14ymedio, Havana, 12 July 2022 — “State Security visits us and harasses us, but we are going to continue asking for the freedom of our children.” The words of Migdalia Gutiérrez Padrón, mother of a 21-year-old young convicted because of the 11J protests [July 11, 2021] without even proof that he was there, explain why among more than 1,500 detainees in the anti-government demonstrations a year ago, there are barely only about twenty families who dare to raise their voices.
Warned and threatened, the mothers, wives, and sisters of the prisoners have become the weakest links for State Security, the easy target to ask for silence not to make things worse. But the political police did not count on the fact that links are also iron made. The political police lack the necessary expertise to understand that they would not be the first mothers in the world who fought for their children and managed, sooner or later, to bring genocides, traffickers and murderers to the dock.
Over several months, with the patience required to gain the trust of those who feel fear, the director of 14ymedio, Yoani Sánchez, was able to interview the mothers of some of the 11J prisoners and the wife of one of them, who also suffers the consequences of having a son now fatherless.
These women agreed to tell where their loved ones were that Sunday, when the demonstrations began, how their arrests and grotesque trials took place, the painful days in prison, and the frustrated hope of a useless appeal. Some affirm that their children did not even participate, others claim that they marched peacefully asking for freedom, others cannot believe that even if they had thrown a stone, they have been sentenced more harshly than murderers and rapists.
They have all suffered having to bring food and clothing to their children and seeing them locked up in unworthy conditions. And although they all know that their fight is almost against a wall, they do not plan to abandon it. María Luisa Fleitas, one of our interviewees and the mother of a young man sentenced to 21 years in prison, wrote: “A son in prison is a dead mother.” But they are alive enough to keep fighting.
Translated by Andrea Libre
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