He gave notice that he would appear Friday at a well known streetcorner in Vedado – La Rampa and G, Avenida de los Presidentes, a place where huge numbers of Cuban youth congregate at night, especially on weekends.
Days before, the government announced that a street festival would occur at that place and time. Escobar showed up and, needless to say, the “verbal duel” didn’t take place. He was met by a mob, roughed up, packed into a car, driven well past his neighborhood, and dropped off.
Penultimos Dias has a collection of videos, and AP’s coverage is here. Nothing about the event seems spontaneous, right down to the plainclothes agents stepping in to shield Escobar from “the people.”
To people watching from abroad, this was the opposite of a display of strength. But it’s part of a set of strategies that the Cuban government uses to suppress opposition: pure police power, infiltration of agents in opposition groups to gain information and sow dissension, and occasional unveiling of agents so the public knows that opposition groups are partially populated by state security poseurs. Plus, in this case, a message to Escobar, his friends, and the Cuban public that control of the streets is not in doubt.
Escobar wrote that he returned to his street and found it “full of friends, among them Father Jose Conrado who embraced me and gave me a piece of advice I’ll never forget: ‘Forgive them.’”