‘I make the government responsible for whatever happens to me,’ activist says before facing authorities
One man has died following a clash between protesters and police in Cuba, as an influencer and activist appeared to be arrested live on air during an interview in which she criticised the government.
Dina Stars was reportedly detained by Cuban authorities when she was speaking to Spanish news programme Todo Es Mentira, as the island nation was rocked by widespread protests.
Amid the clashes, one man died and more than 140 have been arrested or been reported missing during the rare protests against the island nation’s communist regime.
Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, 36, died in a Havana suburb on Monday as protesters faced the police. The interior ministry of Cuba didn’t reveal the cause of death but alleged that he had been a part of a group that attacked a state facility. But witnesses say government forces attacked the protesters.
State media said that Mr Tejeda had been involved in “disturbances” in the La Güinera neighbourhood on Monday, where a group reportedly attacked a government building. State media reported that several people suffered injuries, including members of the security forces.
The interior ministry accused protesters of vandalism, setting fires, and of attacking both police officers and civilians. But witnesses have said police attacked peaceful protesters.
Resident Waldo Herrera told Reuters that officers shot at protesters.
“I think the Communists have lost control, they won’t have a solution to this situation,” he said.
Influencer and activist Dina Stars has been a vocal critic of the government and was speaking to Spanish Cuatro TV on Tuesday when she was seemingly detained.
The broadcast shows a friend enter her room to say security services are outside.
“Security is out there … I have to go out,” Ms Stars told presenter Marta Flich.
“I make the government responsible for whatever happens to me,” she said as she stood up to face them. “They’re forcing me to go with them. I have to go,” she said, adding that they told her she had to come with them to a Havana police station.
Ms Stars, 25, have been using her online presence to report on the protests, previously sharing a video of a Havana demonstration and images of counter-protesters in favour of the government carrying sticks.
On Instagram, where she has 71.000 followers, she posts using the hashtag #SOSCUBA, which is popular among members of the protest movement calling for the government to resign.
The reported arrest comes after days of tense protests in Havana and around the country. The demonstrations, prompted by economic struggles, have led to a government crackdown – social media and messaging apps such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Telegram were suspended on Monday, according to internet monitoring company NetBlocks.
The government claims that the protests have been organised and supported by the US, and also blamed the country’s financial crisis on US sanctions implemented by the Trump administration following former President Barack Obama’s attempt to normalise relations with Cuba during his presidency.
As hundreds of protesters shouted “down with communism” in the Havana suburb of La Guinera on Monday, the protest turned violent as demonstrators met police. Reuters reported that two residents heard gunfire.
Ms Stars is one out of around 148 people who have been arrested or disappeared since protests began on Sunday. Among them are seven journalists, according to US-based organisation Cubalex.
The group said 12 people had been released as of Tuesday afternoon. “They don’t want anyone to tell the world what is happening. They’ve cut off the internet,” the group tweeted.
A majority of those detained were arrested over the weekend with a smaller number being picked up in the following days.
“It is really hard to know and verify what is happening now because of the internet blackouts,” Amnesty International researcher Louise Tillotson told NPR.
With no information from official sources, she added that “we don’t know if these people will be charged, what they will be charged with, or if they will be let go”.
“We don’t even know where they are so it’s hard to get specific information,” she said.