Cuban Father Whose Minor Son was Convicted for July 11th is Silenced with Two Years in Prison

Ángel Rolando Castillo Sánchez, father of Rowland Jesús Castillo, jailed for the July 11th (11J) protests. (Cubalex)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 29 May 2022 — Ángel Rolando Castillo Sánchez, father of Rowland Jesús Castillo, one of the minors in prison for his participation in the 11J (July 11th) protests at the corner of Toyo, Havana, was sentenced to two years in prison this Wednesday in an express trial, according to statements made on social media by his son’s mother, Yudinela Castro. The process took place with a public defender and the family was notified just hours before.

Castillo had been in jail since May 5th, when he was accused of coercion by a friend of Rowland, Giuseppe Belaunzaran Guada. This child, the grandson of a Cuban official, had also been convicted for 11J, but was not sent to prison, serving his 10-year sentence under house arrest.

According to Castro, the young man, not only a friend of her son, but also of other protesters, made a video defending them but his mother accused Castillo of pressuring Giuseppe to film it.

Castro stated that the case had been fabricated to put the brakes on Castillo’s protests demanding freedom for his son and other 11J protesters. At the end of April, the man spent several hours at the police station in San Miguel del Padrón along with Brandon David Becerra Curbelo’s mother, Yanaisi Curbelo, and Lázaro Noel Urgellés Fajardo’s mother, Maylín Fajardo. They were all headed to a march to demand rights for their children and ended up being arrested. continue reading

Since his last arrest in May, Castillo has remained in the Vivac penitentiary, where he was on a hunger strike and refusing medical attention.

Rowland Castillo was 17 years old when he went to the streets on 11J to protest and was sentenced to 12 years in prison for sedition. His mother, Yudinela Castro, has also had to face an arrest at the end of April and was accused of contempt, but after being held for 15 days in Villa Marista prison, she was freed on provisional release on March 10th.

A few days later, the woman, who has leukemia, was admitted to Julio Trigo hospital in Havana after attempting to take her own life. Family sources told 14ymedio that she was recovering and was receiving psychiatric treatment.

“It is difficult to accept so much cruelty, like what we are experiencing,” said Castro on Wednesday, after hearing the news. “As Rowland’s mother, I will go wherever I need to go and do everything I need to do through legal means. Freedom for Ángel Rolando and Rowland Jesús,” she demanded.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Competing with the ‘Mules’: The Cuban Government’s Complicated Goal for Remittances

Under the current rules of the game, remittances are more profitable through informal channels. (EFE)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 18 May 2022 — Ending the limits on remittances sent from the U.S. to Cuba — one of the measures announced by Washington on Monday, in addition to resuming flights — seems to be one that could have the greatest impact on the Island. It is for the benefit of Cuban families, which are going through hardship, but it is feared that the regime will take advantage of the situation to regain a major source of income, second only to the medical services it commercializes in many countries.

“We must remember that half of the remittances arrive by ‘mulas’ [mules]. No one in their right mind wants to do it through legal means. The official exchange rate is at 25 pesos to the dollar whereas in the street it is at 100. Who should send dollars legally?” explains Emilio Morales, of the Havana Consulting Group.

A search on social media is enough to see where things stand. “In the U.S. for $110, they deliver in Cuba 10,500 pesos, or for $115 they deliver $100.” “Deposit $130 abroad and we will deposit 100 MLC* [into your account] or, if you prefer, 11,000 pesos. For every 100 dollars, receive 10,000 pesos, for 130 dollars receive 100 [dollars in your account].”

The list of offerings is infinite, but the quantities are similar. In the parallel market, intermediaries or mules charge up to 30% commission, but the money received is golden, since, on average, it is at four times the official exchange rate. continue reading

Official foreign currency exchange business has been partially stalled since 2019, under orders from then President of the United States, Donald Trump, who imposed a limit of $1,000 per person per quarter. Furthermore, he also prohibited business deals which involve Cuban military personnel.

This was the case for Fincimex, included on the U.S. Treasury Department’s black list in June of 2020. Up until that point, the entity managed the flow of currency, mostly through Western Union, which decided in October of that same year to close its outlets when faced with the sanctions that would apply if they continued operating. The permanent closure took place at the end of November.

The events coincided with border closures due to the pandemic, which continued for part of that year and 2021 and affected the amount of currency received by the Government. According to data from the Havana Consulting Group, in 2019 deliveries of currency sent in cash exceeded $3.171 billion, while deliveries of merchandise were about $2.9 billion, a combined total of $5.071 billion. In 2020, this declined by more than 54%, with a combined total of only $2.967 billion. In 2021, currency received barely exceeded $1 billion, 70% less than two years ago.

The Cuban government made an important move, which will allow it to regain some income, removing the military from the equation, but it has systematically maintained control over a portion, which amounts to more than 6% of the GDP, according to several independent organizations. Some associations proposed that the deposits be centralized in a European entity, in a trust that would guarantee it would not end up in the hands of the regime. But this solution was not considered either.

In February, the Gaceta Oficial published a resolution of the Central Bank of Cuba, which authorized a new entity, Orbit S.A., to “manage and make international transfers from abroad through its own infrastructure.” The company had one month to present its registration, but nothing has been heard about it since, much less who is hiding behind that name.

Another attempt, from abroad (Canada), was RevoluPay, an app from RevoluGroup, created by Emilio Morales himself, which promised to circumvent the military, but which was not without controversy and mistrust.

In the interim, other things have happened. Implementation of the so-called ‘Ordering Task’** in January 2021, which assumed, among other things, that unifying the currency would maintain the exchange rate between the local peso and the dollar at 24 to 1. That has never been realistic and the measures had not yet taken effect when economists began to warn that the informal currency market would dictate the dollar’s true value.

Since then, the value of the American currency began to increase at a steep pace and six months later it was trading in parallel markets at 70 pesos. Half a year later, in January 2022, it had exceeded 100.

Companies that send remittances have not announced any plans following Biden’s announcement. Their commissions have been between 5% for Western Union and 10% for AIS Remesas, the option recommended by the Government until it temporarily stopped offering services in October 2021 and no updates have been provided since then. The regime used to charge a 10% commission for the service and an additional 3% for dollars, however that route has been on hold until now. Other options were to send Canadian dollars from Canada or euros from Europe, though these were the minority.

