Wed Jul 17, 2024
July 17, 2024

Freedom for the Political Prisoners of the Cuban Dictatorship

The degrading of the living conditions of the Cuban people led, on June 11th, to the biggest demonstrations against the government of the isle since 1959, in more than 60 cities, in the 14 provinces and on the special municipality of Isla de la Juventud. Slogans heard included “Down with the dictatorship” and “Liberation”[1]. The demonstrations erupted due to the food shortages, the power outages and the effects of the economic crisis, worsened by the pandemic.

By Americo Gomes
The demonstrations were most composed by popular sectors, which have nothing to do with the bourgeois right-wing or pro-imperialist groups (they are not “mercenaries”, “enemies of socialism”, “gusanos”, “counterrevolutionaries”, or “agents in service of imperialism”) but rather popular sectors that move because their life has gotten worse.
These conditions have fallen further even after January 1st, 2021, with the so called “Day Zero”, when a monetary ordering[2] combined with a wage reform changed personal incomes and social services, as well a correction of prices and the elimination of subsidies, which the government considered “excessive and undue”, which will affect transport and the essential foods[3]. 
The worsening of the economic situation is a fruit of the restoration of capitalism, carried out by the government itself, combined with the criminal blockade carried out by US imperialism, all of that added to the Covid pandemic. These facts have enormously affected the economy and attacked workers’ lives.
For the Diaz-Canel administration these measures are essential to end decades of “inefficiency” in the economy and increase productivity, for the people they mean an increase in their misery.
Repression increases
After the protests on July 11th, the Castroist government, now led by president Diaz-Canel, has intensified the repression against the Cuban people and youth, criminalizing even more social struggle, arresting and mistreating activists and young people that took to the streets, solely for the “deviation” of expressing their opinions. Many people have been kept detained on the last months as political prisoners or prisoners of conscience.
In response to the 11 July demonstrations, Cuban authorities have used the same control machinery they have used for decades to act against those that think different, though now in a scale unseen in nearly 20 years and with new tactics that include censorship and Internet cuts to control and cover the grave violations of human rights they have committed[4].
The amount of violations of human rights, after the demonstrations, point to a policy of repression directed towards recovering control and reestablishing a culture of fear that dominates Cuban society, arresting, detaining and criminalizing, on different degrees, the people who have protested.
Many Human Rights entities and organizations of the labor and union movement, in a series of countries around the world, have documented crimes and rights violations by the governmental agents. Thus they are joining the campaign that demands immediate freedom, without conditions, to the hundreds of people who were arrested for protesting.
Most of those arrested are being charged with felonies that are really accusations used to silence dissidence, like “public disorder” or “disobedience”. Which was confirmed by an article published in Cubadebate (a pro-government newspaper)[5]. Of the 62 people judged by facts related to 11-J, most of the charges were about these so-called felonies, as well as “resistance”, “instigation of delinquency” and “damages”. Which contradicts the official version that most of them are being judged for violent crimes.
Violations of the right to defense
After the mass detentions on 11-J, protesters who were detained, as well as those who remain locked up, have reported a series of violations of due legal process and their right to defense.
Many arrested and/or released are not informed of their legal situation. In some cases they are told only their sentence or the punishment due, like “present yourself to sign a document every week”, or told to “pay a fine”, in values that are often two or even four times that of the medium Cuban wage.
It’s even worse when they are informed that even after leaving prison “the charges are not withdrawn”, or aren’t even informed of their legal situation, making them terrified of being against arrested at any moment.
The witnesses selected to talk about “authors, facts and circumstances” were mostly officers and chiefs of the National Revolutionary Police (many times appointed as those who were “assaulted”), officers of the DTI and other agents of the State, which demonstrates how partial the courts were.
Since in many judgments no documentation is produced to inform of the court decisions, it’s impossible to make a proper analysis about the decision taking.
Those that remain jailed face common penal processes. To them are attributed more serious crimes, like aggravated public disorder, attempt, or crimes against State Security.
Cubadebate published an information, given from the Attorney General of the Republic’s Office  itself, about 35,4% of the accused had access to a defense lawyer. The Office also said that, in spite of this, there were detected no violations of legality in any of the complaints against the MININT (Interior Ministry of Cuba).
In the end, most of the released are “people with some visibility: artists, students, undergraduates, people with support networks.” Many of those who remain imprisoned are “invisible”, poor, sick and incapacitated[6].
Detention regime: incommunicability and disappearings
The detained have denounced that the cells are tiny, unhygienic and that there is no medical care. They have suffered threats and insults, were submitted to humiliating acts, false charges, and threats of death and damage to family and cherished people; submitted to extreme temperatures; hunger or thirst; sleep deprivation and isolation.
Besides, there is a cut in the contact with the outside world, without notifying relatives or friends about the detention, and denial of the right to receive visitors. Many prisoners were sent to jails away from their provinces.
Prisoners were kept without their legal defenders for more than a week. Families were deprived of information, stopped from making contact or locating their sons and daughters.
There were many cases of this regime of incommunicability, although the General Attorney’s Office denies all of them.
Supreme People’s Court magistrate Joselín Sánchez declared to Granma[7] that the Office received 215 complaints after July 11, mainly to help locate the detained.
