CubaBrief: Cubans sentenced up to 25 years in prison for filming regime violence. Artists test frontiers of dissent (2 now jailed). Cuba vote was last straw for Rep. Sires.

Reuters and other news outlets are reporting on a statement released by the Cuban dictatorship late on March 16, 2022 that “it had sentenced upwards of 100 protesters in Havana to between 4 and 30 years in prison for violence committed during island-wide demonstrations last year, the largest since Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution.” Most fail to mention that it was regime officials that carried out deadly violence that day, not anti-government demonstrators who were non-violent. On July 12, 2021, during the 11J protests, Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, age 36, was shot in the back by regime officials on day two of nationwide protests in Cuba.

Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, (age 36) was shot and killed on July 12, 2022

Some of the longest sentences handed out were not for committing violence, but by capturing video of the protests and “officials, and law enforcement officers” physically assaulting nonviolent protesters with deadly force. Documenting the deadly force applied against non-violent protesters by regime officials is being punished harshly.

German tourist and dual citizen, Luis Frómeta Compte, was sentenced to 25 years in prison on December 23, 2021 for spontaneously filming a demonstration in Havana for private purposes with his smartphone while visiting relatives and was subsequently arrested. According to the Frankfurt arm of the International Society for Human Rights (ISHR), “the Dresden family man is one of about two thousand demonstrators arrested on July 11 during protests against the dictatorship.” ISHR strongly criticized the long prison sentence and pointed out that, in the meantime, the 59-year-old’s brother-in-law is also in pre-trial detention.

Agence France Presse reported on the plight of one Cuban family. On July 11, 2021 Exeynt Beirut, age 41, was detained in Guantanamo, Cuba on the first day of anti-government protests. His father and sister went out into the street the following day, and captured images of regime officials using deadly force against protesters.

“When they learned about his fate, Exeynt’s father Fredy, 64, and sister Katia, 36, took to the streets of La Guinera, near their home in Havana, with hundreds of other protesters the following day. The protest in La Guinera was the most violent of the two-day uprising, and claimed its only recorded death. Fredy Beirut’s ex-wife, 59-year-old Zoila Rodriguez, said he was arrested the same day, on his way home by motorcycle. Seven days later, the security forces called in Katia, who reported believing she had nothing to fear. Instead, she was accused by prosecutors of having filmed the events on her mobile phone in order to publish and encourage others to rebel, according to the charge sheet AFP has seen. With 158 others, the father and daughter were charged with sedition, according to the Cubalex rights group. After months in pre-trial detention, both were sentenced, two days before Christmas, to 20 years’ imprisonment. “When my daughter’s father comes out (of prison), he won’t come out alive, he is 64 years old,” Rodriguez told AFP at her home in Havana. Exeynt Beirut was given a four-year sentence in a separate trial for public disorder.

Exeynt, who took part in the protests was sentenced to four years in prison, and Fredy Beirut and Katia Beirut who filmed the protests were each sentenced to 20 years in prison. 

Zoila Rodriguez with a photo of her ex-husband Fredy Beirut & their children Exeynt and Katia, all 3 are in prison for having participated in July 2021 anti-govt protests in Cuba. YAMIL LAGE AFP

Others were sentenced to prison terms of eight and nine years for raising concerns about the imprisoned protesters to the authorities. On March 2, 2022 the Cuban dictatorship confirmed prison sentences against two Cuban human rights defenders. Félix Navarro Rodríguez, ( age 68 ), condemned to 9 years in prison. His daughter, the Lady in White Sayli Navarro (age 35), was condemned to eight years in prison. Both are long time human rights defenders who have reported on systematic human rights violations in Cuba. Their crime: going to the police station to inquire about the plight of detained nonviolent protesters of the July 11 protests in Cuba.

The Supreme Court, which in Cuba is not independent and does the bidding of the executive, released a statement that claimed that protesters had “tried violently to subvert the constitutional order.” The statement continued outlining that “more than 30 of those tried and convicted by a lower Havana court have been sentenced to between 20 and 30 years in prison, while dozens more face between 4 and 20 years behind bars.”