Nonetheless, the reopening of borders has put the mulas, once again, in the market and their service is more acceptable — including the large amount of cargo they bring to the Island to nourish markets — despite the high commission, because the currency can be sold at rates 4 or 5 times higher than the official rate. The ball is in the Cuban government’s court to create a better alternative if it wants to recoup a very juicy business.

Translator’s notes

*MLC (Moneda Libremente Convertible) is freely convertible currency, that is foreign currency such as dollars or euros.

**Tarea ordenamiento: The [so-called] ‘Ordering Task’ is a collection of measures that include eliminating the Cuban Convertible Peso (CUC), leaving the Cuban peso as the only national currency, raising prices, raising salaries (but not as much as prices), opening stores that take payment only in hard currency which must be in the form of specially issued pre-paid debit cards, and many other measures related to the Cuban economy.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


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Cuban Parliament Approves a Criminal Code which Prohibits External Support for Independent Press

In contrast to the Family Code, this project will not be put to a referendum. (Cubadebate)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 15 May 2022 — On Sunday, Cuba’s National Assembly of the People’s Power (ANPP) approved, in an extraordinary session, Cuba’s new Criminal Code, which includes penalties of up to three years for those who insult senior public officials and prohibits foreign financing for media outlets.

The delegates approved the project in a session attended by Miguel Díaz-Canel, and the country’s former ruler, Raúl Castro (2008-2018).

Activists and opponents believe this reform will silence social protest and independent journalism.

Its proponents, on the other hand, describe it as “providing guarantees” and updated, since the previous version — from 1987 — did not include environmental crimes, cybercrimes or gender-based violence.

Originally, the project should have been voted on by the ANPP in April, but for unknown reasons, its passing in the Legislature was delayed.

The new code, which takes effect 90 days from its publication in the Gaceta Oficial de la República, includes 37 new crimes such as “public disorder” to penalize “disturbances of that nature produced in groups or individually.” continue reading

The president of the People’s Supreme Court on the Island, Ruben Remigio Ferro, stressed as he presented the law at the Parliamentary plenary that it strengthens the rigor of the penalties related to corruption.

Thus, he stated that it establishes the maximum penalty of life in prison and maintains the possibility of applying the death penalty, as an exception in 23 types of criminal cases.

It also includes penalties of up to ten years in prison for anyone who, “supports, encourages, finances, provides, receives or has in their possession funds, material or financial resources,” of non governmental organizations or international institutions that could be used to “pay for activities against the State and its constitutional order.”

The new criminal code has not received as much state media coverage as the Family Code, a reform which is also currently being processed in the ANPP after a three-month public consultative process during which the content of the document was explained.

In contrast to the Family Code, this project will not be put to a referendum.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez 


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Cuban State Security Prevents Farinas from Leaving Santa Clara After His Trip to Europe and the U.S.

Fariñas was arrested on Tuesday at the airport, upon his return to the Island, and was released after hours of interrogation. (EFE)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 12 May 2022 — Cuban opponent, Guillermo Coco Fariñas, explained on Wednesday that he has been freed after being interrogated for several hours by security forces upon his return to Havana from a trip to Europe and the U.S.

The 2010 recipient of the Sakharov Prize for Freedom of Thought stated on Facebook that it involved a “cohersive interrogation” and that the “punishment” for his political tour will be that he will be unable to leave his city, Santa Clara.

“For those of us who struggle for democracy and freedom in Cuba, it is a right to conduct politics in this way,” said Fariñas, despite his sanction.

The opponent confirmed that State Security agents accused him of influencing U.S. President Joe Biden’s decision not to invite Cuba to the Summit of the Americas.

They also criticized his contribution to the recent declaration of the European Union on Cuba. “For them, that was intolerable,” he added.

Finally, according to Fariñas, they believed that the opponent was behind the coordination of various generations of Cuban exiles and the involvement of business owners in pro-democratic activities on the Island. continue reading

Fariñas was arrested on Tuesday afternoon, as he was leaving Havana’s José Martí International airport, where he had just landed after his international trip.

The opponent was returning to Cuba following a two-month trip — “successful” in his judgement — which took him to the U.S. and Europe, where he met with various political representatives and activists to talk about the situation in his country.

During his trip, the leader of the United Antitotalitarian Front (Fantu) denounced the repression in Cuba, especially as a result of the antigovernment protests of July 11th.

The Sakharov Prize winner stated that the social situation in the country is “a pressure cooker without an escape valve” and that new protests are possible. Fariñas had planned the trip for mid-January, but was unable to travel because he received the Cuban-made vaccines, which are not recognized in the U.S. A month later, he was able to fly.

In recent months, Fariñas had denounced several detentions, sometimes held in a hospital in Santa Clara, where he lives, for unsolicited medical treatment.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez 


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

‘We Should Have Kicked You Out Long Ago’: How the Director of Alma Mater was Fired by Cuba’s UJC

Armando Franco Senén began as director of Alma Mater magazine in 2019. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 10 May 2022 — Armando Franco Senén, former director of Alma Mater magazine, has broken his silence two weeks after the controversy generated by his dismissal from the publication. In an extensive Facebook post published on Tuesday, the journalist stated that his silence was converting him into an accomplice of the decision by authorities to relieve him of his duties. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Franco presented his version of the events, highlighting that his account is not his opinion, but rather a retelling of the events, which he reproduces in an almost notarial fashion.

On April 26th, the journalist was summoned to a meeting in the office of the Director of Editora Abril, Asael Alonso Tirado, which gave way to an Extraordinary Board of Directors meeting, during which they communicated  his “liberation.” In charge were Nislay Molina (Ideologue of the National Committee of Young Communists (UJC)) and Alonso himself, who far from being open to dialogue, communicated that he should await his reassignment.

Only at his insistence did they tell him that “the decision, approved on April 20th, was the result of continuous errors in the magazine’s editorial work.” Franco stated that both looked at a document in which contained the supposed errors, all of which were corrected at the time, according to the journalist, before stating that the rest were the bulk of the magazine’s best pieces during his leadership, he claimed.

“We should have kicked you out long ago, there is nothing more to say, we are doing you the favor of liberating you. You may do as you wish, it is our decision,” was the response the official gave him while Alonso agreed arguing that he had already alerted her to his errors.

