Mother of July 11th Protestor in Cuba Explodes During the Appeal: ‘We’re Tired of Holding On’

María Luisa Fleita Bravo and her son, Rolando Vázquez, sentenced to 21 years in prison in La Güinera. (14ymedio)
14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 25 May 2022 — The patience of María Luisa Fleita Bravo, mother of Rolando Vásquez Fleita, one of the detainees from the Havana neighborhood of La Güinera for the demonstrations of July 12*, was exhausted last Monday. That day, at the appeal trial for her son’s 21-year prison sentence for sedition, the desperate woman lashed out at the court.  

“Don’t touch me, because this is going to be for mothers now!” Fleita shouted at the police officers who took her out of the courtroom, alluding to the rebellious attitude of the so-called 11J (July 11th) mothers, like her. “We are tired of putting up with all this.”

The woman recounts that in the trial they let her son’s lawyers speak, but that upon hearing the prosecutor’s accusation, her son began to shout: “Mom, it’s a lie!” According to Fleita Bravo, the accuser said that he had left Cantera Street to demonstrate.

“My son lives here on Second Street, if he left Cantera Street it is because he had come from Russia a week ago and went to see my family, and my whole family lives on Cantera Street,” Vásquez Fleita’s mother reproached, insisted that her son only crossed the street after having bought a soft drink, when returning home.

Her spirits heated, she told her son: “Pipo, don’t worry, everything will pass… I know it’s a lie.” A guard told her to shut up, but Fleita refused to listen: “I’m not going to shut up, that’s my son and I’m not going to shut up.” The woman was encouraged by another woman present in the courtroom, who praised her right to defend Rolando.

“I turned to the prosecutor and I myself, yelling at him, told him: what they are committing is an injustice,” says Fleita, who did not give up: “What you are committing is an abuse, it is fine now, we are tired of putting up with everything, and just so you know, I’m his mom.”

Fleita says that there were three cameras recording everything, but doubts that the images will be published. They took her out of the court and outside her she found more police officers whom she also reproached for the arrests and insisted that she would not remain silent. Because of this, she was taken to the police station where she was interrogated by a State Security agent until after six in the evening.

“They talked nonsense with us, the same crap as always, it’s what they do to us, that we have to be calm, that I screwed up everything,” Fleita tells 14ymedio. She maintains that the prosecution wants to “ship off” the accused without evidence.

In addition to La Güinera, there were also appeal trials in the Provincial Court of Matanzas, which resolved on Monday the request of Samuel Pupo Martínez and maintained his seven-year prison sentence for the crimes of contempt and public disorder, after having climbed a overturned vehicle and shouted “Down with communism! Patria y Vida! [Homeland and Life] in the demonstrations of last July 11, in Cárdenas.

His wife, Yeneisy Santana González, pointed out that, although the lawyer presented arguments and a “brilliant defense,” the sentence was ratified. In a post on Facebook, the woman said that eight of the 17 individuals convicted for the protests in that municipality appealed.

“I can’t find words to describe how I felt to see you climb into the cage with shackles and handcuffs like a criminal. And I keep asking myself: What did you do? Raise your voice, demand your rights!” Santana wrote on the site. She adds that she will continue denouncing until he is released. Meanwhile she wonders: “I don’t know how to explain to our son why dad has been in prison for more than 10 months and doesn’t come home.”

Pupo suffers from scleroderma, a degenerative and autoimmune disease that affects the skin and other organs of the body, and has been in the prison infirmary twice, but neither this condition nor all the arguments were enough to free him.

In an interview with 14ymedio, Yeneisy Santana González reported that Pupo was arrested on July 11, in a violent manner, and was taken to the headquarters of the Communist Party by three uniformed men and a man dressed in civilian clothes. Inside, they threw him on the floor and kicked him. She did not hear from him until 103 days later, and she never stopped searching.

In other cases, the sentence was also confirmed for 11 of 12 appeals filed before the Military Chamber of the Supreme People’s Court, for the convictions of protesters on July 11 such as Yasmany Porra Pérez, who was sentenced to 17 years in prison, for sabotage, robbery with force and attack.

“I am outraged because it is 17 years and he did not kill anyone, he only went out to demonstrate, to demand his rights as a citizen of this country and what he received in return was beatings and mistreatment,” said Yasmany’s wife, Rosmery Bello Castillo, to Radio Television Martí.

Bello recounts that her husband cannot hear in one of his ears, because the authorities burst his eardrum during an interrogation, when they tried to get him to admit his guilt. Yasmany Porra Pérez was arrested on July 16 of last year and accused of allegedly looting stores.

In addition to Porra, 11 more people received a final sentence: Wilfredo Castillo González sentence of 15 years in prison was ratfied, while Adrián Fernando Domínguez Hidalgo, received 13 years and 9 months; Yoel Montano Alpizar also received 14 years and 6 months, and Rolando Sardiñas Fernández, 12 years.

In the same process, the court confirmed the sentence of 11 years for Omar Herrera Moré and 10 years and six months in prison for Andy Alexis Martín Pérez, in addition to 10 years for Yordan Puentes Morera. Those who have the shortest sentences, although without modification, are: six years for Dainier Flores Oliva, five years for Roberto Díaz Martínez and the same sentence for Andy Ortega Murgado, only that in the latter it will be correctional with internment.

These results abound in what the Cubalex and Justicia 11J organizations have been demonstrating: that the appeals of those convicted of these demonstrations are barely serving to modify the sentences.

According to the registry of these independent associations, to date 40 people have received a response to the review of their sentence in the first instance, of which only one achieved notable success, going from one year in prison to being acquitted.

*Translator’s note: The demonstrations started throughout the Island on July 11th, and continued in La Guinera in particular on July 12th.


COLLABORATE WITH OUR WORK: The 14ymedio team is committed to practicing serious journalism that reflects Cuba’s reality in all its depth. Thank you for joining us on this long journey. We invite you to continue supporting us by becoming a member of 14ymedio now. Together we can continue transforming journalism in Cuba.