The dictatorship’s version of events leaves out images of their police and paramilitaries initiating violence firing on unarmed protesters, throwing rocks at them, and beating them down with clubs. The court statement says “they threw stones and bottles at various officials, law enforcement officers, National Revolutionary Police facilities, patrol cars; They overturned a motorcycle and cars belonging to the Municipal Assembly of People’s Power and caused injuries to other people and serious material damage.”

Havana Times reported on La Guinera, a Havana neighborhood, “where 96 of the 790 people in Cuba for taking part in the protests on July 11th and 12th, that is to say, 12 out of every 100 people arrested for protesting are La Guinera locals.” Regime claims do not hold up when their own documents are examined, demonstrates Havana Times citing official documents.

“The Public Prosecutor’s Office says that sedition charges against La Guinera residents are due to the ‘level of violence in vandalic acts that in a riot-like situation led to injuries and put the lives of civilians, public officials and law enforcement officers at risk, by attacking them with sharp, blunt and incendiary objects, seriously disturbing public order with the deliberate purpose of subverting rule of law.’ However, these same records state that in La Guinera police patrol cars weren’t attacked —unlike other parts of the country—, and the highly-criticized dollar stores weren’t vandalized, there was no looting or serious damage to property. Furthermore, those charged with sedition include people who were only recording and live streaming events on Facebook, without taking part in any conflict with the police, as well as detainees who the Public Prosecutor’s Office is charging with sedition for the simple fact they were present in the crowd that prevented public order.”

The pattern repeats itself, the longest prison sentences are meted out to those accused of sedition for “recording and live streaming events on Facebook, without taking part in any conflict with the police” or “for the simple fact they were present in the crowd.” Press bureaus in Havana, perhaps in order not to be expelled, failed to report that deadly violence came not from the protesters, but from regime agents, and counter protesters that they head armed with clubs and bussed in to violently shut down what had been peaceful protests. Havana Times offers the following in evidence that conflicts with the official version.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office also justifies sedition charges by saying detainees attacked and injured police officers and counter-protestors without reason, but this statement also falters. Stones and objects were thrown during the protests, but the Public Prosecutor’s Office was unable to find police officers and counter-protestors who sustained severe injuries. The records state that only three counter-protestors were injured and none of them required medical attention. In the case of police officers, 14 were injured, and only one needed medical attention. On the contrary, during the police’s response —involving the use of firearms—, Diubis Laurencio lost his life, the only fatality recognized by the Government, and many protestors were hit by bullets, including minors. “I was told my wife went to look for my stepson at the protest. She didn’t find him, and she soon found out that he had been hit by a bullet in his knee, just before they killed the other young man,” Janoi Ceballos wrote in a text message, the step-father of 16-year-old Cuban teenager Misael Yoel Fuentes Garcia, who was injured in La Guinera.

Congressman Albio Sires (D-NJ) cited the lack of concern by some human rights experts who visited his office, in a March 16, 2022 interview in Roll Call. “They’re telling me about human rights violations here and there, and they don’t mention Cuba,” Sires says. “So I said, are you people finished? Look, don’t come to my office if you’re going to be selective,” he recalls.” […] “The situation in Cuba is getting worse and worse,” says Sires, the only Democrat among seven Cuban Americans currently serving in the House. His party was slow to react last summer, he says, as President Miguel Díaz-Canel cracked down on protests in the streets.”

In the interview Congressman Sires is asked what was the last straw that led him to want to retire. His answer is a powerful indictment of those who delayed and blocked a human rights resolution condemning the July 2022 crackdown in Cuba.

