CubaBrief: Hundreds of Cubans sentenced up to 25 years in prison for nonviolent 11J protests. Journalist barred from Cuba due to book. Filmmaker played ball with Havana defamed regime victim.

Some of the Cubans detained during the 11J protests. Photo taken from ADNCuba

The Cuban dictatorship’s attorney general’s office in a statement released to state media on Monday, June 13, 2022, said a total of 297 Cubans were sentenced to between 5 and 25 years in prison for crimes of sedition, sabotage, robbery with force, and public disorder. This does not include 67 others jailed in summary trials, many without an attorney, to sentences ranging from eight to 12 months in prison, according to data provided by CubaLex. This brings the total number of Cubans sentenced to prison time to 364 related to the 11J protests. However, there are another 365 Cubans detained, because of their role in the 11J protests. This brings the total number of Cubans detained to 729, according to Cubalex.

Havana does not permit international or domestic oversight of prison conditions, good statistics on its overall prison population are difficult to come by, and the Cuban regime infrequently provides data on prisons that cannot be independently verified. The UN Committee Against Torture on April 29, 2022 reported that the Cuban government had not provided prison population figures since 2012. Information is provided sporadically, and is misleading.

Reporting accurately on what the Cuban dictatorship actually does can get you banned from the country. US journalist Anthony DePalma was arrested at José Martí International Airport in Havana on June 8th and later expelled to his country after being declared “Inadmissible,” according to a document that was given to him before taking the flight back to his country,” reported 14ymedio. Why does this veteran journalist believe he was banned from entering the island? “[DePalma] added that for more than 40 years he has traveled to Cuba without a problem, but after the publication of his book [ The Cubans: Ordinary Lives in Extraordinary Times ] the incident occurred. ‘I think it was the result of the book.’”.

Taken from Anthony DePalma’s Tweet on June 9, 2022

It is not only journalists, but filmmakers that play the regime’s game to have access to Cuba. The dictatorship’s film office states that it will not allowing shooting of scripts that are “detrimental to the image of the country and people of Cuba.” Some have bent over backwards and turned their films into pro-Castro propaganda, and engaged in defamation of anti-Castro Cubans.

This appears to be the case with director Olivier Assayas movie the ‘Wasp Network’, that is supposed to be a spy thriller, but was deadly dull and received poor reviews. This is in marked contrast to his earlier film Carlos, about the Venezuelan terrorist, that is a gripping thriller. The difference between the two is that the earlier film did not have the Castro regime’s veto in order to be able to film in Cuba.

This led to the film libeling, at the direction of the Cuban government, Brothers to the Rescue and its leader Jose Basulto, who is portrayed in the film. Mr Basulto has filed a defamation lawsuit against Netflix, reported in The Hollywood Reporter.

“As evidence of defamation, the lawsuit cites Basulto’s character in Wasp Network, also named Jose Basulto, saying that he was ‘Trained by the U.S. as a terrorist’ and calling Brothers of the Arm a ‘militant organization.’ Basulto takes issue with a particular scene in which Brothers to the Rescue planes are shot down because they were shown to be violating Cuban air space when in reality, he says they were shot down in international air space, which led to worldwide condemnation of the Cuban regime.”

There are costs to engaging with the Castro dictatorship, both moral and financial. Speaking truth to power can get you banned from Cuba, but playing ball with the dictatorship and remaining silent as hundreds of Cubans are jailed for decades in prison for nonviolently protesting the regime is immoral, and so is smearing victims of an act of state terrorism in which four innocents were murdered in order to film on the island.

These Faustian bargains have not only been made in Cuba, but in other totalitarian regimes such as China.

Reuters, June 13, 2022

Cuba sanctions 381 protesters, including jail for 297

FILE PHOTO: A member of an exiled Cuban community attends a march as the community reacts to reports of protests in Cuba against the deteriorating economy, in North Bergen, New Jersey, U.S., July 13, 2021. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

June 13, 2022 – 19:32

HAVANA (Reuters) – Cuba said on Monday it has sanctioned 381 people, including 16 young people between the ages of 16 and 18, who participated in last summer’s protests, the Communist-run island’s largest since Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution.

Widespread protests across July 11 and 12, 2021, saw thousands of Cubans take to the streets in towns and cities across the country. Many shouted “freedom” as they marched against food, medicine and power shortages amid a spike in coronavirus cases on the island.

Of the 381 people sanctioned, a total of 297 have been sentenced to between 5 and 25 years in prison for crimes of sedition, sabotage, robbery with force, and public disorder, according to the attorney general’s office in a statement released to state media.

The prosecutor’s office noted that 84 individuals, including 15 young people, were not given prison sentences. However, it warned that tougher sentences could be imposed for those who breached their sanctions or who engaged in new criminal offences. Cuba’s age of criminal responsibility is 16 years.

“The Attorney General’s Office continues to inform the public about the legal response to the events of July 11, 2021, which attacked the constitutional order and the stability of our socialist state,” the statement said.

The Cuban government said in January that 790 people, including 55 under 18 years of age, had been charged for their participation in the protests, but some are still awaiting sentencing or are appealing the sanctions. 

Human rights groups, the U.S. government and the European Union say the trials have lacked transparency and have repeatedly called for the release of those sentenced.

The Cuban government has previously accused the United States of financing and instigating the demonstrations.

(Reporting by Nelson Acosta, Writing by Isabel Woodford; Editing by Marguerita Choy)

https://www.swissinfo.ch/eng/cuba-sanctions-381-protesters–including-jail-for-297/47670762

The Hollywood Reporter, June 13, 2022

Netflix Sued for Defamation by Cuban Exiles Over Spy Thriller ‘Wasp Network’

Brothers to the Rescue leader Jose Basulto, who is portrayed in the film, claims director Olivier Assayas distorted key facts about his organization at the direction of the Cuban government. The lawsuit is the second from a Cuban exile upset with the feature.