“It is a decision that has already been made, we only came to inform,” added the official. continue reading

Faced with the situation, Franco met with his team to inform them of what had occurred and they decided to post on the magazine’s social media the note that publicly announced, without details, his dismissal.

Nislay Molina’s foresight was to call one day later, on Wednesday the 27th, a meeting of Alma Mater staff to inform them, but the director of Editora announced to the magazine’s sub-directors that the meeting would not take place — a decision of the National Bureau — because “there was nothing more to say.” That way of proceeding was what led the bulk of the team to leave, a personal decision, according to Franco, and that affected everyone with the exception of one journalist and the editorial secretary.

Franco emphatically denies the implicated organizations, the Federation of University Students (FEU) and UJC, which attributed his dismissal to a “natural renovation process.” The journalist ensures that he had communicated, with plenty of notice, that he’d leave the magazine in November, after serving for in his position for three years, and that the publication was preparing for that transition, as it was only five months away.

“It does not seem like a natural renovation process as it did not include a new position for me nor a new director for Alma Mater, which did not guarantee the continuity [CHECK: I used this instead of “work”] of the magazine after my release. It does not make sense to make changes for “natural” reasons, while the Editor experiences a crisis of directors and journalists,” he states.

Another one of the big revelations Franco makes is that the version he was told was that FEU, or rather its president Karla Santana, was the one who “provided elements against” its management. It seems they did not like Alma Mater’s “inattention” to the student organization, which the journalist emphatically denies, which the magazine itself serves as proof that universities and university students have been its priority. “Of course, from the point of view of our team.”

Since he was not aware of a single complaint, not even FEU has issued a statement about the events, but they have received support from the university community, the journalists doubts that version. “It is worth asking, to which FEU did Alma Mater fail to respond?”

With regard to UJC, Franco recalled that Aylin Álvarez, its first secretary and a delegate in the National Assembly commented on the matter on her social media. As the journalist explains, almost nothing of what she said is true. Later, Rogelio Polanco, chief of the Ideology Department of the Central Committee of Cuba’s Communist Party (PCC) and Álvarez met with him, as the official recounted on her social media along with an outdated photograph which suggested a good relationship, though it was from months ago.

According to Franco’s version, Álvarez was surprised, blamed the events on those who criticized her management and praised the magazine’s good results. After the UJC leader’s message was published, in which she added that he had been offered another position.

“It is true that in mid-April UJC proposed I leave Alma Mater to join a new communications project, however, as the first secretary knew, I responded that my intention was to remain at the magazine until November,” he stated.

On Tuesday, May 2nd, a meeting of the outgoing team was held with Álvarez and which they requested that Karla Santana, Nislay Molina and Asael Alonso be present, but they refused. “During the discussion, Aylin Álvarez acknowledged errors were made due to a ’loosening of personal issues’ and she committed to address the issue. As of now, we have not been notified of any results with regard to that.”

As for the PCC, Polanco indicated to the journalist that there wouldn’t be a problem with him and that he would be promoted. “During the last exchange, last Friday, Rogelio Polanco offered me a position, which I respectfully declined, despite it being an option that has a lot to do with my professional intentions,” he stated.

Franco ended his statement thanking those who have supported him and wishing Alma Mater future success. However, he adds that the “current state of the magazine” hurts and he does not understand how or why it reached this point. Franco says that, despite everything, the team has voluntarily collaborated with various media on coverage of the explosion at the Hotel Saratoga and that, moving forward, each will chose his own path. “I only aspire to grow once again, to find reasons to continue trying,” he concluded.

Franco’s exit was very controversial because under his leadership the magazine had experienced a moment of splendor, appreciated by readers and prizes, in which diverse topics, some of which made the government “uncomfortable”, according to some versions. Among its defenders was singer songwriter Silvio Rodríguez, who lamented the position taken by the current authorities.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

A Three-Hour Interrogation for Cuban Mother who Denounced the July 11th Trials at the UN

Ángel Jesús Véliz Marcano, 27 years old, was arrested on July 18, 2022 and sentenced to six years in prison. (Justicia 11J)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, May 3, 2022 — R turning to Cuba from Europe — where she denounced the situation of her son who was sentenced to prison after July 11th (11J) –has not been easy for Ailex Marcano, mother of Ángel Jesús Véliz Marcano. Authorities subjected her to an interrogation for three hours and confiscated 3,000 pesos, according to the account she gave Radio Television Martí from Camagüey, where she lives.

Marcano was in Madrid and Geneva, invited by the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights, where she denounced the situation of Cuban prisoners before the Spanish press and the UN. The feeling of solidarity and support she received in Europe disappeared when she stepped foot in Havana’s airport.

“They asked why I went to Spain, if I went by invitation, the purpose of my trip, who I met with, what the results were, whether I believed my situation would be resolved. I told them that I had not been listened to here, that the law was not being upheld because my son is not a violent person, nor aggressive and he is currently serving a six-year sentence for assault and public disorder, that I’d continue to do what I had to do for my son’s freedom because he should not be there,” Marcano told the news outlet.

For her return to Camagüey, Ángel Jesús Véliz Marcano’s mother was carrying 3,000 Cuban pesos, which were confiscated at the airport for exceeding the current 2,000 limit in Cuba. In mid-April, the Central Bank of Cuba approved an increase to the maximum amount that can be imported to the country to 5,000 pesos but the resolution stated that it would go into effect 30 days after being published in the Gaceta Oficial [Official Gazette].

Marcano confirmed that a man dressed in civilian clothing took her before the lieutenant colonel who interrogated her. As she exited, when she was entering the car to return to Camagüey, a police officer asked the driver for identification and documents. The vehicle was detained along the route at a check point where her luggage was searched, in her view, looking for a T-shirt or other article of clothing with an antigovernment message. continue reading

Despite the trouble, Ailex Marcano feels “super strengthened, with more energy.” In Europe she has seen “the enormous contrast between one society and the other. I mean, there I am welcomed, they help me, they empathize with me and I return to my country and I am a stranger, I am terror, I am accosted, I am limited,” commented the woman, who has been one of the most firm voices denouncing the incarceration of the July 11 protesters.