Q: When you decided to retire, you said the “whole atmosphere in Washington is awful.” What was the last straw for you?
A: You want to know what the last straw for me was? It was when we were trying to push the human rights resolution on Cuba last year. It was a simple resolution, nothing controversial — we didn’t say anything about the embargo. We just talked about condemning the way the Cuban government treated the people. It took us four months. And to the credit of Steny Hoyer, we were able to get it done, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and myself.
But I was very discouraged by that, because we’ve done resolutions on human rights in Myanmar and other places around the world, and it took maybe a couple of weeks

It is said that “high art aims at truth,” the Umbral exhibit currently on display at the Montserrat Gallery in Manhattan achieves what many documents and statistics fail to do, delivering facts in a powerful and visual way. Art curator and Cuban dissident Anamely Ramos in an interview with Hyperallergic at the exhibition opening explained “the resonance of the title Umbral, or ‘threshold,’ as ‘the idea of remaining at the entrance of something, but at a distance.'” … “The fundamental thesis is that when you talk about Cuba, you have to enter a previous, introductory space, the Umbral, where certain notions that are difficult for the rest of the world to understand are explained through the voices of these artists who are in danger.”

The term encompasses the specific dystopia of voicing dissent while living on the island as well as the tension of existing as a Cuban citizen anywhere in the world, as the government maintains discretionary power to deny entry into or exit out of the country. Ramos currently finds herself currently inhabiting this “liminal space,” she adds: When she attempted to return to Havana from the United States last month, gate agents prevented her from boarding the flight. “Umbral was created from a place of permeability,” Ramos said. “It is resistance, it’s an attempt to reflect on what a frontier is, where Cuba begins and where it ends, and what it means to be safe in Cuba today.”

Two of the artists featured in this exhibition are currently in Cuban prisons. Both are Amnesty International prisoners of conscience. Their names are Maykel “Osorbo” Castillo and Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara. Maykel “Osorbo” Castillo is a two time winner of the 2021 Latin Grammy for his artistic contributions to the song “Patria y Vida” for “song of the year” and “urban song.” Time Magazine recognized Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara as one of the most influential people of 2021. Both are jailed in Cuba and friends and family fear for their lives.

Artists and prisoners of conscience Maykel “Osorbo” Castillo and Luis Manuel Otero Alcantara

Reuters, March 17, 2022

Cuban anti-government protesters get up to 30 years behind bars

By Dave Sherwood

HAVANA, March 17 (Reuters)

Cuba said late on Wednesday it had sentenced upwards of 100 protesters in Havana to between 4 and 30 years in prison for violence committed during island-wide demonstrations last year, the largest since Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution.

The Supreme Court said in a statement that those convicted had “tried violently to subvert the constitutional order.” Most were from poor, marginalized neighborhoods of the capital Havana that were a hotbed of protests last July.

The court said those sentenced had received marching orders from “people both from Cuba and abroad.”

The Cuban government has previously accused the United States of funding and fomenting the protests.

“They threw stones and bottles at various officials, law enforcement officers, National Revolutionary Police facilities, patrol cars; They overturned a motorcycle and cars belonging to the Municipal Assembly of People’s Power and caused injuries to other people and serious material damage,” the statement said.

The July 11-12 protests saw thousands take to the streets in towns and cities nationwide. Many chanted “freedom” as they marched, furious over shortages of food, medicine and electricity at a time when coronavirus cases had soared in Cuba.

More than 700 people across Cuba have been accused of crimes in connection with the demonstrations, including vandalism, assault against people or property, and grave public disorder, Cuban prosecutors have said.

Human rights groups, the U.S. government and the European Union have said the trials lack transparency and due process, and that long jail sentences already handed down were disproportionate with the crimes committed.

More than 30 of those tried and convicted by a lower Havana court have been sentenced to between 20 and 30 years in prison, while dozens more face between 4 and 20 years behind bars, according to the Supreme Court’s statement. Those convicted may still appeal, it added.

The protests in Havana’s poor neighborhoods of La Esquina de Toyo and La Guinera were among the island’s most violent.

Elsewhere, the rallies were largely peaceful, although state media showed scattered incidents of looting and stone-throwing at police in cities throughout Cuba.

