Luis Robles, the ‘Young Man with the Placard’, is Sentenced to Five Years in a Cuban Jail

Robles was arrested on December 4, 2020, for protesting in Havana. (Capture)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 30 March 2022–Activist Luis Robles, the “Young Man with the Placard”, was sentenced to five years in jail for peacefully protesting in the centrally-located Boulevard on San Rafael Street in Havana holding a sign demanding an end to the repression and freedom for Cuban rapper Denis Solís.

According to the judicial sentencing document, accessed by 14ymedio, during the trial it was “proven” that Robles “responded to a call” by Cuban influencer “Alexander Otaola for people to pronounce themselves” against the Solís’s detention, “by police authorities and directors of the State and the Government,” and to “perform any act aimed at destabilizing the internal order, publicly protesting in the street against the Cuban economic and social system.”

The phrases “Freedom. No more repression. #free-Denis [Solís]”, visible on the sign Robles was carrying, “opposed the decisions of the authorities” who determined Solís’s arrest, argued the Provincial Tribunal in Havana, where the activist’s judicial proceedings took place.

The sentence was dated March 28th, the day when authorities notified Robles, but the young man as well as his family members were only able to access the document on Wednesday, his brother Landy Fernández Elizastigui confirmed to this daily.

In the document, the judges state that the young man maintained a “marked interest in creating a destabilizing environment for the social system and domestic economic development,” arguing that “he began yelling phrases similar to those on his sign and others regarding the decisions made by the country’s leadership to resist the economic blockade to which Cuba has been subjected by the United States.”

Robles moved “from one side to the other to invite the people who were there to follow him and in that way create disorder.” Furthermore, they argue that “the events were manipulated by digital platforms serving the enemy” to “discredit the professional functioning of [Cuban] police authorities.”

The Prosecutor’s Office, during the trial which took place over three and a half months ago, had requested the young man be sentenced to six years in prison for the crimes of resistence and enemy propaganda. On various occasions Robles was denied his request for a change in his pre-trial detention during which he remained in prison.

Robles was arrested on December 4, 2020, for protesting on the Boulevard San Rafael in Havana. He peacefully protested, holding a placard above his head demanding freedom, an end to repression, and the release of controversial rapper Denis Solís.

Three days prior to taking to the streets to peacefully protest, Robles recorded a video which was released much later where he spoke about his thinking, his desires and also the reasons that led him to become a non-conformist.

“We wish with our hearts for a change, a change in the system, a change in the country, because really communism has converted this country into an true hell where it is practically impossible to breathe, not only to breathe air, but also to breathe peace, breathe tranquility,” he declared in the video.

At another point, he said “freedom is the greatest thing one can have in life and ever since these  bold-faced communists arrived, they have thwarted all kinds of freedoms, freedoms of free religion, freedoms of a free ideology, freedoms to choose whomever you want, not who they impose upon you.” And he continued: “They’ve taken our freedom of thought, they even want to dictate what we think.”

At the beginning of March, the 29-year-old released a letter in which he reiterated his struggle and his goal, “Freedom for the people of Cuba.” In the missive, Robles returns to the reasons that led him to carry out the peaceful protest for which, today, he is in jail.

“I decided to break the silence because I got tired of seeing how my country is destroyed and the Government does nothing to fix it,” he explained, “because I believe the biggest enemy Cuba has is not abroad but sitting in the presidential seat.”

Thus, he insisted that his action was so that “fear and censorship would not continue governing Cuban society, so that expressing what you think and feel, anywhere, would not be a reason for going to jail, because I want Cuba to be a country for Cubans, no matter their way of thinking, so that the streets of my country would be for everyone and not just for the communists.”

Translated by: Silvia Suárez


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