Her 27-year-old son was arrested on July 18, 2022 and sentenced to six years in prison, which he is serving in the Cerámica Roja prison in Camagüey, after passing through other facilities. Marcano has revealed that in the coming days he will be transferred to another, lower-security facility.

“My son participated voluntarily and spontaneously in the demonstrations, no one incited him. It is sad, what we family members are going through only because our children participated peacefully in the demonstrations, which were necessary,” she said in Madrid.

Marcano requested “international support” for families and mothers of the prisoners and reproached “national organizations” which refused to listen to those affected. In particular, she referred to the Federation of Cuban Women, which “is not sensitive to” the prisoners’ mothers, while in other countries they are “worried and concerned” for them.

“They are doing the work of listening and supporting, we don’t have this on the Island,” she added.

Despite the harassment she experiences from the Government, Marcano assures that she will not give up for her son, with whom she was able to speak upon her return to Cuba, as she revealed to Martí Noticias. “Mama I am very proud of you, you really have taken off,” he said.

The woman did not stint on words of praise for her son and those, who like him, went out to the street once they understood “the reality… Those young people, perhaps have innovative ideas that will lead us to live in a better world and make their dreams a reality. They have made us what we are today, we have awakened, we know the reality, we no longer believe what was written in the text books.”

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

80 Acts of Repression: This is How Cuba Celebrated May Day

Source: Cubadebate

Justicia 11J (via Cubalex), 2 May 2022 — Cubalex and Justicia 11J have observed an increase in repressive events against activists, opponents, journalists and family members of people held in detention for political reasons. Between April 26th at 6 pm and today, May 1st, we have documented a total of 80 events, disaggregated as follows:

    • Summons/interrogation: 12
    • Surveillance/police perimeter: 28
    • Arrests: 13
    • Forced disappearance: 5
    • Warning at home: 8
    • Fine: 3
    • Other forms of repression: 11

Based on testimonies of the victims, we have verified that this deployment was mainly related to the State’s concern that the traditional celebration of International Workers’ Day, in provinces throughout the country, could have been “destabilized” by the presence in the streets of dissenting voices, in a context of growing popular discontent and the loss of the authorities’ symbolic power.

Added to this are the actions related to two public protest events that took place in Havana in recent days. The first (on the 27th), was carried out by relatives of three of the minors who received long prison sentences for their participation in the July 2021 protests. The second (on the 28th), was led by activist Carlos Ernesto Díaz González (Ktivo Disidente), who remains in detention. continue reading

Although the first of the aforementioned events was thwarted by the presence of the political police near the agreed location for the protest, the signatory organizations view it as a milestone on the path to channeling the demands for freedom in the public space by relatives of the protesters.

Likewise, we point out the state’s response in order to prevent future similar events, through the arrest, in San Miguel del Padrón, of the participating relatives: Yanaisy Curbelo (mother of the minor Brandon David Becerra), Rolando Castillo (father of minor Rowland Castillo) and Maylín Fajardo (mother of minor Lázaro Noel Urgellés), who were held at the 11th unit of the PNR.

On the first anniversary of the Demonstration on Obispo Street on April 30, 2021, during which 13 people who expressed their solidarity with artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara were arrested and faced up to 8 months of arbitrary deprivation of liberty, the organizations that have signed this report point out how the strength of Cuban civil society has been increasing as it struggles to recover the civic space.

And in this sense, we highlight the perseverance of activists such as Ángel Cuza, protester of Obispo Street, who was detained on the 28th, when he appeared for a summons to be interviewed by State Security officials, and held until today in the afternoon.

Likewise, we observe with concern the police’s liberal interpretation of the crimes defined in the Cuban Criminal Code. In particular, the excessive use of the crime of sedition, which has recently been directly related to freedom of expression, which, far from being a crime, constitutes a fundamental right, enshrined in article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and in article 54 of the Constitution of the Republic of Cuba.

We stress that, due to the alleged crime of sedition, 169 of the July protesters could serve up to 30 years in prison (according to the current regulations), and for which soon (when the preliminary draft of the Penal Code is approved on May 14), Cuban citizens could be sentenced to life in prison, or even the death penalty (article 121 a).

We denounce the practice of forced disappearance, which in the days covered by this report has been documented on 5 occasions, as well as the repressive manipulation of the truth of the island, which the Cuban State maintains before international institutions such as the Committee Against Torture (CAT), before whom it recently denied, once again, that this international crime was practiced in Cuba, a violation of the most basic human rights.

We also denounced the political violence exercised against women. Of all the registered events (80), 30 were practiced against them. We condemn the event of physical violence against nurse, and member of the Free Cuban Medical Guild, Welsimys Cruz Pérez, who this morning was attacked by five political police officers, until she bled.

A similar concentration of repressive events in just a few days had been documented by Cubalex and Justicia 11J in November of last year, related to the call for a peaceful march, in the context of the Civic Day for Change. In those days, 93 people were arrested, 8 of them remain in jail to this day.

We reiterate our commitment to demanding the immediate release, acquittal and dismissal of charges against those detained for political reasons. We will continue our work of documenting, denouncing and accompanying, as well as supporting family members and other civil society actors. As Ktivo Disidente, we understand that “all Cubans have the right to participate in the political life of the country.”

80 Acts of Repression: This is How Cuba Celebrated May Day first appeared on Cubalex.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez

According to Amnesty International, Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara has Lost Sight in One Eye while in Cuban Prison

Otero Alcántara in front of Havana’s capital during a day of protest. (Facebook)

14ymedio biggerEFE (via 14ymedio), Havana, 29 April 2022 — Cuban opponent and leader of the San Isidro Movement (MSI), Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, has lost sight in one eye in the prison where he has been held since the antigovernment protests last July, denounced NGO Amnesty International (AI) on Thursday.

Erika Guevara, Director for the Americas for London-based AI, denounced via her Twitter account that the dissident — who ended his three-month hunger strike in March — has not received medical attention and demands his immediate release.

“Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara’s situation in Cuba should be a source of shame for the Cuban government and of complete indignation for those of us who witness his decline,” said Guevara.

At the beginning of this month, activist and artist Claudia Genlui Hidalgo denounced on social media that the leader of MSI had been denied specialized care to tend to his vision problems. On April 6th, the United States Government also demanded that Cuba offer Otero Alcántara “immediate medical attention.”