Reporting by Dave Sherwood; Editing by Daniel Wallis

https://www.reuters.com/world/americas/cuban-anti-government-protesters-get-up-30-years-behind-bars-2022-03-17/

Hyperallergic, March 16, 2022

News

Cuban Artists Test the Frontiers of Political Dissent

The artists in Umbral, or “threshold,” address the dystopia of voicing dissent on the island and the tension of existing as a Cuban citizen anywhere in the world.

by Valentina Di Liscia

Raychel Carrión, “Romper” (2020), graphite on paper (Valentina Di Liscia/Hyperallergic)

Against the backdrop of Cuba’s ongoing assault on human rights, an otherwise prosaic image of a bus without passengers becomes unnaturally haunting. In Raychel Carrión’s monochrome graphite drawing “Romper” (2020) — “to break” — rows of empty bus seats emerge from a thick, textured darkness akin to smog. In the foreground, the distinct shape of a police baton can be discerned amid the sinuous curves of metal railings, chain-like patterns, and strap handles that resemble hooks — mundane elements made sinister.

“On the 27th of January [2021], in front of Havana’s Ministry of Culture, agents of Cuban state police beat approximately 20 activists, artists, and reporters who were reading poetry,” reads a wall label for the work now on view at Montserrat Gallery in Manhattan, written in Spanish. “That day it was shown that in Cuba, what is called ‘culture’ is just another arm of power and repression.” An audio clip accompanying the piece amplifies the screams heard as officers apprehended participants of the pacific homage to Cuban author and journalist José Martí, shoving them onto the bus Carrión so uncannily captured.

Claudia Genlui and Anamely Ramos, curators of Umbral, stand next to a painting by Yasser Castellanos and a hat used in a performance by Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara. (Valentina Di Liscia/Hyperallergic)

Some of the artists included in Umbral, conceived by Havana-based curators Claudia Genlui and Anamely Ramos, were present that dark day in Havana, and are often on the frontlines of similar incidents so frequent in Cuba that they have become almost commonplace. In this exhibition of works by Cuban artists, activists, and members of the dissident San Isidro Movement, several names are familiar for their recurrence in headlines decrying state repression of free speech and creative freedom. One of Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara’s symbolic Door paintings hangs next to a blue hard hat worn by the artist as part of a performance piece during the month of February 2020, after three children died when a building collapsed in Old Havana the previous year. Alcántara was detained several times for wearing the helmet in public, a wall text says. And he remains in a maximum-security prison in Havana at the time of this writing, behind bars for the last eight months as one of hundreds arrested during historic anti-government protests on the island last year. When Umbral opened on March 5, Genlui, his partner, had not heard from Alcántara in weeks and knew his health was rapidly declining after he declared a hunger strike in January; it was not his first.

Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara on hunger strike in 2020, when state police besieged members of the San Isidro Movement in their apartment (photo by and courtesy Katherine Bisquet)

Last year’s peaceful demonstrations in Cuba, which found echoes in solidarity protests around the world, were largely prompted by longstanding food and medicine shortages and poverty exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Two prints by Aryam Rodriguez feature bottles of rum the Cuban government handed out to households last December, a strategy to deflect attention from these scarcities, as a wall text explains. The rum was distilled using sugar from the 2020-2021 Zafra harvest, dubbed the “worst in the last 120 years in Cuba” due to lack of fuel, machinery parts, and low yields.

A visitor photographs Aryam Rodriguez’s series El ron de Cuba. (photo by and courtesy Jorge Domínguez)

Ramos explains the resonance of the title Umbral, or “threshold,” as “the idea of remaining at the entrance of something, but at a distance.”

“The fundamental thesis is that when you talk about Cuba, you have to enter a previous, introductory space, the Umbral, where certain notions that are difficult for the rest of the world to understand are explained through the voices of these artists who are in danger,” Ramos told Hyperallergic at the opening of the show.

The term encompasses the specific dystopia of voicing dissent while living on the island as well as the tension of existing as a Cuban citizen anywhere in the world, as the government maintains discretionary power to deny entry into or exit out of the country. Ramos currently finds herself currently inhabiting this “liminal space,” she adds: When she attempted to return to Havana from the United States last month, gate agents prevented her from boarding the flight.

