Arrested in January for Calling for ‘Another July 11th’ in Cuba, Sulmira Martínez is Taken to Guatao Prison

Sulmira Martínez, 21 years old. (Cubalex)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, March 31, 2023–Sulmira Martínez Pérez, arrested on January 10th for announcing her intention to protest in the streets, was transferred on March 17 to Guatao prison in Havana, according to Mónica Baró who cited the 21-year-old’s mother, Norma Pérez.

“Norma says her daughter is traumatized, that in Villa Marista [prison] during the visits they had, which last ten minutes or a bit more, always in front of an officer, she couldn’t say anything, but yes, she suffered in there,” said on Friday the Cuban journalist who now lives in New York.

Baró stated that Martínez Pérez, “began yelling in Villa Marista for them to let her go and after that they transferred her to El Guatao.” They transferred her, continues the publication, “in a little cage, one of those State Security vehicles that are hermetic, with bars,” and she was mistreated on the way.

“She was handcuffed and asked them to loosen the handcuffs because they were tight, and what they did was to stand her up and handcuff her to a bar in the vehicle, with her arms spread apart, as if it were a stockade,” stated the independent journalist.

Similarly, Norma Pérez told Baró that the charges against her daughter have changed from “propaganda against the constitutional order” to “instigating a crime,” one of the  charges applied to many of the protesters of July 11th, 2021. She does not have, at the moment, a trial date.

The woman was able to visit her daughter on Wednesday, but told the journalist that she cannot go see her every Thursday, which is visitation day, “The transportation to the prison, round trip, from Las Guásimas to El Guatao, including the wait time, costs 3,000 pesos and Norma receives 2,000 pesos [per month] as a retiree. Furthermore, she cannot gather enough food every week to take her daughter and pay for the transport.”

In jail, Baró continued, “the prisoners are sleeping on mattresses full of bed bugs, receiving poor nutrition and suffering cruel and degrading treatment by the guards.”

The legal organization, Cubalex, which monitors cases of political prisoners on the Island also demanded on Friday, “The Cuban regime should release Sulmira without delay and stop incarcerating Cubans for freely expressing themselves.”

Known on social media as Salem Cuba, a pseudonym under which she managed a Facebook page where criticism and memes of Cuban authorities are frequent, posted  the following before her arrest, “For those who say ’all bark and no bite’, I am planning a demonstration, in the streets, not behind a screen,” and “We need organization… spread the word!!! We’re planning another July 11th.”

At first, little was known about her arrest, but a few weeks later, her mother’s desperation began to echo; during a livestream she expressed how “she was holding it in.”

“First she was at 110 y Aldabó [a detention center in Havana] and later they moved her to Villa Marista [State Security headquarters],” explained the woman, who claimed that during the arrest her house was the target of a police search, “They took the computer, the telephone and the Nauta internet connection.”

The lawyer, hired through the “revolutionary state” cost 5,400 pesos, said the woman and she clarified that her daughter is accused of “propaganda against the constitutional order.”

The new Criminal Code, which went into effect last December, increased the penalties against human rights defenders, activism, and controversial criticism on social media. In article 143, the norm states that anyone who supports, encourages or receives resources “for the purposes of paying for activities against the State and its constitutional order” incurs a sanction of deprivation of liberty for four to ten years.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


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