CubaBrief: Tourist jailed, faces 24 year prison term for filming a public protest. International students beaten up, shot and killed by govt agents. [Cuba is a dictatorship]

The Castro regime is fully reopening for tourism with no COVID-19 testing on November 15th, but prospective travelers to Cuba, in addition to pandemic concerns, should also worry about officials. A German tourist arrested on July 11th for filming civic protests, and held in prison in Cuba since then, now faces a 24 year prison sentence. His family has a petition online campaigning for his release.

Luis Frómeta Compte

German citizen Luis Frómeta Compte is one of around two thousand demonstrators arrested on July 11 during protests against the dictatorship. Today, the Dresden family man turns 59 in the notorious ‘Combinado del Este’ prison. He had visited relatives in Cuba in the summer and spontaneously filmed with his smartphone at a demonstration in Havana for private purposes,” reported the International Society for Human Rights on November 10th.

Officers slap young men, one of them sitting and apparently handcuffed.

Havana also has been in the news for their police assaulting South African medical students studying in Cuba on November 6, 2021. South Africa’s national department of health confirmed on November 10th “that some of the people who appeared in a video clip circulating on social media platforms, are South African medical students based in Cuba.” The ANC government of South Africa has close ties with the Cuban regime, and has sought to downplay the incident.

“The deputy minister of health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, has appealed to members of the public to desist from sensationalising the video clip as it has potential to harm the families of the students and diplomatic relations between South African and Cuban governments,” said department of health spokesperson Foster Mohale. The annual cost of training medical students under the Medical Collaboration Programme between South Africa and Cuba that started in 1997, is more than double what it would cost in a local medical school.

South Africa’s departments of Health and International Relations are still investigating the violent incident between South African medical students and police in Cuba last Saturday. Investigators should look at the history of heavy handed tactics used by police in Cuba against international students in the past, but one South African official expressed concerns that this episode could damage diplomatic relations.

Screen grabs of April 2019 video of Congolese students clashing with police and other regime agents.

This was not the first time that international students have been beaten up by Cuban police. On April 8, 2019 clashes broke out between Congolese students and the Cuban police. The police initiated the violence beating up the students; they also used dogs, physically restrained students, and drew their weapons on them.

These acts of violence against international students, and the arbitrary detention of a German tourist demonstrates the consequences of ignoring that Cuba is a dictatorship. American universities have sent their students to study in programs in Cuba, and they should reconsider this practice. Regime violence can also prove deadly for students, and there is zero accountability.

Danish student Joachim Løvschall shot by Cuban soldier in Cuba

Joachim Løvschall was studying Spanish in Havana in the spring of 1997. He was gunned down by a Cuban soldier in Havana on March 29, 1997. On September 28, 1997 the Danish newspaper Jyllands-Posten published an article by Kim Hundevadt titled “Dangerous Vacation” that outlined what happened to Joachim Løvschall according to the official version giving by Havana on the events leading to this young man’s death:

Around 23:30, a person matching Joachim Løvschall’s description was in a bar named Segundo Dragon d’Oro. The bar lies in the hopeless part of town, around the Revolutionary Plaza which is dominated by ministry and other official buildings of harsh concrete architecture, and lies empty at night.

At 2:45am he left the bar, after becoming intoxicated. Around 20 minutes later, he was walking down the Avenue Territorial, behind the Defense Ministry.
Joachim Løvschall walked, according to the Cuban authorities, first on the sidewalk that lies opposite the Ministry. Midway he crossed over to the other sidewalk, considered to be a military area, though it is not blocked off.

The Cubans have explained that Joachim Løvschall was shouted at by two armed guards, who in addition fired warning shots, which he did not react to. Therefore, one guard shot from the hip with an AK-47 rifle. The first shot hit Joachim in the stomach and got him to crumble down. The second shot hit slanting down the left side of the neck.

Cuba is a dictatorship, and the failure to recognize that fact has cost lives, and will continue to do so. That foreign government officials would downplay it, when violence is visited on their nationals, endangers more lives.


Independent Online, November 10, 2021

Health department confirms people being assaulted in video are SA medical students in Cuba

By Jonisayi Maromo

DEPUTY minister of health, Sibongiseni Dhlomo has appealed to community members to avoid ‘sensationalizing’ the video as it can affect South Africa-Cuba relations. File Picture: GCINA NDWALANE

By Jonisayi Maromo

PRETORIA – The national department of health has confirmed that some of the people who appeared in a video clip circulating on social media platforms, are South African medical students based in Cuba.

