Cuban TV Announcer’s Program Canceled for Supporting July 11th (11J) Prisoner

Luis Mario Niedas, 31, with his grandmother, before being arrested on July 11. (Family archive)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 3 February 2022 — Sunday was the last day that the announcer Luis Ángel Cruz Gómez presented his program A Very Different Sunday on Radio Vitral, from Sancti Spíritus. The space had not even been on the air for a month, the host’s wife, Mildrey Betancourt, said on the networks, but the directors, without giving reasons, announced that they would “stop for a while.”

As reported Monday by the religious and activist Mario Félix Lleonart, the suspension comes a week after Cruz Gómez received “direct threats from State Security” for “supporting his wife Mildrey Betancourt in providing solidarity to a July 11th (11J) prisoner: the brave young man from Sancti Spiritus Luis Mario Niedas.”

Niedas, 31, sentenced to three years for demonstrating on July 11 in Sancti Spíritus, is in the Nieves Morejón prison, in the same province, and nothing is known about him at the moment.

According to sources from Sancti Spiritus activist Néstor Estévez, who lives in the United States, Niedas could be isolated in a punishment cell, although “there is no way to confirm this… I do attest that Luis Mario has not communicated with his family since January 23,” he certifies to 14ymedio.

That day, part of a telephone conversation between the young man from the prison and a friend residing in Canada in which he denounced his situation in prison was made public. “They invented excuses to put me under a severe regimen for alleged indiscipline that I did not commit,” said Niedas. The first of them, he referred to, “is that I did not want to be vaccinated and we already know that it is a right to receive a vaccine or not, it is a personal decision.” The second, he claimed, is to present his written defense “so that my lawyer would keep those papers and then give them to my family,” and the third, to speak from prison to Canada.

In these audios, Niedas names his friends Luis Ángel Cruz and Mildrey Betancourt, who were prevented from entering prison on January 5, “for a visit that belongs to me by right,” protests the young man. “They provide me with peace, joy, support, affection and emotional shelter, in short, they are important in my life,” says the young man, who also laments the threats received by his grandmother from State Security.

That same January 5 was the last time that the woman, who was allowed to visit, saw her grandson. “My closest family is under pressure and threats for the mere fact that I am an opponent,” Niedas cried. “They have made my aunt and my cousin not want to interact with the people who want to support me, thus keeping the opinion of the only two people who witnessed my trial a secret.”

In the same call, the prisoner recounted the conditions in which he was transferred to the prison after his trial, held on October 1, in which he was prosecuted for contempt, spread of epidemics and instigation to commit a crime. “For 14 days they kept me in a cell that was stuffy, so I had to bathe with my own urine and had feces on my feet and slept with that bad smell.”

When he complained to the responsible officer, he was transferred to another cell “which was supposedly fixed and in the same condition.” He kept complaining, without success. The objective, according to Niedas, is “to have me there all the time under that psychological abuse.”

The young man, in addition, according to Néstor Estévez, has been isolated in prison most of the time. “His grandmother and aunt and his cousin managed to see him on October 1, his grandmother did not manage to see him until January 5,” he tells this newspaper.

In his call, the prisoner also indicated that he had requested that Mildrey Betancourt be allowed to enter during the next scheduled visit, on February 7, but he anticipated that they will try to prevent it. “Is it ethical, humane, fair and morally acceptable that another person decides for me who I can see, hear and hug? Am I a terrorist or am I no longer a human being?” he asked.

Niedas was arrested on 11J, but before that he had already been harassed and pressured for being politically active. He himself detailed it in a chronicle published by Yucabyte days before that Sunday of protests. “My activism, like that of many, began from the pressures of the regime,” he wrote. “It was enough for me to support the causes defended by the San Isidro Movement and the 27N group on social networks for the weight of the arbitrariness of this dictatorship to fall on me.

“Because yes, publishing a simple post on Facebook in Cuba that does not have the approval of the Government, implies almost the same as standing with a sign in front of the headquarters of the provincial Communist Party (PCC) asking for the resignation of the president. There is no freedom, not even in cyberspace.”


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