Umbral was created from a place of permeability,” Ramos said. “It is resistance, it’s an attempt to reflect on what a frontier is, where Cuba begins and where it ends, and what it means to be safe in Cuba today.”

Camila Lobón, “Resistencia, Desacato, Atentado” (2021), from the series Epizootia, ink and colored pencil on paper (photo by and courtesy Claudia Genlui)

Artist Camila Lobón, a Camagüey native whose works on view include illustrations designed for various civic actions on the island, recently completed a residency in Miami and plans on returning to Cuba. “The generation I identify with has a deep consciousness around this question of naturalizing the fact of returning, of entering and leaving and coming back, of regaining our ownership over the territory,” Lobón told Hyperallergic.

“In my case, I don’t think about the concept of country or nationalism — it’s my home, it’s where the people I love are, and for that reason, I have the right to be there,” she said.

In their subtle elegance, Lobón’s drawings are tacitly subversive. One of them depicts three stages in the metamorphosis of a butterfly labeled with the words “resistance, contempt, and disobedience,” the charges on which rapper Maykel Osorbo was arrested in May 2021. Another, a drawing of José Martí modeled after Cuban modernist Jorge Arche’s iconic portrait of the writer, was made for a “poetic pilgrimage” calling for the liberation of rapper Denis Solis in 2020. “I have two homelands: Cuba and the night,” it reads, citing Martí’s poem. “Or are they one?”

“Carolina [Barrero], a historian and activist, had the idea of making these as posters and giving them away. We never got to do that, because police intervened in her home, found the prints, and accused her of ‘clandestine printing,’” Lobón said. “Something as simple as the image of Martí, because of the gesture it implied about autonomy over an image, over an idea, is seen as an act of rebellion in Cuba.”

Camila Lobón with her works on view at the opening of Umbral (Valentina Di Liscia/Hyperallergic)

Alexis Romay, a Cuban writer and teacher who attended the opening of Umbral, left the island in 1999. When asked if he plans on returning, he quotes Heraclitus: “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

“I resist the hyphen: I don’t call myself ‘Cuban-American.’ I am profoundly Cuban,” Romay told Hyperallergic. “But like many other Cubans, I told myself that I cannot return to that Cuba. I can’t return to a place from which I escaped.”

“What they are doing — Anamely, Camila, Claudia — is asserting the idea that this country is ours,” he continued. “I don’t think I’ll ever step on Cuban soil again, but if I do, it’s because of them. They are returning to me a country that I had lost.”

Still from the music video for “¿De qué me van a hablar?” (“What are they going to talk to me about?”) by Anyelo Troya, Maykel Osorbo, and Elexer Funk “El Funky” (Valentina Di Liscia/Hyperallergic)

A screen plays the music video for “¿De qué me van a hablar?(“What are they going to talk to me about?”) (2021) shot by Anyelo Troya and featuring Osorbo and Elexer Funk “El Funky,” which calls for freedom for Alcántara and members of the San Isidro Movement. Osorbo and El Funky are co-authors of “Patria y Vida,” which became a rallying cry for freedom during the peaceful protests of July 2021. When the video for that song began to “spread like wildfire” among Cubans, wrote curator Coco Fusco for Hyperallergic, the government launched a defamation campaign against it that included homophobic attacks. Osorbo is currently in prison and El Funky lives in exile in the US. Troya is in Havana with a yearlong order that restricts his mobility.