In the short clip, the group of young people is seen being beaten up by people in what looks like police uniforms. A woman is also seen confronting the group of officers, while other people can be seen encouraging someone to record a video of the incident.

Spokesperson for the department of health, Foster Mohale said an investigation into the “unfortunate” incident is under way.

“The department, working closely with the department of international relations and co-operation, and other relevant authorities has initiated a process to investigate circumstances which led to this unfortunate incident. The findings of the investigation will be communicated to all the affected parties, including families of the students,” Mohale said.

Deputy minister of health, Sibongiseni Dhlomo has appealed to community members to avoid “sensationalising” the video.

“The deputy minister of health, Dr Sibongiseni Dhlomo, has appealed to members of the public to desist from sensationalising the video clip as it has potential to harm the families of the students and diplomatic relations between South African and Cuban governments,” Mohale said.

In recent years, the DA has said that the annual cost of training medical students under the Nelson Mandela/Fidel Castro Medical Collaboration Programme between South Africa and Cuba that started in 1997, is more than double what it would amount to at a local medical school.

IOL

https://www.iol.co.za/news/politics/health-department-confirms-people-being-assaulted-in-video-are-sa-medical-students-in-cuba-649cb30a-f840-4174-b0ed-edf9fda81105


International Society for Human Rights, November 10, 2021

Cuba: German to serve 24 years in prison for filming protests with his smartphone

ISHR demands immediate release of Luis Frómeta Compte – Cuba refuses consular assistance by German embassy

Dresden/Frankfurt am Main/Havana, November 10, 2021 – Birthday behind bars: German citizen Luis Frómeta Compte is one of around two thousand demonstrators arrested on July 11 during protests against the dictatorship. Today, the Dresden family man turns 59 in the notorious “Combinado del Este” prison. He had visited relatives in Cuba in the summer and spontaneously filmed with his smartphone at a demonstration in Havana for private purposes. The prosecution is demanding 24 years in prison for him for “causing a public nuisance” and “inciting a riot.” As the German-Cuban spends his 59th birthday today in a cell with 30 prisoners, the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR) is calling for his immediate release.

Although Luis Frómeta Compte has German and Cuban citizenship and has lived in Germany since 1985, the Cuban government still refuses to provide consular assistance through the German embassy in Havana.

“The case of Luis Frómeta Compte from Dresden shows how much Cuba’s leadership is afraid of losing power. Not only locals, but also vacationers who witness protests are seen as a danger, declared criminals and threatened with long prison sentences on false charges. Cuba has already violated human rights on July 11, 2021 while the whole world was watching, the same must not be repeated at the protests announced for November 15,” explains Martin Lessenthin, spokesman of the board of the ISHR.

Daughters living in Germany worry

Luis Frómeta Compte suffers from a thyroid disease and has had several slipped intervertebral discs in the past. His daughters, who live in Germany, are worried about their father’s health, as they told ISHR. Due to the hard bed, there is a high risk that he will have problems with his intervertebral disc again. In the meantime, they were able to provide him with some medication. “Our only heartfelt wish for this year is the release of our dad before Christmas. Today is his birthday, which he has to spend alone in prison without us. We would like to have him with us at least on Christmas and celebrate together as a family. It is unbearable for us that they are demanding 24 years in prison for him. Where is the humanity? Where is justice?” said Janie Frómeta.

 https://www.cubacenter.org/articles-and-events/2021/11/10/german-citizen-arrested-july-11th-in-cuba-for-filming-protests-faces-24-yr-prison-sentence

 

MSN.com, November 9, 2021

Dirco, Health Dept probing scuffle between SA medical students and Cuban police

By Regan Thaw

© Pixabay.com

CAPE TOWN – The departments of Health and International Relations are still trying to get to the bottom of a scuffle that broke out between South African medical students and police in Cuba.

The Health Ministry said that it was working with the relevant authorities to investigate the circumstances which led to the incident at a hostel in Santa Clara.

In a video circulating on social media, a group of students is seen being manhandled by police.

It’s believed that someone had complained to authorities that the South Africans were making a noise during a birthday celebration.

