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In Cuba’s poorest neighborhoods, youths could face decades in jail after protests -Breaking


© Reuters. On October 8, 2021, people walk beneath a Cuban flag in Havana. REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

Marc Frank and Mario Fuentes

LA GUINERA, Cuba (Reuters). Young Cuban protesters living in Havana’s most poor neighborhoods will spend decades behind bars during upcoming trials. This is amid a crackdown against those involved last year in unprecedented antigovernment demonstrations.

Protests took place on July 11-12 in many cities and towns throughout the island. They denounced the communist government, shortages of medicine, food, and electricity. This was at a moment when coronavirus infections were on the rise.

According to human rights monitors, more than 1000 people were detained following protests. The trial of people accused of serious offenses began in December and has led to some sentences of over 20 years imprisonment, according to interview with relatives and the groups.

The Cuban government didn’t respond to Reuters’ request for comment regarding the trial.

However, authorities on the island have stated that those who were arrested had been convicted of public disorder and resisting arrest. Cuba accuses the United States of funding and encouraging the unrest in July.

Reuters talked to more than a dozen La Guinera residents in Havana District, which saw a protest on July 12, followed by vandalism, a clash with police, and the death of the sole victim. They said that the youth from their neighborhood who participated in the rally now face stiff sentences.

They said that they had not heard of any plot to overthrow the government and that the march was spontaneous.

Emilio Roman (55) told Reuters that Emiyoslan (age 18) and Yosney (age 25), as well his daughter Mackyani (23) had taken part in July’s protests. They now face 15-20 and 25-year sentences, depending on whether they are convicted. Roman claimed that the three men have been held in jail since mid July.

He said, “Everyone was out due to the noise as though they were having a party. But nobody believed they would act that severely.”

“The amount of time they want to spend in prison, it’s like they are terrorists and murderers. Roman cried, foregoing his tears. It’s very difficult.

Alcides Firdo (47), said that his neighbor Jaime Alcides Firdo (22) was originally detained because he had thrown rocks at the July 12th march. However, the charges were upgraded to sedition later.

Firdo stated that the state wanted to indict his son for 20-years in a case that was due to start on January 17, 2017.

He replied, “I don’t get it.” He said, “You can kill someone (in Cuba), and then they will give you 8, 10, and 15 years. But now you throw a rock and put them in jail for… twenty years.” It’s just an inhumane act of injustice.”

Reuters was unable to independently verify the details of these cases. Court officials in Cuba are not known for speaking with media, and it was impossible to reach the defendants.

Director of the U.S.-based human right group Cubalex was Laritza Diversent. She said that Cuban authorities have ratcheted up punishments to set an example and suppress future protests.

She stated that the government was saying “Look, I’m playing no games” and she could not believe it if they sent her out to protest.

Numerous rights groups including Cubalex claim that the penalties for people already sentenced, even for sedition, range from four to thirty years behind bars.

Reuters reviewed several sentences from December trials. The penalties for disobedient protestors convicted of offences such as assault and public disorder range from 2-8 years imprisonment. Reuters didn’t find sedition among the cases. It carries the highest penalties.

Some of those involved in the demonstrations last year have not been punished severely. According to Leonardo Fernandez Otano, a historian on Facebook (NASDAQ):, several Cuban artists were recently released from jail after protesting in front the Cuban Radio and Television Institute.

According to him, race and poverty were factors that influenced the outcome.

Fernandez Otano posted on social media that he was grateful for the dismissal of charges. “But, I’m also sad because La Guinera’s young people haven had the same luck. They are sentenced to unjustified and politicized sentences.

Cuban officials have stated they respect the rights and freedoms of everyone detained in protests. They also said that repeat offenders would face the highest penalties and those who commit the most severe crimes will be punished.