Tarot cards designed by several of the artists in the exhibition (Valentina Di Liscia/Hyperallergic)

In a small room in the back of the gallery, Indira Romero, a Cuban artist and performer, offers tarot readings with a deck of cards illustrated by many of the artists in the show. The High Priestess was designed by Lobón, a jovial portrait of Cuban salsa musician Celia Cruz mid-song against a background of papayas. Hamlet Lavastida, who was forced into exile last year after three months in prison in Cuba, drew number 15, the Devil: the unmistakable silhouette of Fidel Castro pointing a gun.
“Our cry should not be in vain,” Genlui wrote in a statement for the exhibition. “Luis Manuel always said that art gives us the possibility of helping everyone understand. Today, he and Maykel assume that cry in the form of extreme sacrifice; today, through curation and art, we are by their sides, we transit that threshold and we invite the world to understand us.”

https://hyperallergic.com/717647/cuban-artists-test-the-frontiers-of-political-dissent/ 

Havana Times, March 16, 2022

Havana’s “La Guinera” Barrio: Punished after July 11th

The Rodriguez Roman family unites to send things to the three jailed brothers and sisters. In the picture Emilio Roman (father) and Liset Rodriguez (aunt). Photos: Werner Holt

By Darcy Borrero Batista

Photos: Werner Holt

HAVANA TIMES – On Tuesday January 25th, Emilio Roman Matos went to the Municipal Court in Havana’s 10 de Octubre neighborhood, for the fourth time in two weeks. He didn’t have the strength to go in, but from outside, he kept himself up to date on the trials of dozens of people who took to the streets to protest against the Cuban Government in July 2021. Three of these people are his children.

These three —Emiyoslan, Mackyani and Yosney— protested on the streets of La Guinera, a Havana neighborhood with a reputation of being “marginal”, where 96 of the 790 people in Cuba for taking part in the protests on July 11th and 12th, that is to say, 12 out of every 100 people arrested for protesting are La Guinera locals.

Although she can’t use her own manicure table, Mackyani Román has been giving manicures inside the prison where she has lived the last six plus months. .

Emiyoslan is the youngest out of Emilio’s three children. The young man, who is now 18 years old, was arrested on July 13th, before reaching adulthood. He has been behind bars since this day, just like his sister Mackyani and his brother Yosney. The three of them form part of the 730 people that continue behind bars after the protests, according to the citizen-led initiative Justicia 11-J.

The 96 people prosecuted from La Guinera have been charged with sedition, the most serious crime protestors are being sentenced for, which can mean up to over 20 years in prison. In fact, this Havana neighborhood has the highest concentration of sedition charges in the country. Six out of every ten people prosecuted for this crime protested there, according to a count by Justicia 11-J. 

However, trial records of La Guinera’s cases – where approximately 25,000 people live -, reflect weak allegations, full of contradictions and baseless evidence.

Over a half year since the July 11-12 protests, Emilio Roman’s three children were tried for sedition.’

What do the records say?

The Public Prosecutor’s Office says that sedition charges against La Guinera residents are due to the “level of violence in vandalic acts that in a riot-like situation led to injuries and put the lives of civilians, public officials and law enforcement officers at risk, by attacking them with sharp, blunt and incendiary objects, seriously disturbing public order with the deliberate purpose of subverting rule of law.” 

However, these same records state that in La Guinera police patrol cars weren’t attacked —unlike other parts of the country—, and the highly-criticized dollar stores weren’t vandalized, there was no looting or serious damage to property.

Furthermore, those charged with sedition include people who were only recording and live streaming events on Facebook, without taking part in any conflict with the police, as well as detainees who the Public Prosecutor’s Office is charging with sedition for the simple fact they were present in the crowd that prevented public order.

For example, 33-year-old Odet Hernandez Cruzata was taken to trial after the Public Prosecutor’s Office called for a 23-year-sentence for sedition charges. The Public Prosecutor’s Office proposed 20 years for her partner, 41-year-old Reinier Reynosa Cabrera, for the same crime. Both claim that they were only livestreaming the protest and weren’t taking part in violent acts.

Yarnelis Garcia and Janoi Ceballos, mother and stepfather of the minor boy Misael Yoel Fuentes Garcia, had to pay a fine of 1,000 pesos even though it was Misael who was wounded on July 12th.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office used Hernandez’s live stream as evidence, as well as possession and inspection of her cellphone, where they found six videos taken during the protest in La Guinera, on July 12th. Furthermore, the legal body has “record of the detainee Odet Hernandez Cruzata’s voice”, that allegedly proves she said “counter-revolutionary” slogans.

