by Christopher Hodapp
(This story has been updated 7/25/2021)
Anti-government demonstrations have rocked Cuba all week as that nation's economy continues to collapse. Thousands of Cubans have filled the streets protesting the nation's Communist leadership over the economy, food and medicine shortages, price hikes, and the government's handling of the pandemic.
Protests began on Sunday in the city of San Antonio de los Baños, southwest of Havana, but have quickly spread across the country. Observers say these are Cuba's worst anti-government demonstrations in decades. That's considered significant because critics against the government in Cuba usually face harsh punishment.
On Wednesday, MW Ernesto Zamura Fernandez, Grand Master of the Grand Lodge of Cuba (Gran Logio de Cuba de Antiguos Libres y Aceptados Masones), issued a statement to his members concerning the civil unrest in that country. (Click the image to enlarge.) The Brother who forwarded it to me included this translation:
Declaration of the Grand Lodge of Cuba of Ancient, Free and Accepted Masons
Because of the situation in the country, we have advocated among the masons that fanaticism not prevail, that not enmity nor hate nor violence prevail among Cubans, that rights be defended firmly and in the correct manner and that they always be on the side of justice; all with the objective of preserving peace. Similarly, we have urged the Government that dialogue and tolerance are the paths to resolving any differences and to respect the rights of citizens.
Today we watch with sadness that something that could be seen coming due to discontent and grievances among the population has materialized in protests around the country. It is not strange that the authorities and security forces would try to dissolve and contain them. But it is also the case that the excessive use of force by those empowered to keep order is concerning. Based on the facts from Masons throughout the country, we consider that [the use of excessive force] only tend to exacerbate passions more and in the long term harm the peace of the nation.
The call for confrontations between Cubans is unacceptable. These errors should not be normalized because once implanted they end in discrimination, injustice and separation. They have taught us over three centuries that Cuba is made by all, belongs to all, and for the good of all.
A day such as today, the 14th of July [anniversary of the Cuban revolution/coup] thrust our society devoted to Liberty, Equality and Fraternity and we remember the Universal Declaration on the Rights of Man that makes clear that all people are born free and equal in dignity and rights; it proclaims that all are equal before the Law and have, without distinction, rights to equal protection under the Lay against all discrimination; and affirms that everyone has right with perfect equality to be heard publicly.
The Grand Lodge of Cuba and the Masons, whatever their conviction, are on the side of the Cuban people and advocate for peace, concord and social justice. We urge tolerance, the search for truth and fraternal love be the modes that prevail in all circumstances.
UPDATED JULY 25, 2021:The Supreme Commander of the Scottish Rite in Cuba, Illus. José Ramon Viñas Alonso, issued his own letter to President Miguel Diaz-Canel, accusing the government of constantly blaming the country’s problems on the U.S. trade embargo rather than recognizing his own responsibility (click image below to enlarge).
The following is an imperfect machine translation of his letter. I do not speak or write Spanish and I do not wish to misrepresent his precise wording. If anyone can provide a more correct translation, please forward it to me at firstname.lastname@example.org:
We are writing to you with the purpose of letting you know our rejection of your position and direction [as the head] of the country, for summoning, inciting and ordering a confrontation with violence towards the Cuban people, also arrests and violence against peaceful protesters and citizens who think contrary to the system that you represent. At the same time, we declare our disagreement to always justifying the crisis in which the country is plunged due to external reasons ([the U.S.] Blockade), without recognizing the responsibility and ineffectiveness of [your own] government.
Illus. Alonso later posted on his Facebook page that he had been summoned to a police station where three officials questioned him over the letter. In a show of the growing sense of defiance in Cuban society, he suggested that the officers should instead visit the Masons where they could all speak on an equal footing. “As I left, there was a cluster of brothers waiting for me, defying the curfew about to start – Masonic pride… thank you, thank you!”
88 years ago during the government of General Gerardo Machado Morales, this same Supreme Council wrote to the president [condemming] the violence against his people. [As their] worthy heirs today we do the same. This social outbreak throughout the island shows the manifest dissatisfaction in which the country lives. [T]he members of the Supreme 33rd Degree Council for the Republic of Cuba, being part of the Institution that in that time most influenced the independence and society of this country, we have the prestige and history as guarantors and thus assume our position on the side of the people from Cuba, without considering in these [words] any disrespect for [your] high investiture as president of the country, but as a sincere and necessary position.