Ten Months Forced Labor for Young Cuban Marching on the Street on July 11th

The moment in which Armando Sardiñas Figueredo is detained by a policeman and a State Security agent in civilian clothes, on July 11 in Havana. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 20 September 2021 — The image of a young man violently taken into custody by a plainclothes policeman a few meters from the Capitol in Havana has become one of the iconic photos of the repression against protesters on July 11. Now, the protagonist of the snapshot taken by a 14ymedio reporter faces a sanction of ten months of internment in a correctional labor camp.

On Monday, Armando Sardiñas Figueredo, 20, shared on his Twitter account the document issued by the Supreme People’s Court (TSP) in which he is informed that he has been sanctioned to “ten months of deprivation of liberty subsidized by correctional work with internment,” a sentence to be served in the center of La Lima, Guanabacoa.

“I never offended or attacked any official,” the young man assures this newspaper, who says that no one ordered him to demonstrate that Sunday, that he learned of the protests “through the social networks,” and he went out into the street at the corner of hotel Manzana de Gómez. Sardiñas narrates that several State Security agents addressed him when he joined the peaceful demonstration in Central Park. One of them tried to hit him, but Sardiñas dodged him, after which they restrained him, put him in a patrol car and transferred him to the Zanja police station.

There, they put him in a cell. “I did not know why they were arresting me, because I knew that I was not committing any crime,” says the young man, who assures that inside the cell there were “about 70 people who continued to demonstrate.”

An officer, says Sardiñas, interviewed him about two hours later, “and practically forced me to sign the arrest warrant.” The accusation: “public disorder.” He spent ten days imprisoned at the 100th y Aldabó,  station in Havana, and, regrets, that as a result of the arrest he lost his job.

The legal document specifies that he must present himself at the correctional center on October 7, under penalty of having the current measure revoked to go on to serve his sentence in a regular prison. “The tasks to be carried out” are mainly in agriculture, the document points out.

It also recommends that Sardiñas come to the place with a “towel, sheet, a bucket, clothing” suitable for the work to be carried out, in addition to other personal hygiene products, since “the center cannot guarantee them,” clarifies the information from the TSP.

“I am going to serve an unfair sanction on the 7th but this is not the end, it is only a sign that they have to remove the blindfold and be realistic,” Sardiñas added on his Twitter account after publishing the document. “Let’s be realistic. Cuba is a dictatorship and Human Rights are violated and freedom of expression is not respected.”

The July 11 protests began in San Antonio de los Baños, Artemisa province. After learning about this demonstration through videos that circulated like wildfire on social networks, the streets of Cuba became abuzz with people and protests were added in Matanzas, Camagüey, Santiago de Cuba, Cienfuegos and Havana. Shouts of “Cuba libre,” “Patria y vida” and “Down with the dictatorship” echoed through the most important streets of the country.

Around the Capitol in Havana, where Sardiñas was arrested, hundreds of people gathered shouting “libertad” and “patria y vida.” A 14ymedio reporter took several videos and photos, one of which records the moment when Sardiñas was violently arrested by a plainclothes policeman who grabbed him by the neck.

The image reflects the excessive repression against the demonstrators that the Government deployed, especially after Miguel Díaz-Canel assured that the “combat order is given” and that they were ready “for anything,” words that unleashed violence against those who protested.

So far, the Cuban government has not recognized official figures of detainees, injuries or deaths. It only admitted the death of one person, Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, 36, a resident of the Havana municipality of Arroyo Naranjo.

Along with hundreds of anonymous citizens who went out into the streets on July 11, several of the main figures of the Cuban dissidence  also ended up in detention. Among them, the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, leader of the San Isidro Movement; Félix Navarro, from the Democratic Action Unity Roundtable, and José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba.

According to the list drawn up by various volunteers under the coordination of the Cubalex legal advice center, of the more than 800 detainees who have been confirmed from those days, 377 remained in jail in August, 10 of them enforced disappearance.


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