The accusations also try to connect protestors with the opposition in exile, without them having any ties. This happened in singer, musical arranger, and composer Wilmer Moreno Suarez’s case, for example. 

Moreno Suarez received a sum of 240 USD per month from a Cuban citizen living in the US, Rolando Regata, via Odisea Studios which he uses to promote his work. As Regata had written to Moreno Suarez during the days of protest, the Public Prosecutor’s Office says that he became an instrument for the opposition movement abroad. Moreno Suarez’s trial is awaiting a sentence and the Public Prosecutor’s Office is after a 25-year-prison sentence for him.   

During an interview, Regata said that he didn’t even know he was mentioned in a court document in Cuba. He explained that he is a musician and has “nothing to do” with politics. “I’ve been living in the US since I was 12 years old. The money I sent him was to help him out and for our musical collaborations. At no point did I pay him to go out and protest. Plus, if I was a member of the opposition, would I only send him 240 USD? That doesn’t make any sense,” he explained from Fort Myers, Florida, where he lives.

Only three of those charged in La Guinera identified as opposition members of Human Rights activists before the protests: Angel Serrano Hernandez, Roberto Ferrer Gener and Delis Yoel Parsons Bones. The first two are awaiting a sentence after being taken to trial and requests for 22 and 20-year-sentences, respectively. While Parsons was given a fine.

La Güinera, located in the outlying Havana city of Arroyo Naranjo, is one of the poorest neighborhoods in the Cuban capital.

Weak arguments

Another repetitive argument to support charges is that protestors were heading towards the Capri police station to “take control of it” or “set it on fire.” However, it remains unknown what the Public Prosecutor’s Office is basing its argument that protestors wanted to destroy the police station on, because the reality is they never got that far.

In order to get to the police station, protestors would have had to cross D, C, B and A Streets, in this order, towards Calzada de Bejucal, but only a small group made it to B Street, while the majority didn’t get further than C Street. Videos recorded that day show they were stopped from moving forward here, which checks out with neighbors’ statements and the Public Prosecutor’s Office’s documents.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office also justifies sedition charges by saying detainees attacked and injured police officers and counter-protestors without reason, but this statement also falters.

Stones and objects were thrown during the protests, but the Public Prosecutor’s Office was unable to find police officers and counter-protestors who sustained severe injuries. The records state that only three counter-protestors were injured and none of them required medical attention. In the case of police officers, 14 were injured, and only one needed medical attention.

On the contrary, during the police’s response —involving the use of firearms—, Diubis Laurencio lost his life, the only fatality recognized by the Government, and many protestors were hit by bullets, including minors.

“I was told my wife went to look for my stepson at the protest. She didn’t find him, and she soon found out that he had been hit by a bullet in his knee, just before they killed the other young man,” Janoi Ceballos wrote in a text message, the step-father of 16-year-old Cuban teenager Misael Yoel Fuentes Garcia, who was injured in La Guinera.

Six months later, Fuentes is in good physical health again, but he has psychological scars. After being fined 1000 Cuban pesos (approximately 40 USD) and after months of receiving visits from Ministry of Interior (MININT) agents, his case was closed in early February.

A fine was also given to Yorlandis Perez Sanchez, another person who sustained injuries on Avenida Guinera, the neighborhood’s most central street. On January 16th, Yorlandis said, via text message, that he still hadn’t recovered from his injuries and that he paid 2000 pesos (approximately 83 USD) for his fine. His name was on the list of defendants during the initial trial.

A neighborhood “of opportunities”

After the protests, official media outlets and the Government have tried to sell La Guinera as “a neighborhood of opportunities”. At least a month after the protests: they paved the roads, fixed up sidewalks and painted building fronts. Plus, high-ranking officials visited the neighborhood, including president Miguel Diaz-Canel, who walked around the area in August where Diubis Laurencio was shot down.

