In Other News – Cuban Government opponents denied permission to march in Havanna; US holds two-day virtual summit on cybercrime; & More – October 15, 2021

October 15, 2021

Cuban government opponents denied permission to march in Havana this November, protestors say they will continue without it. On Tuesday, Cuban local authorities rejected the request by a broad group of Cuban artists and dissidents, many reportedly based outside of the country, to hold a rally for civil liberties next month in Havana. The protest was initially scheduled for November 20 but changed to November 15 after the government suddenly designated the 20th as a National Defense Day. November 15, however, marks the date that Cuba is scheduled to reopen its borders to tourists after a two-year Covid-19 shutdown, and active measures of political dissent could be a major disruptor. Cuban authorities, who are on high guard after the rare and widespread anti-government protests last July, have asserted that the aspiring November protestors are linked to subversive organizations and aim for regime change, likely instigated by the United States. According to a statement on the dissident coalition’s Facebook page, protestors are planning to march with or without permission, subjecting them to a potentially violent response and even imprisonment as seen last summer.

United States holds two-day virtual summit on cybercrime, Russia not included. This week the United States held a two-day meeting with representatives from over 30 countries to discuss key cybercrime issues, like prosecuting ransomware criminals and the role of virtual currency in illicit payments, emphasizing that international collaboration is necessarily to thwart the global threat. Australia, Germany, India, and the United Kingdom each headed up a core session. According to a senior US official, Russia was not invited to the meeting due to “various constraints”, but future participation is not off the table. The United States initiated bilateral talks with Russia on ransomware over the summer, where President Biden reportedly shared information about criminal activity emanating from Russian territory, but Putin hasn’t responded with any visibly significant actions thus far. While major cybercrime actors from Russia, and for that matter China, won’t be easily deterred without direct action on the part of Putin and Xi, ransomware criminals often employ transnational networks to launder money across multiple countries and jurisdictions, and there could be opportunities for allies to block criminal behavior along the way.

Iraqi parliamentary election results signal disillusionment with Iran, broader Iraqi political apparatus. Earlier this week, allies of Shi’a cleric Moqtada al-Sadr gained the bulk of Iraqi parliamentary seats, upsetting Iran-backed groups who did much better in 2018 and are already stating they’ll appeal the election results. In recent years, al-Sadr, who is remembered for leading a resistance against US troops back in 2003, has adopted a nationalist bent and gained momentum in his rallying cry against corruption and all foreign interference in Iraqi affairs− particularly by the United States and Iran. But in addition to revealing significant divisions among Shi’a factions in the country, the recent elections showed a great disillusionment of politics in general. Voter turnout of about 40% marked a record low in the post-Saddam Hussein era, indicating widespread distrust of Iraqi politicians and general skepticism about the ability for citizens to affect change; the number of younger voters was especially low.