14ymedio, Havana, 7 October 7, 2022 — Thais Mailén Franco, one of those arrested for the demonstration on Obispo Street in Havana in April 2021, has been in U.S. territory since the early hours of Wednesday. “Crossing the California border, crossing the entire desert,” says the activist herself in a video posted on her social networks in which she shows that she is, at night, next to the fence built on the border with Mexico.
“We have gone through a lot on the crossing,” she confesses, “and we’re going to surrender to the United States Army right now,” she says before starting to cry. Franco is currently detained by the immigration authorities, according to the usual procedure in these cases.
The opponent left Cuba on August 12 with her eldest son, leaving the other two, 9 and 10 years old, in Havana. In a post on her Facebook page, next to a photo where they were both seen on a plane, she reported that her son had “been called to Compulsory Military Service” and she was threatened with “being returned to prison.”
“Painfully, the resources that we received, with a lot of sacrifice on the part of those who donated, shared, helped, weren’t enough for the two youngest children to leave as well,” she said in the same text.
A few weeks ago, on September 21, Franco herself, who kept her whereabouts secret until now, denounced that State Security had summoned her minor children for a “special services program.” “Special services of what?” the activist cried indignantly in a broadcast, where she affirmed that this “only happens in a dictatorship.”
That very day was exactly one year since she had been released without trial from El Guatao prison after five months of imprisonment for the protest on Obispo Street. Afterwards, she was sentenced to eleven months of house arrest, until July 12, 2022.
On April 30, 2021, in Old Havana, several activists tried to approach the house of the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, who was then carrying out a hunger strike, when the police prevented them from passing. At that time, they sat down to protest against what they considered a limitation of their right to free movement.
Their video, broadcast live, provoked broad solidarity with the detainees that day. Amnesty International was one of the first international organizations to ask for the immediate release of the protesters.
Together with Franco, Inti Soto, Ángel Cuza, Yuisan Cancio, Mary Karla Ares and Esteban Rodríguez were detained for months. Of them, all but two — Cuza and Cancio — are out of Cuba today.
Regarding the political prisoners of the Island, the U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, spoke harshly to the Organization of American States (OAS). “The Cuban regime continues to keep in prison hundreds of people unjustly detained in the protests of July 11, 2021, for the alleged crime of taking to the streets to peacefully ask their government to meet their basic needs and give them human rights. Some of those prisoners are minors; others were sentenced to decades in prison just for saying what they thought,” Blinken recalled.
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Translated by Regina Anavy
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