“We urge the Cuban authorities to offer immediate medical attention to Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, who remains seriously ill while in detention,” expressed the U.S. Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, Brian Nichols. continue reading

After ending his hunger strike on March 11th, sources close to the dissident communicated that he would opt for a trial, after six months in the Guanajay jail, 45 kilometers west of Havana.

The Island’s Prosecutor requested seven years in prison for Otero Alcántara — who AI considers a prisoner of conscience–for aggravated contempt, public disorder and instigating a crime for going out into the street in front of the San Isidro Movement headquarters in Old Havana to sing Patria y Vida among neighbors on April 4th, 2021.  Maykel Castillo Osorbo, for whom they seek 10 years in jail, is on the same docket.

Also weighing on Alcántara is the charge of insulting patriotic symbols, for carrying out his art work, Drapeau. The date of his trial is as yet unknown.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Outrage Among Cuban Officials Over the Dismissal of Alma Mater’s Director

Armando Franco Senén became director of ’Alma Mater’ magazine in 2019. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, April 27, 2022–On Tuesday Alma Mater, the Cuban university magazine, was left without its director, Armando Franco Senén, a decision of the Union of Young Communists (UJC), in a clear interference by the university publication’s partisan organization.

The news was delivered by Alma Mater itself on its Facebook page, where it shared the short statement which left much to be desired by nearly 900 users who joined. “By decision of the National Bureau of the Union of Young Communists, Armando Franco Senén was relieved of his duties as director of the magazine.”

Franco, who graduated with a degree in journalism in 2016 and was a professor in the School of Communication in Havana, took charge of Alma Mater in 2019. The publication had won the favor of many people — close and not so close — to the state for its more modern treatment of information, the openness to topics rarely covered by other media, and, of late, its coverage of July 11th (11J).

The magazine focused heavily on information about the protesters who were arrested, many of them students, which is very unusual for a channel of the regime. Alma Mater clearly advocated, in some cases, for the release of those arrested or the  cancellation of the judicial proceedings to which they were subjected.

On Tuesday, the magazine published an interview with Cuban Chancellor Bruno Rodríguez Padilla, which centered on the issue of migration and relations with the U.S. with regard to that topic. Some believe it to be coincidence that Franco’s exit occurred immediately afterward, however there does not appear to be a reason to link them, as the questions did not cause the minister any discomfort, and he was given plenty of space for his discourse. continue reading

Those close to the journalist attribute the dismissal to the timid revolution in form and content that Franco brought to the magazine.

This year Alma Mater celebrates its centennial and it is one of the oldest publications in Cuba. The magazine has always been characterized by its independence and its ability to reflect the sentiment among university students. Following Fidel Castro’s rise to power, it slowly lost its autonomy, but even then tried to maintain its mark. The decision to dismiss its director left many perplexed as it a reflection of the control that the youth organization of Cuba’s Communist Party has over the magazine.

“He revitalized something that for years, no university student had read and others didn’t even know existed. I will proceed to remove my “like” from its page because I already know what’s coming!!!” said one of the hundreds of readers who expressed their rejection of the news.

Another commenter, who knew Franco in high school, praised his character from when he was young and defended causes. “A leader is born, not made, and he was born with that quality, which he further developed during his life. Years later, he became the director of Alma Mater magazine and returned to me a habit I had lost long ago, reading the news; but this time, I was reading something very different to what I was accustomed and that should be appreciated, that is what we need, that is what we have to encourage, it is what we need to defend,” they added.

“I don’t know the reasons, but taking into consideration the journalism that Alma Mater was doing under the direction of Armando Franco, the UJC Bureau should analyze this. Do they know the type of journalism Cuba’s youth need? Without words. It hurts,” laments a third commenter.

The majority have demanded that the reasons be made public with clarity and that the magazine’s autonomy be returned. “And how can the organization which represents reolutionary youth dismiss the director of the magazine and the most revolutionary example of journalism I’ve read in a long time?”

With its refined satiric humor, El Lumpen could not pass up the comparison and has shared the news and images of the former director of the newspaper and the Spanish dictator titled: Alma Mater Rectifies and Franco Returns.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Standing on a Wall in Central Havana, an Activist Asks for Freedom for Cubans

The citizen began to carry out his peaceful protest a approximately 8:47 am. (Camila Carballo/INSIDE/Capture/YouTube)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 28 April 2022 — “If you want Fidel to live, well let Fidel live, that is your problem. I do not want to be a communist!” The phrase was spoken very loudly early on Thursday morning on San Rafael boulevard in Havana. Some stood and watched, others filmed with their cell phones.

The clamor came from a lone man, Carlos Ernesto Díaz González (known on social media as Ktivo Disidente), standing upon the walled entrance of a playground located on the corner of San Rafael and Industria, a busy pedestrian walkway that includes numerous businesses and connects the municipalities of Centro Habana and La Habana Vieja. A few meters away there is an MLC* store which only takes payments in freely convertible currency.

“There doesn’t need to be violence, there doesn’t need to be bloodshed but they must allow us to participate in the political life of this country,” he demanded. “Whoever is a communist, let them be, but they must respect whomever does not want to be,” continued the activist in a spiel that continued for five minutes.

At several points during his presentation, the man stated, “All Cubans have a right to participate in the political life of the country, be they communists or not.” Díaz González is a member of Archipiélago and was arrested last November, on the eve of the Civic March for Change, for putting up protest posters in Cienfuegos. continue reading

“Soon they will place two or three there so that they can conduct an act of repudiation, to a Cuban who is raising his voice. But it will continue to be that way until we do what we have to do and demand what we need to demand because it is ours, because we have the right to have rights,” he said referencing the daily repression of the Cuban regime against opponents or regular citizens who criticize the government.

On Wednesday, a few hours before climbing on the wall in Havana, Ktivo Disidente had uploaded a video in which he invited Cubans to a march in favor of freedom for political prisoners.

During his speech, the man received shouts of disagreement from some people who demanded he be quiet, but he was not daunted. “The people are scared , the people have been terrorized: citations, the sector chief on your back, a snitch on you. How long will we live like this?” he insists.