There were also cases of forced disappearance, whose location of the detainees were systematically denied.
También hubo casos de desaparición forzada, con arrestos donde se negaba a revelar el paradero de los detenidos.
Claiming  danger of Covid contagion, Cuban authorities denied family visits. This could be justified in other circumstances, but it should be compensated by potentiating other forms of contact, like allowing phone, Internet, e-mail and video-calls, as well as allowing the families to deliver food and other articles.
Furthermore, nothing indicates the Cuban authorities were really concerned with prison contagion, since the conditions of humidity, lack of space and bad hygiene were general, and no measures of social distancing, nor others to prevent Covid-19.
During the demonstration, police repression
“The order for combat is given: revolutionaries, to the streets”, ordered Díaz-Canel on July 11th, green-lighting assaults by both the State repression forces and the government supporters in paramilitary groups (which attacked the protesters with bats, stones and sticks).
The attacks of the Special Forces, especially the “Black Berets”, but also of police officers and State security were widely denounced. Police brutality, mistreatment and violence against the population, the youth and especially women – many of the detained were submitted to embarrassing body searches by male agents. The violence left them with bruises on arms and knees, a product of the treatment they were given by the agents of State.
It is also known of people who were kept inside police vehicles and trucks under the hot sun, and others kept locked at home despite not having been charged with anything.
Search and apprehension and home detentions
The repression did not happen solely during the demonstrations. State agents, after the protest, acted against the youth they suspected of having taken part. They took them off their beds, at times with no shoes or clothes, and brought them to prison in police vehicles.
When not directly searching and apprehending them, the State agents organized vigilance and monitoring against the demonstrators, permanently following them, imposing psychological terror and the constant threat of locking them away.
Home reclusions
Another tactic used by the Cuban State is to formally issue home reclusion orders, thus restricting freedom of movement. After the 11-J demonstrations, many people who left the prison and had charges against them repealed, had to submit to home detention, where they must remain home leaving only to their place of work or study, or for health care, and only with formal legal judicial authorization.
Internet interruptions and denial
On 11-J itself there was a general interruption of Internet service in the whole country and, afterwards, a reduction in network traffic until July 12th, according to measurements. Since then, the authorities regularly block instant messaging apps like Whatsapp, Telegram and Signal.
The regime used its allegiance with Chinese companies Huawei e ZEF, responsible for the internet cuts, to demobilize the protests. Huawei is also responsible for dissident monitoring and vigilance in Zambia and Uganda. 
Immediate freedom for all political prisoners in Cuba! End persecution now!
Faced with all the situation we described, the IWL-FI considers it urgent that all labor and popular organizations internationally join the campaign that demands that the government of Miguel Díaz-Canel immediately and unconditionally releases all people detained exclusively for exercising their right to political manifestation.
There are no precise numbers about the current number of prisoners. A coordination of the task force about detentions for political motives, the Justice 11J, talks about between 897 and 1167 “detained citizens” [8], with 480 arrested (96 released under bail and 41 under house arrest). At least 10 minors remain detained[9], aged between 15 and 18 years, who can be tried as adults after 16 years old on the island. Some processes were transferred to the Military Attorney’s Office because of changes in charges, due to supposed attacks against places that belong to the business-military conglomerate GAESA [10].
It is essential to reiterate the petition signed by lawyers and defenders of international Human Rights entities and organizations of the working class, like unions and popular movements, to have access to Cuba to monitor the situation of the detained. As well as asking that these entities may observe the next trials of people who remain under detention.
The repression is prepared for the 15N demonstration
On Thursday, October 21st, the Cuban regime, through the General Attorney of the Republic’s Office, has summoned a series of members of the Archipiélago group, among them playwright Yúnior García, to warn them of legal consequences if they persist in organizing a public demonstration. This was preceded by a series of persecutions and repressions through threats, interrogatories and even work dismissals, like those that happened to Daniela Rojas, arrested; physician Manuel Guerra, detained for some hours and fired from his job; the layoff of university teacher David Martinez and the persecution against Yúnior García, among others.
The Cubadebate portal published a note by General Attorney’s Office informing that, if similar demonstrations are organized in the provinces of Villa Clara, Cienfuegos and Holguín, the protesters will be charged with “disobedience, illicit manifestation, instigation of delinquency” and others. The government qualifies the manifestation as “illegal” and, supposedly, oriented towards “destroying socialism”[11].
Yúnior, on leaving the Province Attorney’s Office in La Habana, declared: “I don’t see a single institution on the country on which I was born that places itself on our side, on the citizens’ side, who are not mercenaries nor are receiving orders from anywhere. We are simply openly showing a difference of opinion, of criteria, of perspectives about the country of which we dream and want to build”.
We repeat our support to the 15N call, and call on all political, labor and social organizations to defend the right of the Cuban people to demonstrate. To demand from the government that it allows its realization and repudiate the repression, which is already going on, against its organizers and participants.
[4] Erika Guevara Rosas, Director for the Americas of Amnesty International
[5] On August 4th
[9] The list is here:
[11]    About this:
Translated by Miki Sayoko

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