CubaBrief: Two more officials sanctioned, but the big fish also need to be named and shamed. Meanwhile Cuban NGO identifies over 830 Cubans detained or missing.

The U.S. Treasury Department said on Friday it was imposing sanctions on Romarico Vidal Sotomayor Garcia and Pedro Orlando Martinez Fernandez of the Ministry of the Interior and the Tropas de Prevencion of the Cuban Ministry of Revolutionary Armed Forces over the government’s crackdown on protesters in July 2021, reported David Shepardson of Reuters.

Miguel Diaz Canel, handpicked by Raul Castro, threatened Cubans in a televised national public address: "They would have to pass over our dead bodies if they want to confront the revolution, and we are willing to resort to anything.”

Miguel Diaz Canel, handpicked by Raul Castro, threatened Cubans in a televised national public address: “They would have to pass over our dead bodies if they want to confront the revolution, and we are willing to resort to anything.”

“Hundreds of people, including dozens of dissident artists and opposition activists, remain detained in Cuba a month after unprecedented anti-government protests, according to rights groups,” reports Reuters today. Cubalex on their database as of August 13, 2021 at 4:26pm identified 834 detained or disappeared. Cubans in the diaspora have protestedprayed, and organized on behalf of their counterparts in the island.

Naming and shaming is of critical importance for both the victims and the oppressors and can have a profound impact not only internationally, but on the bad actors themselves..

Aryeh Neier writing in Open Global Rights gave four good reasons for continuing the practice of naming and shaming. Below are excerpts taken from “‘Naming and shaming’: still the human rights movement’s best weapon“:

“First, it is of immense importance to victims of human rights abuses that their suffering, and the identities of those responsible for their suffering, should be known. It is the near universal experience of those conducting human rights research that victims want to tell their story, want it to be recorded and want the information to be disseminated as widely as possible.”

“Second, detailed and reliable information is needed within countries where abuses have taken place if efforts are to be made to secure changes.”

“Third, though Western governments may not use detailed and reliable human rights information to try to influence the practices of the governments responsible for abuses, most abusive governments feel that they must take into account international public opinion.”

“Fourth, by now there have been a good many cases in different parts of the world in which high level officials, among them heads of state, heads of government and military commanders, have been held accountable for severe abuses of human rights.”

Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel, who called for bloodshed on the streets of his country on July 11, 2021, needs not only to be sanctioned, but also to be named and shamed.


Reuters, August 13, 2021

Americas

U.S. imposes sanctions on Cuban officials, military unit over violence

People walk under a Cuban flag at a commercial area amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Havana, Cuba, August 3, 2021. Reuters | Alexandre Meneghini

People walk under a Cuban flag at a commercial area amid concerns about the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in Havana, Cuba, August 3, 2021. Reuters | Alexandre Meneghini

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON, Aug 13 (Reuters) – The U.S. Treasury Department said on Friday it was imposing sanctions on two Cuban Ministry of Interior officials and a military unit over the government’s crackdown on protesters last month.

The department said it was sanctioning Romarico Vidal Sotomayor Garcia and Pedro Orlando Martinez Fernandez and the Tropas de Prevencion of the Cuban Ministry of Revolutionary Armed Forces.

“Today’s action shines a spotlight on additional perpetrators responsible for suppressing the Cuban people’s calls for freedom and respect for human rights,” said Andrea Gacki, director of the Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control. Cuba’s Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez on Twitter rejected the sanctions, calling them “U.S. opportunistic measures against Cuba’s Ministry of Interior officers and Armed Forces Prevention Troops. Such measures reflect double standards of a government used to manipulation and lies to maintain the blockade against #Cuba.”

In July, the U.S. put sanctions on the Cuban police force and two of its leaders.

The protests erupted in July amid Communist-ruled Cuba’s worst economic crisis since the fall of its old ally, the Soviet Union, and a record surge in coronavirus infections. Thousands took to the streets, angry over shortages of basic goods, curbs on civil liberties, and the authorities’ handling of the pandemic.

Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canel has blamed the unrest on the United States, which in recent years has tightened its decades-old trade embargo on the island. He has said many protesters were sincere but manipulated by U.S.-orchestrated social media campaigns.

The U.S. Treasury earlier announced sanctions on Cuba’s defense minister and an interior ministry special forces unit over allegations of human rights abuses in the crackdown that followed the protests, in which hundreds of activists were detained. (Reporting by David Shepardson; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Grant McCool)

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/us-treasury-sanctions-cuban-officials-military-unit-over-violence-2021-08-13/

NBC News, August 13, 2021

In Cuba, hundreds remain behind bars after July protests

Cuban authorities have not given a figure for the total number of people detained, but rights group Cubalex has recorded around 800 detentions, with many still in “preventative jail.”

