‘Many in Cuba Haven’t Even Heard About the Hundreds of Political Prisoners’

The musician Abel González Lescay, one of those prosecuted for 11J. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Luz Escobar, Havana, 25 January 2022 — When his trial was postponed in December, Cuban artist Abel González Lescay, arrested after demonstrating peacefully on July 11 in Bejucal, Mayabeque, thought he would end up being released. Paradoxically, that seemed to him “bad news,” because it could, in his opinion, “overshadow” the denunciation of the rest of the prisoners and those sentenced for the protests.

But that his process would be dismissed was an illusion. The young musician, a second-year student at the University of the Arts in Havana, currently under house arrest after spending a week in detention in July, will be tried this Wednesday in San José de las Lajas. Before that municipal court he has summoned to gather, that day, “everyone who wants to demand justice for Cuban dissidents.”

“We must not stop expressing ourselves at such a serious moment for the Cuban nation,” he wrote on the networks, hoping that his trial could “mark a turning point in the future of this horrible story.”

In a conversation with 14ymedio, Lescay says that despite the fact that “there is a movement in support of political prisoners that is growing quite a bit,” it is a minority phenomenon, and that “if you go out into the streets and talk to people,” there are few who at this moment who are aware of the prisoners. “Many haven’t even heard of the hundreds of political prisoners,” he laments.

The artist faces a sentence of seven years in prison (according to his file, three years for “public disorder”, three years for “aggravated contempt of a continuing nature” and one year and six months for “contempt of the basic figure of a continuing nature”). The Justice 11J platform, which keeps a record of those arrested, imprisoned and convicted of the demonstrations, has confirmed what the musician suffered when he was arrested on July 12: “They took him out of his house naked, humiliated him and beat him.”

“When they took me out of my house, it was done by some policemen who did not have an arrest warrant or anything,” he tells this newspaper. “They forced me into a car without telling me where we were going.”

The six days he spent behind bars the young man remembers as “a rare experience,” in which he suffered “many injustices” that he tried to take in the best way, “as a spiritual retreat,” as a means of survival.

“To say what was the worst thing that happened in prison is complex because it is something compact, one thing feeds the other,” he argues. “It’s not just that the head of the prison wanted to kill me and that in front of all the prisoners he shouted that he’s going to kill me: it’s a guy who’s injecting something into your shoulder without you wanting him to, and you don’t even see the person’s face. He comes with the syringe and puts it in your shoulder while telling you that it’s obligatory and that’s it.”

And he continues listing horrors: “It’s that when you turn on the faucet, the water that comes out is disgusting, you have coronavirus and there is no doctor to see you. Being locked up for four days without talking to anyone, sick and without medical assistance is torture.”

After being released, on July 18, “complicated” days arrived. “It’s ugly what happens in prison, and then on the street you continue for a while feeling as if you’ve been poisoned,” he says. Those days he was very nervous: if, for example, someone parked a car in front of his house, he would run to the window to see what it was about. “I remember that one day I was walking down the street and I saw the moment when they picked up three kids and punched them as they put them in a police car. When I saw them, their whole faces were deformed.”

Despite everything, he is proud to have taken to the streets that Sunday. Since the “events in San Isidro,” he explains, referring to the hunger strike of the MSI artists in November 2020 to ask for the freedom of the anti-establishment rapper Denis Solís, “I was already wanting to do something.” He was not at the artists’ sit-in on November 27, 2020 before the Ministry of Culture “because he was far away,” and he felt “very powerless” that day.

For this reason, on July 11 in Bejucal, after seeing online what was happening in San Antonio de los Baños and Havana, the young man did not think twice.

“I saw that the people who were in the street were my buddies and that there were thousands of people, and I went out into the street,” he recalls, “to unload, to shout freedom.” And he continues: “People went out on the street, for the first time in their lives, to express what they felt. The situation was serious at that time, they gave us electricity for only four or five hours a day in the middle of the quarantine, and the covid was going up every day, with new cases. There was no way not to go out on the street. “

For Lescay, almost all of the 11J protesters are in disagreement “with the things that are happening in Cuba politically.”

A shocking moment for him was when he found out about the prosecutor’s request, in October, when he thought the worst was over. “I had to get serious not to succumb,” he narrates. “When they tell you something like that, reality is destroyed, because six months, a year, is one thing something that one can even endure… but seven years? When I looked ahead and calculated that I would come out of prison at age 30, it was very hard.

In the meantime, however, he has tried to get on with his daily life. “They haven’t told me anything else since I got out on July 18, not how I have to behave nor what I have to do,” he says, surprised. “I am under house arrest, but they have not told me to go sign any paper that follows up that I am complying with the measure, and they have not summoned me either.”

He hasn’t had any problems at the university either. In fact, he says, when he started this semester he went to talk to the rector, who referred to him as “a talented student” and even gave him psychological help to recover from the impact of those days he spent in prison.

This Wednesday, together with Lescay and also Bejucal, they will process six other detainees, four of them “very young,” between 17 and 21: Ángel Miguel Martín Caro, Jorge Luis Reynoso Barrios, Omar Valenciano Donatien, Raúl Xavier Díaz Pérez, Alain Yamil Sánchez Baluja and Livan Viel de la Peña. Regarding them, whose cases are not as visible as his, he insists on drawing attention: “It is useless for me to ask people to go to my trial to pressure them to release me, but not the others, nor does it helps me to keep my mouth shut and try to go to trial waiting for them to shake my hand.”


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