Last Sunday, at six in the morning, Abraham Jiménez Enoa went out to the balcony of his house to have a coffee. An unusual movement at the door of his building caught his eye. Amid the bustle of people, he identified a police patrol. Without letting any more time pass, Abraham decided to lower the garbage with the sole intention of understanding what was happening. He asked his partner to stay tuned. There was only one day left until the opposition protests on November 15.
With one foot out of the building, the 32-year-old Cuban journalist, a columnist for the The Washington Post and from the mexican magazine Gatopardo, received an order from a policeman to return home. The agent needed no more than a signal from a distance to order him to turn around. He raised his index finger in the air and pointed to the door of the building. Abraham asked him why. “You know,” says the agent responsible for the operation, the only one of the four officers who identified himself as a member of state security. Out of fear of being arrested, Abraham obeyed. It was not the first time that happened to him.RELATED
“It is a usual practice of the Cuban government before independent journalists, opponents, dissidents, against anyone who dares to raise their voice and tell about this reality that the government does not want to be told,” he says.
It is Tuesday and Abraham has not been able to leave his building for three days. “I am on my third day of house arrest,” he says. On Sunday, when he asked how long he should stay at home, the answer was: “Indefinitely.” They will let you know when you can go out again. Still waiting for the answer.
Were the protests on Monday able to materialize?
It has been practically impossible to manifest. Most of the citizens who had publicly said that they were going to go out were controlled by police fences. Those who could evade the fence, could only take a few steps, opened their mouths and were arrested. It is still not possible to speak of figures. The Government had a clean street. Cuba looked like a hackneyed scene from a movie in which you know something bad is about to happen. There was no one on the streets. An absolute silence. But of course, they had been cleaned, they had imposed terror, people were afraid to go out. But in addition, the regime put on a show in the main parks to make people believe that nothing was happening and that those who had taken to the streets were the revolutionaries.
What was the government’s reaction?
The response has been repression to drown out the protests. A repression that did not begin now. Already for a few weeks, the Government has been militarizing the streets, began to arbitrarily interrogate most of the citizens who had expressed their desire to participate on social media and many were threatened with arrest.
What is the main difference between Monday’s call and the July 11 protests?
In July, the protests were totally unexpected. They were spontaneous. They exploded when no one thought they were going to explode and that is what caught the regime off guard. Now, with an advance call, the regime prepared.
During the previous protests, Cuba suffered an Internet blackout that prevented access to social networks and messaging applications, how was this experienced now?
In July, as everything was unleashed when they did not expect it and suddenly they had the country on the street, they had no choice but to cut the Internet so that those images would not appear, so that people could not tell what was happening. This time they didn’t even have to cut the internet because no one could get out, no one could broadcast live because the whole world was controlled. And of course, turning off the Internet is exposing yourself to public opinion, saying that Cuba violates the rights to freedom of expression, and so on. So they decided to leave the internet to these poor sheep but leave them in the stable. This reveals the magnitude of the regime’s police operation.
Is it the first time you have been forbidden to leave your home?
This is not the first time this has happened to me. It is the usual practice of the Cuban Government before independent journalists, opponents, dissidents, against anyone who dares to raise their voice and tell about this reality that the Government does not want to be told.
How was the previous time?
It was late last year. They summoned me to attend a police unit for an alleged interrogation. When I arrived, they detained me, handcuffed me, undressed me and put me in a car, head down, handcuffed, not knowing where I was going. They took me to the state security center where they held me for a few hours and threatened me with jail time. It was a mafia-like maneuver. That scene of transporting me with my head down and not knowing where they are taking me caused quite a stir internationally.
After that, did you experience a similar situation?
After that nothing had happened to me until now. But as the repression continued to increase, impacting the rest of my colleagues and civil society in general, I knew it could touch me back and it did.
In past protests, civilian-clad security agents also acted, why do you think they act in this way?
Because it is the government’s way of hiding, imposing its control over the citizenry and going unpunished. This way you can tell that the arrests are not true.
The persecution you describe, do you also feel it from your neighbors or is it limited to state security agents?
In Cuba, you know, or at least intuit, that everyone around you can create a problem for you, you can give it away. The point is that I am not a criminal, I am not a terrorist, I have nothing to hide and I act like one. So I am not hiding. But yes, it makes me very helpless when you see something of that magnitude.
Has there been a change on the island since the July 11 protests?
Yes, evidently something moved the Government. They have been very nervous and have left the streets militarized, their eyes are on everywhere and the repression has increased a lot. And it is that in 62 years it had never happened that in almost the entire island people came out to express their discontent and shout “down with the dictatorship.” In this country, going out to demonstrate is almost a utopia.
What is the current situation of the protesters?
It must be said that there are 1,270 protesters who are still in detention or who have been prosecuted. Of them, more than 600 are imprisoned today. So that speaks of the way the regime wants to exemplify and has taken those political prisoners to strike a blow at the authority.
Have you thought about leaving Cuba?
Well, I can’t leave Cuba. That has been one of the measures that the Government has imposed on me, more than five years ago, for doing journalism. They call it ‘”immigration regulation”, which is like an arbitrary measure, because it is not in the law, it is nowhere, which prevents me from leaving the country. There is a list of cases, it amounts to almost 300 people. On the list there are journalists, opponents, dissidents who cannot leave the country. I am on that list. In fact, I have never left Cuba.
He would like?
Yes of course. I would like to go out for a while, I don’t know if definitely, but a time to take care of my mental health, to take care of my family and to see another reality. Above all that. Because apart from being a journalist, I am a citizen and in my 32 years I do not know another reality that is not the island. In fact, it scares me a bit because obviously Cuba is another galaxy.
What do you expect for the next few weeks?
The civic platform, which has called for these protests, has extended the civic day until the 27th. I don’t know what will happen to that. What I do believe is that the fact that the protests did not take place this Monday does not close the disagreement. People stay at home but are left without food, without medicine, without being able to express themselves freely. So it is a nuisance that is still choked and that at some point it will explode again as it exploded in July. I don’t know if it’s going to be tomorrow, I don’t know if it’s going to be a week, in a month, in three months, in five or six. But it will happen again. There is no way to control that nonconformity. There is a vast majority of the 11 million Cubans who are against this government.