Gabriela Sequeira Hernandez, 17, detained by police during a protest and waiting for her appeal after being convicted and sentenced to 8 months home arrest, holds her mother's hand during an interview in Havana, Cuba, Aug. 10, 2021. Alexandre Menghi…

Gabriela Sequeira Hernandez, 17, detained by police during a protest and waiting for her appeal after being convicted and sentenced to 8 months home arrest, holds her mother’s hand during an interview in Havana, Cuba, Aug. 10, 2021. Alexandre Menghini / Reuters

By Reuters

HAVANA — Hundreds of people, including dozens of dissident artists and opposition activists, remain detained in Cuba a month after unprecedented anti-government protests, according to rights groups.

Thousands took to the streets nationwide on July 11 to protest a dire economic crisis and curbs on civil rights in the Communist-run country. The Cuban government said the unrest was fomented by counter-revolutionaries exploiting hardship caused largely by U.S. sanctions.

Rights group Cubalex has recorded around 800 detentions, a number that has risen daily as relatives come forward. Many are still too afraid to report the arrest of family members, said Cubalex director Laritza Diversent.

While 249 people have been released, many to house arrest, most remain in “preventative jail,” she said. The whereabouts of 10 people is unknown.

Dozens have already been sentenced to up to a year in prison or correctional work in summary trials, with simplified procedures and often without the chance of hiring a defense lawyer on time, said Diversent.

“The government’s aim is to make an example of those who protested, to stop others from doing the same,” she said.

The Cuban government did not respond to requests for comment for this story.

Cuban authorities have not given a figure for the total number of detained in the recent unrest but say they have so far carried out trials for 62 people, 22 of which had hired a lawyer. All but one have been deemed guilty of crimes including public disorder, resisting arrest, and vandalism, they said.

The protests were largely peaceful, although state media showed some demonstrators looting and throwing stones at police. One person died and several people, including government supporters, were injured, authorities have confirmed.

Several of those sentenced were not protesting, but were caught up in the unrest, according to their relatives.

Yaquelin Salas, 35, says her husband intervened peacefully in the arrest of a woman, calling on police agents to not treat her so aggressively. Now he is serving a 10-month prison sentence on charges of public disorder after a collective trial in which just two of the 12 detained had lawyers.

“What they are doing is totally unfair,” said Salas.

Since Cuba’s 1959 revolution, authorities have tightly controlled public spaces, saying unity is key to resisting coup attempts by the United States, which has long openly sought to force political change through sanctions and democracy initiatives. The White House has said it will do what it can to support Cuban protesters.

Families ‘silenced’

Gabriela Zequeira, 17, one of several minors detained in the protests, said she was sentenced to house arrest for eight months after being arrested while walking home from the hairdressers on July 11.

Upon her admission to jail, where she was kept 10 days incommunicado, she said she was required to put a finger in her vagina to show she was concealing nothing as part of a strip search. Officers kept interrupting her attempts to sleep and one officer made sexual taunts, she said in an interview.

The Cuban government initially said no minors had been detained, a statement later contradicted by state prosecutors.

Some relatives of those detained said authorities were pressuring them to stop speaking out.

“My family has been silenced,” said emigre Milagros Beirut from her home in Spain. She said four of her relatives in Havana and the eastern city of Guantanamo remained behind bars for protesting peacefully. “They’ve been told those detained will receive a stricter sentence if they say anything.”

Dozens of political activists and dissident artists were among the detained, including some who did not participate in the protests but appeared to have been arrested pre-emptively, said Diversent from Cubalex.

Jose Daniel Ferrer, the leader of Cuba’s largest opposition group, and Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, head of a dissident artists collective, were both arrested on their way to the protests before even arriving, according to their supporters.

Ferrer’s sister Ana Belkis Ferrer said the family had not been able to speak to or see him, a complaint of many relatives of those detained.

“We don’t know if he’s being beaten, if he’s well or not, whether or not he’s doing a hunger strike,” she said.

Another detained activist, Félix Navarro, 68, president of the Party for Democracy, was in hospital with COVID-19, said Diversent. Several of those detained have denounced unsanitary conditions in jail amid one of the worst COVID-19 outbreaks in the world.

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https://www.nbcnews.com/news/latino/cuba-hundreds-remain-bars-july-protests-rcna1669