahead of the planned protests.
“The United States stands with the people of Cuba. We commend their bravery and unwavering pursuit of democracy, prosperity, and fundamental rights and freedoms,” the statement added.