“Yes, you can buy there,” he warned another who requested silence from the line to enter the hard currency store — where the line had begun to form early in the morning — and where they sell personal hygiene products and cleaning supplies for the home.

The man demanded freedom for Cuban political prisoners and again insisted, “All Cubans deserve to participate in the political life of the country. They must count on us. Inclusion! An inclusive homeland! We are not obliged to be communists or socialists. Wherever communism has passed is a disaster. They are going to turn us into a North Korea.”

Police began to congregate around him, but their intervention was hampered by the height of the location from where the man shouted. Finally, more than ten uniformed  policemen around the corner ordered the passers-by to turn off their mobile phones or move away from the area.

Later the man came down without resisting and, according to witnesses, was handcuffed and placed in a car. “I know nothing more of this sad story,” said one of those present.

Street protests have a recent history. On 4 December 2020, young Luis Robles protested on that same boulevard in Havana, a few meters from where Thursday’s events occurred. At that time, the activist peacefully protested, raising a placard which sought freedom, an end to repression and the release of protest rapper Denis Solís.

In March, Robles was sentenced to five years in prison and in the sentencing document, the judges justified their decision because the young man maintained a “marked interest in creating an environment to destabilize the social system and domestic economic development.”

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

In an Appeal, the Tribunal of Mayabeque, Cuba, Confirms Jail Sentences for Shouting ‘Díaz-Canel Motherfucker’

The Martín Perdomo brothers have been separated and are now in different prisons. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 25 April 2022 — The appeal submitted to the Provincial Tribunal of Mayabeque by brothers Nadir and Jorge Martín Perdomo, sentenced to six and eight years in prison following the anti-government protests of July 11th in San José de las Lajas, has been dismissed, reported Radio Televisión Martí.

The brothers’ attorney, Reynel Gustavo Brito, had confirmed in the appeals brief that in both cases “the tribunal’s partiality is evident as they disregarded the defense’s evidence with superfluous arguments without presenting other proof.” Furthermore, the document states that the sentence “was severe and did not correlate with their prior conduct, for which the accused should be credited.”

The Martín Perdomo brothers were sentenced on February 8th for assault, contempt, and public disorder. For each of them, the Prosecutor had sought two years less than what they ultimately received, but family members were emphatic in their opinions believing the sentence to be ” an aberration,” which cannot be “celebrated or appreciated.”

“This sentence is the culmination of a totally absurd, disrespectful, humiliating theatrical work,” their cousin Betty Guerra Perdomo told this daily. “Everything that has happened with my cousins’ case, from the beginning until now, is an aberration, I do not want to say it is the end because I hold on to the hope that with strength and struggle we can change it.”

Nadir and Jorge were arrested on July 17th after going out to the street to protest on the previous Sunday, as did thousands of Cubans, against the government, the lack of freedom, and the economic catastrophe exacerbated by the pandemic. According to the sentencing document, continue reading

accessed by 14ymedio, both “decided to mock” the measures imposed by the Ministry of Public Health to limit COVID-19 infections and joined “a group of people” on 54th street in San José de las Lajas.

Many others joined that march, according to the document, at the “call of the accused” and “the banging of pots, metal objects and honking of motorcycle horns causing very loud noises, which alerted the neighbors”; this gave rise to behaviors of “total disrespect”, such as calling out “with euphoria, profane and vulgar” words such as “dickhead police” and “Díaz-Canel motherfucker”, along with “Patria y vida” [homeland and life], in addition to “making vulgar requests of those charged with protecting the place” and snatching a Cuban flag for a moment from an agent who was participating in a government counter-protest.

What is most striking about the sentence is that it shows that the protests escalated to the point of rock-throwing “without the participation of the Martín Perdomo brothers in these episodes.” Despite that, both were sentenced to several years in prison and their allegations have not been taken into consideration.

“I continue to believe that each day they have spent there is a year of life violently stolen and, as a result, the struggle will be for their complete freedom,” said their cousin following the trial.

Furthermore, the brothers have been separated, with Nadir ending up in Melena del Sur prison and Jorge in Quivicán prison, located 30 and 35 kilometers away from the family home, additional drama for their family members. “They separated my children, saying such a big lie that Nadir had requested to be separated from his brother. I will complain to the chief of prisons to request that they be together again because the economic situation is difficult and it is not easy to pay for rides to two different places,” said Marta, their mother.

“To get there I need to hire a car, which costs 1,500 pesos. The driver, out of consideration for us, charges 1,200 to 1,300 pesos for the trip. But I have to travel twice because they are separated,” said Perdomo.

Their mother had shared the result of the appeal, when she declared that she was aware that, although the appeal would be “practically in vain”, she is willing to go through all the pertinent procedures, including submitting “letters to Díaz-Canel for the tortures committed against Nadir.”

“I will continue to seek freedom so long as blood runs through my veins,” she added. “They are playing with us but I must continue fighting for my children.”

Translated by: Silvia Suárez 


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Prisoners Defenders Submits to the UN a Report on Minors Prosecuted in Cuba for July 11 (11J)

The updated list of minors less than 18 years of age imprisoned in Cuba for 11J grew to include 36. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Madrid, 18 April 2022 — Prisoners Defenders (PD) stated that in Cuba, there are children even as young as 13 and 15 years old in jail for having participated in the peaceful demonstrations last July 11th (11J). The cases of these 13 minors, which have received less visibility, are included in the NGO’s report published Monday and presented to the United Nations on Friday .

In the report, PD denounces the systematic violation of Children’s Rights on the Island, focusing on two points: on one hand, the arrest of minors less than 18 years old following 11J, a total of 36; and on the other hand, the forced disappearance of thousands of parents and children that result from the internationalist brigades.

Thus, it states that 13-year-old Erik Yoángel Héctor Plaza, is in pretrial detention in the Helpi prison in Matanzas, for the crimes of assault and public disorder. “The accusation is very flimsy,” explained Prisoners Defenders, “and there remains the possibility that, like the majority of accusations we’ve analyzed, it is false.”

Furthermore, the report continues, “in Matanzas, the State Security forces have a record and plenty of evidence that they behaved with extreme aggression against the peaceful protesters, and we also know that there could be some isolated cases, of a response of legitimate self-defense.”

