Of the 314 Women Detained in Cuba for Political Reasons Since 11 July 2021 Protests, 56 Are Still in Jail

Banners with photos of Cuban women prisoners during a press conference in Miami, Florida, on May 16, 2023. (EFE/EPA/CRISTOBAL HERRERA-ULASHKEVICH) 14ymedio

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 15 March 2024 — One month after being diagnosed with a five-centimeter uterine fibroid, Lizandra Góngora, a political prisoner for participating in the Island-wide protests of 11 July 2021 and sentenced to 14 years, remains in Los Colonos prison, on the Island of Youth. Although neither the hospital of the special municipality nor the prison’s medical services have the supplies or personnel to treat her, the authorities are still reluctant to send her to Havana for medical treatment.

Góngora’s situation, who was also imprisoned far from her province of origin (Artemisa) and her husband and children, reflects just one aspect of the circumstances of the 56 women who remain in detention since 11 July  2021 (commonly referred to as ’11J’) onwards, due to the protests in Cuba. Of the 56 prisoners, 30 are mothers and two are awaiting sentencing after being tried. Only one, Leydiana Cazañas, detained in March 2023 without protest, remains awaiting trial.

According to the NGO* Justicia 11J database, since the 2021 protests and to date, a total of 314 women have been detained for political reasons. Of that total, 40 were released and 171 were sentenced to house arrest, mobility restriction, correctional work, or fines and bail, so they did not serve time in prison. Another 30 women live in exile.

The NGO has requested help to find out the statuses of 15 other women. It is not known whether they remain in prison or have been released

Alina Bárbara López, a Matanzas professor who has been arrested on several occasions for her activism, has been banned from leaving the country and was tried and sentenced to pay a fine of 7,500 pesos after refusing to attend a police summons that she considered illegitimate.

The situation of the transsexual woman Brenda Díaz, imprisoned in a male prison for AIDS patients, has been one of the most widespread outrages. Last January, Ana María García, mother of the political prisoner, complained to prison authorities about the constant abuse that the inmate, a participant in the 11J protests, is being subjected to.

As she explained, Díaz was locked in a punishment cell after being unfairly linked to alcohol trafficking within the prison. After clearing up the misunderstanding she was released, but when she reported her mistreatment, she was returned to her cell.

The case of Díaz, sentenced to 14 years and seven months – to which were added another seven months last April 2023 for “contempt” – even caught the attention of Mariela Castro, Director of the National Center for Sexual Education and daughter of Raúl Castro, who assured the EFE agency that García’s story is an “overblown tale full of fantasies.”

The NGO has requested help in finding out the statuses of another 15 women whose situations are unknown, whether they remain in prison or have been released.

After the July 11 explosion, when thousands of Cubans took to the streets in several of the country’s provinces, the regime began a repressive wave that ended with the arrest of 1,580 protesters, of which 676 remain detained. Protests such as those of November 15, 2021 and those of the summer of 2022, added other names to the list, which, according to several organizations, now records the arrest of 1,900 people, of which 1,067 remain imprisoned.

There are 663 protesters out of prison, but serving some type of sentence. Only 18 of those who were convicted for taking to the streets on June 11 are free and continue living in Cuba.  Another 80 went into exile.

*Translator’s note: NGO: a non-governmental organization that operates independently of any government, typically one whose purpose is to address a social or political issue.

Translated by Norma Whiting


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