Following the historic protests on July 11 in Cuba where thousands of residents spoke up against the economic crisis and the lack of civil rights. The Communist-run country hasn’t seen a protest since the August 1994 uprising (known as Maleconazo uprising) and with more than 60 years under the dictatorship the lack of care for its citizens was exacerbated by the coronavirus pandemic. The protests received global coverage with the hashtag #SOSCUBA trending on social media which provided a glimpse into the reality of what was happening though many on the ground were being censored.
Now rights group Cubalex has recorded around 800 detentions and rising, according to Reuters, with many still hesitant to report the arrest of family members. Many of the of 249 who have been released were placed on house arrest, many other remain in what Cubalex director Laritza Diversent described as “preventative jail” while the whereabouts of 10 people remain unknown. Dozens have been sentenced to up to a year in prison or correctional work in summary trials, with simplified procedures and often without the chance of hiring a defense lawyer on time, Diversent said.
“Activists are still being held, many without communication, why are they being denied contact? Why does broadcasting a protest call for maximum security?”@revolucioncuba, a leading voice on social media covering the protests, posted on Instagram.
Reuters reported that Cuban authorities have not provided a total number of those detained but they have carried out trials for 62 people and of those 22 hired a lawyer. Only one was found not guilty of crimes which included public disorder, resisting arrest, and vandalism, Cuban authorities told Reuters. The protesters called for freedom and the trending hashtag on social was #patriayvida and many calling for President Miguel Diaz-Canel, head of the Community Party, to step down.
With tourism shutdown as a result of the pandemic, a large portion of the island’s revenue was significantly decreased causing shortages that led citizens to wait in line for hours for basic goods, Reuters previously reported. @Revolucioncuba reported the inflammation at more than 100 percent so that Cubans couldn’t afford basic food items like rice and beans. Many like @revolucioncuba are reporting on behalf of family members in Cuba who are facing punishments for speaking out.
“My family has been silenced,” emigre Milagros Beirut from her home in Spain told Reuters. She said four of her relatives in Havana and the eastern city of Guantanamo remained behind bars for protesting peacefully. “They’ve been told those detained will receive a stricter sentence if they say anything.”
Many high-profile political activists and dissidents have been detained according to Diversent even if they didn’t participate in the protests. Jose Daniel Ferrer, the leader of Cuba’s largest opposition group, and Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara, head of a dissident artists collective, were both arrested on their way to the protests, according to their supporters, Reuters reported.
“Liberation does not come from authoritarianism. Liberation will not come at the hands of those who already take up the highest spaces in society. Liberation comes from the people, it is for the people,” @revolucioncuba posted in an open letter to the dictatorship.