Along with Héctor Plaza, the organization took up the cases of Alexander Morejón Barroso, a 15-year-old resident of La Güinera, who they state was “arrested and taken to the 100 y Adalbó torture and interrogation center”; he is also in pretrial detention accused of public disorder and contempt. So too are Leosvani Jiménez Guzmán (age 15) held at the maximum security prison of Guanajay, Artemisa, and Rubén Alejandro Parra Ricardo (age 15) taken to the juvenile prison in Holguín after being “disappeared” for three months; his mother has only visited him once during this time. continue reading

The remaining 13 cases include young people 16 and 17 years of age, though PD clarified that they have not been able to verify all of the data. Among them are two girls, Katherine Martín Taquechel and Gabriela Zequeira Hernández, both from Havana. The first, the organization denounced, was “repeatedly beaten” in El Guatao prison “despite having epilepsy.” Following a “summary trial” held on July 20, she was sentenced to a year in jail which, upon appeal, was reduced to one year of house arrest.

For its part, before the UN’s Committee on the Rights of the Child, Havana insisted that they do not have any detainees younger than 16 years, which is considered legal age in the Island’s criminal code. “Currently, 662 inmates between 16 and 18 years of age are held in penitentiaries. Two hundred sixty-four are between 16 and 17 years of age, while the rest have already turned 18,” stated the Government in its response.

The minors arrested in Cuba in the last several years, the regime continues, “are mostly boys between 14 and 15 years of age, mestizos and black,” whose “family situation” is characterized as “incomplete (primarily, absentee fathers); dysfunctional; with failures in the use of educational methods and in controlling the activities of their minor children; as well as the presence of indicators of domestic violence such as arguments, mistreatment and alcohol consumption.”

In any case, with 13 new cases, the updated list of political prisoners younger than 18 years of age exceeds 36. Of those, 22 cases are detailed in the Madrid-based NGO’s report.

In the second point of the complaint, the report offers testimonies of more than 1,000 Cuban professionals who have suffered the so-called “8 year law,” the period during which the regime does not allow anyone who ’deserts’ an international ’mission’ to return to the Island; this implies that there are between “5,000 and 10,000 children” in Cuba forcibly separated from their parents.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Basilio Gusman, One of the ‘Plantados’ in Cuban Prisons, Dies

Basillo Guzmán was originally from Campo Florido, Havana (Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 13 April 2022 — Former Cuban political prisoner Basilio Guzmán Marrero, who spent 22 years confined to the Island regime’s prisons, died on Wednesday, in Virginia, United States, the country where he has lived for many years, as dissident Frank Calzón confirmed to 14ymedio.

Guzmán was originally from Campo Florido, Havana, and “joined the struggle against Fulgencio Batista’s regime, suffering persecution,” recounted the International Committee of Former Cuban Political Prisoners while lamenting the opponent’s death.

“Years later, following the rise to power of the ill-named Castrista Revolution he returned to the struggle in search of the freedom that was being snatched from the Cuban people,” added the Committee, which also highlighted that Guzmán was tried in the 1960s [and sentenced] to 30 years in prison, “of which he served 22, the majority of that time wearing only underwear.”

The former prisoner became known not only for his confinement in prison, but also for the positions he took while behind bars. According to Calzón, Guzmán was a man who, from the beginning, very clearly drew a kind of red line as a Cuban political prisoner.

He was known for his intransigence for not wearing the uniform of a [common] prisoner, one of the characteristics of those known as plantados* in Cuba, and Guzmán was especially known as a “key and very heroic figure for his confrontations against Castroism within the prison system,” added Calzón. continue reading

In the United States, he maintained his profile as an opponent of the Island’s regime. “Basilio was Alpha 66’s representative in Washington, D.C., where he lived. We offer his family our most heartfelt condolences,” concluded the Committee’s statement.

Basilio Guzmán Marrero was one of the signatories of a letter sent, in April, to US President Joe Biden and signed by more than two hundred intellectuals, artists, writers and Cuban-American leaders asking the president to condition his policies toward Cuba on a “general amnesty for all political prisoners” on the Island.

“A good man has died, a great patriot,” who “knew Castro-Communism’s hate very well,” wrote Julio M. Shiling, director of The Cuban American Voice, on his social networks. “Nothing, however, separated him from his own balance, peace, and light.”

“Thank you, friend, for your example and dignity! From another dimension, Cuba will continue to count on you. Our most heartfelt condolences to his family, friends and the entire Cuban political prisoner community,” added the writer and political scientist on his post.

When the International Committee of Former Cuban Political Prisoners announced Guzmán’s death on their social media, they also lamented the passing on Wednesday of dissident Evelio Díaz López in Los Angeles, California.

The Committee said Díaz was a member of a farming family from Matanzas where he “became known for the support he provided to the guerillas of Benito Campos and Agapito Rivera” and his “participation in the struggle against Castroism.”

*Translator’s note: “Plantado’ — literally ’planted’ — is a term with a long history in Cuba and is used to describe a political prisoner who refuses to cooperate in any way with their incarceration.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Cuba: The Majority Dilemma

International Workers’ Day March in Havana (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Yunior García Aguilera, Madrid, 12 April 2022 — The majority demanded Pontius Pilate crucify Christ. The majority of Germans, in the times of Hitler, acclaimed the Führer. The majority of Cubans, at some point, shouted “Firing Squad” and “Get out.”  This civic immaturity creates Peter Pan societies, which refuse to grow up and hold onto Never Never Land. The immature society sighs for the bad boy, is attracted by the charismatic lunatic who ends up becoming Batman’s Joker. The world has seen more than one Joker wear a presidential sash and fry his country’s democracy in his own vanity while the masses applaud.

In marketing (and, of course, in politics), the bandwagon effect or the drag effect are often discussed. In it, people can be observed doing and believing certain things, based on the fact that many other people believe and do the same. As more people follow something, more want to hop on the bus.

I’ve always obsessed over the word equilibrium. I resist continuing to view reality through the screen of the old Russian television I had as a child. Krim-218* Syndrome makes us see everything in black and white, without nuances. Our parents’ generation felt panic if they were out of line, in a Cuba marked by uniforms. The Revolution imposed the weight of its own opinions, forcing us to repeat the same slogans, converting civil society en masse, into a committee.