The neighborhood hadn’t received a presidential visit since the 1980s, when Fidel Castro walked down its streets. In October 1989, Castro said that this was a “famous neighborhood” in the capital because the poorest people in Havana lived there and he boasted that it was in transformation, thanks to the Cuban Revolution.

However, not even the recent presidential visit or government actions to “make-over the neighborhood” have managed to calm down popular outcry. In December, several mothers and wives met and recorded a video demanding freedom for their loved ones. They haven’t been heard, up until now.

Over seven months after the protests, the general feeling on the street in La Guinera continues to be the same, like what Emilio Roman says when he talks about this three arrested children: “I have never felt as alone as I do right now. Give me back my family.”

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times

https://havanatimes.org/features/havanas-la-guinera-barrio-punished-after-july-11th/


Roll Call, March 16, 2022

People should ‘inform themselves’ on Cuba situation, says Rep. Albio Sires

Retiring Democrat describes last straw in Congress

Rep. Albio Sires, D-N.J., is retiring at the end of this term after 16 years in Congress. (Caroline Brehman/CQ Roll Call file photo)

By Michael Teitelbaum

Posted March 16, 2022 at 6:15am

A group came into Albio Sires’ office not long ago to talk about human rights. “They’re telling me about human rights violations here and there, and they don’t mention Cuba,” Sires says.

“So I said, are you people finished? Look, don’t come to my office if you’re going to be selective,” he recalls.

Sires will retire at the end of this term after 16 years in Congress. While he’s feeling good about his legacy — especially how the recent infrastructure package will boost transportation in his home state of New Jersey — he’s also frustrated.

“The situation in Cuba is getting worse and worse,” says Sires, the only Democrat among seven Cuban Americans currently serving in the House. His party was slow to react last summer, he says, as President Miguel Díaz-Canel cracked down on protests in the streets.

Sires sat down with CQ Roll Call to talk about his “fascination” with foreign policy, his old basketball injuries and fleeing communism in 1962. This interview has been edited and condensed.

Q: When you decided to retire, you said the “whole atmosphere in Washington is awful.” What was the last straw for you?

A: You want to know what the last straw for me was? It was when we were trying to push the human rights resolution on Cuba last year. It was a simple resolution, nothing controversial — we didn’t say anything about the embargo. We just talked about condemning the way the Cuban government treated the people. It took us four months. And to the credit of Steny Hoyer, we were able to get it done, Debbie Wasserman Schultz and myself. 

But I was very discouraged by that, because we’ve done resolutions on human rights in Myanmar and other places around the world, and it took maybe a couple of weeks. 

The other thing that’s discouraging is this push to get rid of the police, get rid of ICE, cut the defense budget. That’s not where I’m at. 

And finally, it took us months and months to get this infrastructure bill done. Everybody kept saying, let’s do both bills. I felt the infrastructure bill was so good that we needed to do that right away. It’s not that I don’t like what’s in Build Back Better. It’s just that it’s tough to sell it to the American people with so many good things in there that I believe in. That’s how I approached the speaker’s job in [the New Jersey General Assembly]. We never did 20,000 things on one bill. We did the things we could do, and then built momentum.

[ … ]

Quick hits

Last book you read? I read one about Bill Russell, called “Go Up For Glory.” And a lot of Spanish books. I read “Don Quixote” twice, and “Kiss of the Spider Woman.”

In politics, can the ends justify the means? You’re trying to get to a good ending, but I never believe you should run a guy over with a truck to get there. 

Least popular opinion? That people should inform themselves better on the situation in Cuba. They think if you take the embargo away, things are going to go back to some sort of normalcy. No. It’s a dictatorship.

If you could do any other job, what would it be? I’ve been a mayor, I’ve been an assemblyman, I’ve been a speaker, and I’ve been a congressman. The best was being mayor. Why? Because I get to see people enjoy the things I do. You’re so much closer to the people. 

Closest friends across the aisle? I enjoy my relationships with Mark Green and Chris Smith. And Mario Diaz-Balart is a good friend.

https://rollcall.com/2022/03/16/albio-sires-take-five/