Deputy Health Minister Sibongiseni Dhlomo has asked the public to stop sensationalising the incident, warning that this could harm diplomatic relations.

https://www.msn.com/en-za/news/other/dirco-health-dept-probing-scuffle-between-sa-medical-students-and-cuban-police/ar-AAQwb51

France24, April 17, 2019

Congolese medical students in Cuba protest unpaid stipends

Clashes broke out between Cuban police and Congolese students in Havana on April 8.

Text by: Chloé Lauvergnier

Congolese medical students in Havana want their government to pay up.

Students from the Republic of Congo have been protesting for weeks in the Cuban capital in an effort to force Congolese officials to send them their stipends, some of which have gone unpaid for two years. The demonstrations turned violent on April 8, when clashes broke out between students and the Cuban police.

Around 2,000 Congolese students are currently enrolled in universities in Cuba, most of them in medicine, as part of a 2013 agreement that allows exchanges between the two countries’ health sectors. The students are given a stipend of 450 euros each semester by the Congolese government.

“Up until now, we’ve stayed quiet because it is difficult to protest in Cuba”

Gildas (not his real name), a Congolese medical student who arrived in Havana in 2016, said some students’ stipends have gone unpaid for two years. He wanted to remain anonymous for security reasons.

The last time we got our stipend was in April 2018. But even then, we hadn’t been paid in over a year, which means that we haven’t received our stipends for 27 months in all. That’s why we started protesting in late March. Up until now, we’ve stayed quiet because it is difficult to protest in Cuba. It’s not something that is done here. [Editor’s note: Only state-sanctioned protests are allowed in Cuba.]

The students have been gathering in front of the Congolese embassy in Havana to protest, and some refused to attend class until they were paid their full stipends. They also rejected the Congolese ambassador’s offer to pay them six months’ worth of stipends, students told the France 24 Observers.

“One police officer took his gun out”

Violence broke out during a protest on April 8 near the entrance to the Salvador Allende student residence hall, Gildas said.

Cuban police came on the scene after getting a call from the residence hall director. They entered the dining hall and tried to shut down the protest. That’s when the confrontation occurred. I was outside at that moment, but I saw students breaking down the door to get out of the building. I also saw police officers using tear gas and setting dogs on protesters. One of them even took his gun out. Then police reinforcement arrived and the student protesters stood down. The whole thing took less than an hour.

Several students were injured, while others were hit with batons or bitten by dogs. Around a dozen were arrested and later released.

The Cuban health minister told the official newspaper Granma that the government continued to support the health exchange program.

The Ministry of Public Health reiterates its commitment to training medical professionals from any country that wants to participate in the program, especially those from the African continent… and that such acts of indiscipline will not be allowed and appropriate measures will be taken.

“Some students are working, even though it is illegal”

Gildas told the France 24 Observers team that students were often forced to find other ways to earn money to pay for their expenses. 

I’m lucky because I have parents who can send me money. But that’s not the case for everyone.

In our residence hall, some people make money by selling bread, peanut paste, fruit, grilled meat or even clothes. Some are washing other students’ clothes or repairing shoes for a bit of money. But all of this is illegal in Cuba since foreign students are not allowed to work.

Our housing expenses is covered and we can eat meals in the hall. But if we have to go to classes or to the hospital, for example, then we have to buy our bus tickets and additional food. This is a major problem for the students who don’t have money. For example, in our third year, we have to do 120 hours of on-call shifts at the hospital. Since some people can’t afford to buy food while they are working, they leave early so they can eat at home, which makes it hard for them to finish the required coursework.

Congolese officials to meet with students this weekend

Thierry Moungalla, a spokesman for the Congolese government, told the France 24 Observers that the situation was “concerning.”

The fact that these stipends haven’t been paid is concerning. But it’s tied to the current economic situation: there are not enough public funds to cover the cost. We are currently in talks with the IMF about this. The government does not intend to leave these students in distress when they’re so far away from home.

A Congolese delegation that includes representatives from the ministries of foreign affairs and higher education, as well as other high-ranking government officials, are on their way to Cuba. They will meet with the students and Cuban authorities to try and find a solution.

Students said that despite the unpaid stipends, they did not regret their decision to study in Cuba. Gildas told the France 24 Observers:

The professors here are good and we are entitled to a stipend in theory. I still think studying here is better than in the Republic of Congo.

This story was written by Chloé Lauvergnier (@clauvergnier).

https://observers.france24.com/en/20190417-cuba-congolese-medical-students-protest-unpaid-stipends