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The response to the historic citizen protests that challenged the regime Cuban in July 2021 it has been a mix between punishment, surveillance and repression. Six months after the demonstrations, whose images went around the world, independent journalists remain cornered and those who protested have been tried and sentenced to up to 30 years in prison.

READ ALSO | Cuba dictates sentences of up to 30 years in prison to opposition protesters on July 11

Shouting “Freedom” and “We are hungry,” spontaneous protests broke out on July 11 and 12 in nearly 50 Cuban cities and quickly became the largest demonstrations in decades in the country.

From the city of Sancti Spiritus, the Cuban psychologist Dennis Valdés it has witnessed the efforts of the Miguel Dias-Canel government to undermine the protests that, it claims, were proof of the population’s exhaustion.

The events of 11J helped to wake up a good part of the sleeping and hopeless population. It was the moment most awaited by the majority in CubaIt was a catharsis, practically all the provincial capitals and municipalities joined the peaceful protests. Although the demonstration also served the Cuban government to punish millions of Cubans for taking to the streets to defend their rights”, He tells El Comercio.

More than 1,350 people were arrested in the protests in July 2021. (Photo: AFP)
More than 1,350 people were arrested in the protests in July 2021. (Photo: AFP)

At least 158 ​​protesters have been charged with the crime of sedition in Cuba, according to the human rights NGO Cubalex. This week 57 of them have been tried in the provinces of Havana, Holguín and Santa Clara, and the regime is giving them sentences of 20 or 30 years.

According to the same NGO, the demonstrations ended with dozens of injuries and 1,355 detainees, of which 719 are still in prison.

“They fear us and that is why they punish us”

Cuban journalist Camila Acosta, who writes for Cubanet and is a correspondent for the Spanish newspaper “ABC” in Havana, affirms that six months after the protests in Cuba “The regime has succeeded in implanting terror in the population.”

The terror regime has been seen in the trials of more than 200 protesters. Authorities have so far refused to report the actual number of those arrested in the July 11 protests and of the people who are being prosecuted. They do not allow protests and are prosecuting even minors. There are children of 12, 13 and 14 years old are imprisoned in the province of Matanzas. In the province of Holguín, four young people under 18 years of age are being prosecuted for whom 15 years of deprivation of liberty are being requested for the crime of sedition”, He tells this newspaper.

The NGO Human Rights Watch criticized the “brutal repression” carried out after the massive anti-government protests in July. (Photo: AFP)

The most serious crime for which the protesters are being accused is sedition, which can even lead to a death sentence, but the maximum penalty that is being requested now is 30 years of deprivation of liberty.

The NGO Human Rights Watch (HRW) states in its world report 2022 that the Cuban Government continues “repressing and punishing practically all kinds of dissent and public criticism“On the island and highlights the”brutal repression”Carried out after the massive anti-government protests in July.

The NGO collects more than a thousand arrests of protesters, mostly peaceful; arrests “systematic” Y “arbitrary”From activists, artists and journalists with intimidating motivation; as well as sites of dissidents in their homes.

Valdés claims that the regime’s sanctions were imposed first on the youngest. “We are the generation of change, they fear us and sentence us to 20 and 30 years in prison to serve as an exemplary punishment and not be repeated.”, He says.

The government of Cuba He rules through fear, he has done it for decades and decades, and he does it very well. They harass and torment the families of political prisoners, including many young teenagers who are on trial right now. They censor the international press so that they do not make the exemplary trials visible, Cuba has a State of terror”, He adds.

Protesters gather in Miami, United States, to support Cuban anti-government protesters, on November 14, 2021. (Photo: AFP)
Protesters gather in Miami, United States, to support Cuban anti-government protesters, on November 14, 2021. (Photo: AFP)

Acosta adds that forced exile has increased. Last week three reporters cubans opted for exile, one of them is CubaNet journalist Orelvys Cabrera, who was imprisoned for more than a month for reporting on the July 11 protests in Matanzas. One of the most famous cases was that of Esteban Rodríguez, who was imprisoned for eight months for participating in a peaceful demonstration two months before July 11. The Cuban government gave him a choice between exile or prolonged prison.

“This has happened with many opponents,” says Acosta. “The regime has managed to instill terror because it is the only way it has to control the population. On the other hand, we have an acute economic crisis that has been aggravated by the pandemic, and inflation never seen before. The most worrying thing now is the situation of political prisoners, these are alarming figures. At least 800 political prisoners are reported, but it is believed that there are many more. There is a persecution of the independent press and many families who are afraid to report. Many people are in prison, especially as a result of last July’s protests across the country”, He points out.

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