“I’ve just come in through my front door. I’m fine,” begins a message posted on Instagram on July 14 by Cuban YouTuber Dina Stars, who was arrested a day earlier during a live television interview with a news outlet from Spain.
The Cuban authorities detained Stars, a popular online presence and influencer, for allegedly promoting the protests that swept through the country on Sunday. The protest resulted in dozens of arrests, one confirmed fatality and three days of disruption to Cuba’s internet service, which had been used to organize rallies and to disseminate footage across the globe in an unprecedented challenge to the ruling Communist Party of Cuba and President Manuel Díaz-Canel.
“They arrested me for instigation to commit a crime, for promoting the protests. They didn’t torture me. I am on the side of truth. I am being honest with you. Thank you to everyone who was concerned for me,” Stars said on Wednesday after she had been released.
Stars, who enjoys a large online following in Cuba, has emerged as a fierce opponent of Díaz-Canel, who in April was installed as First Secretary of the PCC, Cuba’s most powerful office, after being sworn in as president to succeed Raúl Castro in 2019. Over the past few days, Stars had been giving various interviews to international broadcasters to explain what is happening in Cuba, where anti-government protests are extremely rare. A two-year economic downturn, food shortages, high prices for basic necessities, power cuts and delays in the country’s coronavirus vaccination rollout have led people on to the streets in the first popular demonstrations since the 1990s.
On her social media accounts, Stars had called on people to participate in a fresh protest held on Tuesday 13 July in front of Havana’s Capitolio. When the police arrived at her door, she was heard saying: “On live television I hold the government responsible for anything that might happen to me,” before cutting short the broadcast.
Arrested during live television interview
Stars was being interviewed by the Spanish broadcaster Cuatro on Tuesday when the YouTuber intimated something was happening in the background. “Dina, do you want to say something?” Cuatro presenter Marta Flich asked. “The State security are outside,” she replied. Stars, who was holding the interview from her home in Havana, stopped the conversation and another person picked up the laptop and took it to another room, explaining that “we can’t record at the moment.” Flich asked that the encounter with the police be recorded and Stars’ friend pointed the laptop camera in their direction. The exchange is inaudible but Stars can be seen at the door talking. Shortly afterward, the transmission was restarted and Stars said she had to go.
“Are they going to arrest you?” asked Flich. “I don’t know, they said that I had to accompany them,” Stars replied. The YouTuber had said in previous interviews that she was tired of remaining silent but she was worried about what might happen to her and her family.
Internet services were restored in Cuba on Wednesday after days of confusion and conflicting reports about the protests and incidents on the streets of Havana. “Please, stop putting out false news. I will tell you everything. They didn’t do anything bad to me,” Stars told her followers after her release.
English version by Rob Train.