Cuban Comedian ‘El Gato’ Receives a Pass to Visit his Family After Two Years in Prison

Prisoner Yoandi Montiel Hernández received a permit to visit his family after almost two years in prison. (Facebook)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 2 April 2023 — Political prisoner Yoandi Montiel Hernández, known as El Gato de Cuba, obtained a permit to visit his family a few days before completing his two-year prison sentence, accused of contempt after lobbing criticism against the regime during livestreams on social media.

On Sunday, the news was confirmed by activist Daniela Rojo who shared on Facebook a photograph of Montiel, with his much more tired-looking face reflecting the two years he spent in prison. Rojo wrote, “his eyes, I no longer have words,” on a post that generated a wave of comments from followers who referred to the “pain and sadness” in his look.

The comedian was arrested on April 12, 2021 at home, by an officer of the Ministry of Interior and about 20 police officers. During a trial held on April 7, 2022, El Gato received a two-year prison sentence, but according to opponent Osmay Pérez, at that time there was a possibility that the lawyers and the prosecutor’s office might reach an agreement for him to be released in three or five months, although there were not any advancements in the case.

This April he will have spent two years in prison; he was first taken to the State Security general quarters in Havana, Villa Marista, and was later transferred to the Valle Grande prison, where he remains. During this time, the regime has rejected his family’s requests for his conditional release, and on the contrary, in May 2022 they requested a review of his case to increase his sentence.

In statements made to Diario de Cuba, his father, Lázaro Montiel, said that El Gato was arrested for “having mocked Miguel Díaz-Canel in his latests livestreams.” His mother has said that he only spoke “the truth.”

Contrary to the requests of human rights defenders, the number of political prisoners and prisoners of conscience remains high in Cuba. The last report from Prisoners Defenders (PD) suggested that, at the end of February, 1,066 Cubans were detained, including 34 minors who are being charged or have been convicted of sedition with sentences of up to five years in jail.

One of the recent cases of greatest consternation was the March 23rd arrest of activist Aniette González, in Camagüey, after posting photographs of a performance with the Cuban flag as part of the The Flag Belongs to Everyone campaign, in solidarity with artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara. González is being held in pretrial detention, awaiting trial, and is accused by authorities of “insulting the symbols of the  homeland.”

One of her two daughters, Aniette Ginestá, told Radio Televisión Martí that last Tuesday they filed a write of habeas corpus in favor of the activist before the Provincial Tribunal of Camagüey, although they could not present the document directly in the courtroom “because the procedures have changed a bit and now it must be presented in the office.” According to her, the authorities have one week to respond to their petition.

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


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