The dogma became irrevocable. Those who managed to escape to other shores soon espoused the contrarian discourse, also in a nearly unanimous way. Those who until the previous day called the dictator “Fidel,” even while flaying him (in hushed voices), now began to call him “Castro.” The sad thing is that at times, deep down, opposing positions end up resembling each other. continue reading

Majorities almost never lead real change. It is painful to discover that in the last war for our independence more Cubans fought on the side of the Spanish than the side of the Mambises [rebels]. At the end of the struggle, the Liberation Army had 40,000 members. And many of those joined in the last months, when Spain was practically defeated and the United States intervened in the conflict. In contrast, on the Spanish side, there were 80,000 creoles from the Island, including volunteers and relief soldiers. The majority who greeted Máximo Gómez, when he entered Havana, with hands raised high, had done almost nothing for independence.

The bearded men of the Castro’s Sierra Maestra didn’t receive massive support either, as described in their history books. The assault on the Moncada barracks was a chaotic failure which was met with varied criticism from the same forces that opposed Batista. They were called adventure-seekers and irresponsible. The Chilean daily El Siglo, of a communist bent, even suggested that the assault had been organized by the CIA. Nor could they count on the majority during the frustrated general strike on April 9, 1958. However, a few months later, all of Havana went out to greet the new caudillo with triumphant euphoria.

On the 11th of July 2021, it became clear that the regime has already lost popular support. They’ve had to use repression and fear to halt the protests. Social media is a hotbed of criticism against the ruling class. The apparatus does not dare conduct the “elections” that should have taken place in November to select new “delegates” and have used the pandemic as an excuse. They don’t even dare to reveal the results of the surveys conducted discretely by the Party offices. The State newspaper Granma published an article on April 8th where they recognize they are a minority and speak of “turning off the lights of El Morro”*.

Democracy is not, and should not be, a dictatorship of the majority. The democratic ideal is based on consensus, debates, real participation, transparency, freedom to be a part of or oppose something, adherence to human rights, legality, justice, representation, citizen sovereignty, respect for minorities and the individual. Populism which aspires to dominate the rest while taking advantage of the frustrations, prejudices or the vengeful spirit of the masses always ends in tyranny.

Hopefully, we Cubans will be capable of breaking the vicious cycle. Hopefully, we will overcome the anthropological damage caused by so much propaganda, so much Never Never, so much Krim-218. Hopefully we will be capable of building a plural Cuba, which won’t fall victim to the majority dilemma again.

Translator’s notes:
*Krim-218: A reference to Cuban state television, which much of the country watched on Soviet Krim-218 model black-and-white TVs.
**El Morro is the iconic lighthouse at the entrance to Havana Bay, and ’will the last one…. turn off the lights’ is an iconic phrase used around the world in similar circumstances.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez 


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.

Musician Sentenced to Six Years for July 11th (11J) Brands ISA Officials as ‘Ass Kissers’

Musician Abel González Lescay was sentenced to six years in prison for 11J. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, April 12, 2022–The University Council of the Universidad de las Artes (ISA) has branded an open letter shared by a group called #FreeAbelLescay as “campaigns that intend to discredit the Revolution.” The group seeks to revoke the sentence of musician Abel González Lescay, a musical composition student at ISA who was sentenced to six years in prison for his participation in the July 11th protests in San José de las Lajas, Mayabeque.

The state institution believes the campaigns intend to “appeal to the empathies of students and professors, simplifying the events for which Lescay was penalized,” and, in addition, they insist that the “existing judicial system in the country is unknown, since his case is under review by the People’s Supreme Court.”

ISA confirmed that, “promoted by the press and political operatives,” these campaigns intend to “manipulate the transparency of the trials that resulted from the events of July 11, 2021,” in which, they said, there were representatives of the institution who “attended the oral trial” and “can vouch for adherence to consitutional guarantees.”

The musician has thanked the institution for the support it provided and for not being “the most repressive part of the dictatorship”, but invites ISA as well as the University of Havana to take interest in what the sanction documents say. Those who attended the trial “may discover lies like those of a detective game. The others will read a literary text so absurd as to cause us to be, as we say, empingue*.

Lescay adds that he does not know of a single campaign that intends to discredit “what they call the Revolution, disrespecting Castillian” and classifies the authors of the institution’s statement “shameless” and “ass kissers,” even though they may have done so with “good intentions.” continue reading

Abel Lescay was arrested at home–from where he was removed naked–on July 12th and was tortured and threatened with death for six days, according to his testimony. After being released on July 18th, “complex” days followed, he recalls. “What occurs in jail is ugly, and then in the street you remain poisoned for some time.”

On various occasions the musician has said that he had never had problems at ISA and that prior to beginning the current school year he went to speak to the dean, who referred to him as “a talented student” and offered psychological support to recover from the impact of the days he spent in jail.

For Lescay, who was tried on January 26th, the Prosecutor sought seven years in jail for public disorder, aggravated contempt of a continuous nature and contempt of a basic figure of a continuous nature; he was free while he awaited his sentencing. Finally, the total sentence was six years, four for “aggravated contempt,” two for “public disorder” and one for “contempt of a basic figure.”

The ISA’s University Student Federation (FEU) had published on April 8th a declaration to “alert” on the use of several students’ names in the letter which, according to them, was modified after it had been circulating at the instutition, “saying that the convicted student had been tried for ’simply rapping on a public street’.”

“This will not affect the public integrity of our students, but rather, it manipulates and unscrupulously uses their name and image to further the interests of feeding a political campaign around the judicial proceedings related to July 11th,” said FEU, who also alleged that the use of several names “were obtained to speak to the sensibilities” of young people.

After the sentence was published, dozens of citizens came to the musician’s defense on social media and some of them created a movement #FreeAbelLescay, which on April 6th published a letter addressed to Cuban president Miguel Díaz-Canel and other Cuban leaders, in which they request the revocation of the penalty.

On Monday, the movement issued a statement in which it denounced the pressure exerted on several student signatories of the letter. “We know there have been secret meetings with faculty members of the Superior Art Institute, in addition to pressures and threats of expulsion.” The note adds that any student or individual who “voluntarily decided to support this civic initiative,” is free to support it or request that their data be removed from it.

*Translator’s note: An obscenity, without a clear counterpart in English, that suggests ’enraged.’

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.