14ymedio, Lorey Saman, Mexico, January 3rd, 2022–Independent reporter, Orelvys Cabrera Sotolongo had to abandon Cuba “due to pressure from State Security.” The journalist, a resident of Matanzas and one of those detained during the protests on July 11th, confirmed on Monday to 14ymedio that he traveled to Russia along with his partner on December 19th.
“I was the last journalist to be released from prison after July 11 (11J). They were extreme with me, they held me prisoner for 37 days,” said Cabrera, who insists that the regime’s repression increased after October when he launched a podcast, La Gusanera, a project developed along with CubaNet, an independent media outlet where he is a reporter.
With regard to his arrest on 11J, he said he was reporting on the events of the social uprising when State Security “kidnapped him.” The political police “had been following me for a while, they knew who I was.”
As soon as they saw him at the protest, he says, they “sent a patrol car” and they loaded him in it. “I say it is a kidnapping because I was forced to disappear for ten days, until one point when they allowed me a phone call because my partner denounced on Mega TV that I had disappeared and my whereabouts were unknown,” said Cabrera, who has been practicing independent journalism since 2018.
After more than a month in jail the terms of his pre-trial detention changed to house arrest and only a few weeks later he was fined for the propagation of the epidemic and public disorder.
Since then, the political police warned him they had opened a case file to incarcerate him and they’d add several criminal charges. He also received death threats from people on the street who appeared “common,” he said. “The last was a Black man with a knife in his pants. He raised his t-shirt and told me, ’This revolution was made with the blade of a machete and, if necessary, we will preserve it with the blade of a machete.’ When he did that, I told myself they could assassinate me.”
State Security communicated that he would be processed in court for “ideological corruption of minors,” due to a video he made “talking about the trains in Cuba” where “a minor gave a testimonial.”
“The truth is, I didn’t know that crime existed, but it is included in a file they had opened on me.” In reality, this crime is not mentioned in the Cuban Penal Code, which only mentions “corruption of minors”.
Furthermore, he was warned that he’d be accused of “usurpation of duties” [practicing a profession without a license] for not having his journalist credential and that he’d be added to the list of “regulated” people who cannot exit the country. They also invalidated his degree in Social Communications.
During one of the interrogations they spoke without filter: “You have become a very potent opponent and we need to put the brakes on that, the easy way or the hard way.”
Regarding his exit from the country, Cabrera maintains, “This step we took is very difficult, it is difficult to abandon your land knowing you will not return to see it nor will you be able to return to your family. I do not view it as cowardice.”
“Repression in Cuba has increased a lot and there are many independent journalists who are almost at the prison doors, there are many activists being pressured and I believe that I feel more useful outside than inside [the country] because I realized that my voice bothers them, my discourse bothers them,” he explained.
Cabrera appealed for the support of any international organization or American politician who could help him exit Russia, “a homophobic society,” he said. “A homosexual couple in this country could be at risk and more so because the tentacles of the Cuban dictatorship could reach here and they could even kill us and the crime would go unpunished.”
“We need to leave as soon as possible before we lose the tourist status we now have,” he explained. “When we lose this condition, it will be more difficult to exit legally, it would need to be through a border and right now, the closest one is Serbia,” where the crossing, he recognized, “would be very difficult.”
In the last year and more frequently after July 11th, the Cuban regime has reverted to its historical tactics: forcing every voice that rises up against it to exit the Island. Several protestors, opponents and artists have had to abandon the country for fear of being incarcerated, as has occurred in other decades.
Among the most notable are artist Hamlet Lavastida and poet Katherine Bisquet, after negotiating with State Security, which hopes to remove from the country some political prisoners, such as activist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, rapper Maykel Castillo Osorbo and independent reporter Estaban Rodríguez.
Translated by: Silvia Suárez
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