The United States Demands the ‘Immediate Release’ of the Political Prisoners of the 11 July 2021 Protests

Political Police repression of demonstrators from the protests of July 11, 2021 in Havana. (Marcos Evora)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 9 July 2023 — On the eve of the second anniversary of the massive protests of 11 July 2021 (11J), the United States Embassy in Cuba again asked the regime in Havana to release the detainees arrested during these demonstrations. In a message sent to Martí Noticias, the diplomatic headquarters pointed out that the human rights situation on the Island continues to be “grim.”

“About 700 demonstrators and more than a thousand political prisoners in total remain behind bars. We reiterate our prior call for the immediate release of political prisoners, unjustly detained,” a spokesman for the State Department said in an email.

This Tuesday marks two years since the historic anti-government demonstrations of July 11, 2021, to which the regime responded with repression and a tightening of the penalties for those arrested, with sentences of up to 10 years in prison for both adults and minors.

The diplomat recalled that Joe Biden’s administration ordered the State Department to investigate “accountability” for the abuses committed by the Cuban regime. Several rounds of sanctions and visa restrictions were imposed on people with direct links to the “hard treatment” of the demonstrators.

Two weeks after the pressure against the demonstrations, the U.S. Government sanctioned the National Revolutionary Police (PNR), as well as its senior commanders: Óscar Callejas Valcarce, the head of the PNR, and the deputy director, Eddy Sierra Aria. This law blocks any assets they may have under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibits any type of negotiation.

According to the Martí Noticias’ report, published this Saturday, the spokesman for the Embassy assured that the United States maintains its support for the Cuban people in their search for “human rights, prosperity and a future of greater dignity.”

Therefore, he added, the U.S. Government ordered that alternatives be explored to directly support the population of the Island. As part of these actions, measures were approved to strengthen “entrepreneurship and allow families to reconnect with each other.” This allowed the authorization of regular and charter flights to other destinations than Havana, in addition to regulatory changes for group travel and the sending of remittances, as well as the resumption of consular services. “All while the U.S. continues to deny resources to the Cuban armed forces,” the diplomat said.

However, the diplomat recognizes that the regime continues its repression against dissident voices. The family members of the protesters are also harassed and threatened when they dare to talk about the deplorable conditions under which their loved ones are in prison. He ends his message with: “We are with you.”

The U.S. Embassy also responded this Saturday to the statements of Cuban Foreign Minister Bruno Rodríguez, who on several occasions has blamed the “blockade” for the shortage of medicines on the Island. On Twitter, the diplomatic headquarters denied that the economic embargo prohibits exports of American medicines and even said that it is “easy” to obtain the purchase license from the Department of Commerce.

It explained that, so far in 2023, the United States has approved almost 900 million dollars in medical exports to Cuba, a figure that exceeds the 800 million that were registered in all of 2022. “So the embargo can’t be used as an excuse for the lack of medical care in Cuba,” the report adds.

Initially, the Cuban minister could have responded to an update from the U.S. Census Bureau, which revealed that U.S. exports to Cuba have exceeded 2.1 million dollars in various products, between January and May 2023. However, he said that the medicines suffer the “same prohibitions” imposed by the blockade.

The shortage of medicines on the Island mostly responds to the lower production of BioCubaFarma, which last May warned that the industry did not have enough raw materials to guarantee the most in-demand drugs, both for open sale and for hospital use.

At that time, the company’s director of Operations and Technology, Rita María García, explained that the Government does not have enough financial liquidity to buy more inputs or finished products, in addition to problems in the supply of packaging in the international market.

Translated by Regina Anavy


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