14ymedio, Yoani Sanchez, Havana, 24 January 2022 — Lately, the anniversary of the birth of José Martí has been preceded by tragic moments in Cuba. The death of three girls due to a partial building collapse on January 27, 2020 occurred just twelve months after a tornado tore through Havana. This year, on the day that marks the 169th anniversary of that anniversary, a week of trials against the July 11 protesters concludes.
The hearings where those who protested that day are being judged have been characterized by injustice and the regime’s attempt to convey a message to make an example of them. The long prison sentences requested by the prosecutor for many of the defendants, together with the sentences that have already been announced, cast a bleak picture. Serving that time behind bars, in many cases, means spending more years in prison than the defendants have already lived.
So much excess in penalizing the citizen act of protest is leaving a sad balance. In addition to the families destroyed by having a son or daughter in jail, the fear of falling into a similar situation spurs thousands of Cubans to leave the country as soon as possible. Among those who leave are not only those who participated in that day of popular demonstration and also fear being prosecuted, but, above all, those who could potentially join the next social outburst.
This dissuasive effect joins the pressure against relatives who denounce the irregularities of the trials, the threats to those who share, on their social networks, the debauchery of prosecutors or judges and an intense campaign of social demonization against those arrested on 11J. Incapable of havinv foreseen that the streets would be filled with cries of “freedom” that Sunday, Cuba’s ruling party now wants to reverse those impressive images by means of dungeons and fear.
On the same 28th of January, the day José Martí cried for the first time, almost 40 trials will have concluded against dozens of Cubans who, like him, believed that a freer country could be achieved “for the good of all.” At age 16, that attitude cost the then Havana teenager Martí a shackle on his ankle and later exile. A disturbing parallel with what is happening this week in Cuba.
The calendar has once again placed us in front of history’s mirror. Young people continue to be condemned and pushed into exile on this Island.
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