By Winston Cho

A defamation suit against Netflix from the head of a Cuban exile organization accuses the streamer of distributing propaganda for Cuba by portraying him as a terrorist and drug trafficker in Olivier Assayas’ political spy thriller Wasp Network. In a lawsuit filed on Monday in federal court in Florida, Brothers to the Rescue leader Jose Basulto alleges Netflix and Ossayas falsely depicted him as a puppet of the United States and traitor to Cuba while romanticizing the criminal activity conducted by Fidel Castro’s regime.

“This portrayal of Mr. Basulto, Brothers to the Rescue and the Cuban exile community was deliberately calculated to create two clear and unmistakable villains for the Film,” read the complaint.

The defamation action is the second from a Cuban exile arguing that the movie falsely maligns Cuban exiles as terrorists and otherwise unsavory characters. Ana Martinez sued in 2020 over her character, played as a promiscuous “party girl” by Ana de Armas, in the movie.

Wasp Network, written and directed by Assayas, is adapted from the book The Last Soldiers of the Cold War by Fernando Morais. In addition to his personal portrayal in the movie, Basulto takes issue with how the movie allegedly distorts criminal activity by the Cuban Five, a group of spies dispatched by Cuba in the early 1990s to infiltrate exile groups based in Miami.

“The Film is an obvious attempt to rewrite and whitewash history in favor of the communist Cuban regime and is factually inaccurate,” the complaint states. “The Film portrays the Cuban Five as courageous heroes who were simply defending their homeland. In reality, the Cuban Five were a spy network that produced actionable intelligence enabling the Cuban government to commit extrajudicial killings.”

The killings, the lawsuit says, include Cuba in 1996 shooting down two Brothers to the Rescue planes engaging in a humanitarian mission to rescue Cuban refugees headed to the United States on rafts in the Straits of Florida. Basulto says the movie falsely represents his nonprofit as a terrorist organization to justify spying by the Cuban Five.

Members of the group were ultimately convicted in 2001 of conspiracy to commit espionage, conspiracy to commit murder, acting as unregistered agents of a foreign government, among other charges. Findings in the case and other legal proceedings concerning the incident are extensively cited in the complaint as evidence that the movie deliberately ignored facts about the episode. The Assembly of Cuban Resistance, which works closely with Cuban exile communities, has denounced the film as untruthful.

According to the complaint, Cuba interfered with the making the of movie to ensure a favorable retelling of history. Basulto points to requirements by the country’s film office stating that it will not allowing shooting of scripts that are “detrimental to the image of the country and people of Cuba.”

“These requirements are particularly important when it comes to a defamation suit, as Cuba’s content censoring communist party requires the ‘script, storyboard or synopsis of the project’ to be submitted and expressly states that any project that paints Cuba in a negative light will be denied a permit,” the complaint reads. “Thus, filming the true and accurate story was never even a possibility.”

As evidence of defamation, the lawsuit cites Basulto’s character in Wasp Network, also named Jose Basulto, saying that he was “Trained by the U.S. as a terrorist” and calling Brothers of the Arm a “militant organization.” Basulto takes issue with a particular scene in which Brothers to the Rescue planes are shot down because they were shown to be violating Cuban air space when in reality, he says they were shot down in international air space, which led to worldwide condemnation of the Cuban regime.

The description of the movie states “Based on a true and gripping story: Cuban spies infiltrate exile groups in the 1990’s to stop terrorism against the island, but at a high personal cost.” In response to a letter from Basulto putting it on notice of defamation, Netflix responded that “modern day audiences of docudramas understand that they are watching dramatizations, not exacting recreations of events,” according to the complaint.

Basulto alleges defamation, defamation per se and intentional infliction of emotional distress, among other claims. He seeks an injunction barring Netflix from further carrying the movie or an order to force the streamer to edit certain scenes and delete any reference to the movie being based on true events.

Netflix did not respond to requests for comment.

https://www.hollywoodreporter.com/business/business-news/netflix-sued-for-defamation-by-cuban-exiles-over-spy-thriller-wasp-network-1235164603/

Havana Times, June 13, 2022

Cuba Expels US Journalist who Wrote a Book about Guanabacoa

Por 14ymedio

HAVANA TIMES – US journalist Anthony DePalma was arrested at José Martí International Airport in Havana on June 8th and later expelled to his country after being declared “Inadmissible,” according to a document that was given to him before taking the flight back to his country.

DePalma, who worked for The New York Times, told CiberCuba that the officers who arrested him at the terminal didn’t explain the reason for preventing him from entering the island. When he went through the health checkpoint and presented his passport to Migration, he was separated from the line and interrogated.

“I was ordered to stay in a corner of Terminal 3 for almost six hours, without giving me an explanation or offering me a glass of water, or the possibility of making a call to notify the people who were waiting for me about what was happening,” said the journalist, who has written about the Cuban reality.

“After several hours of psychological torture, he was informed that he wouldn’t be allowed to enter the island and that he must return to the United States on the next flight,” his friend Jorge García, whom he visited on his return from the island, said on Facebook.

The journalist said he was carrying two suitcases with medicines, humanitarian aid and copies of his book The Cubans: Ordinary Lives in Extraordinary Times, which collects the life stories of five Guanabacoa natives. His wife, Miriam Rodríguez DePalma, who left the island as a child, is from that Havana neighborhood.

After waiting at the terminal, DePalma was returned to the United States on another flight at 6:15 p.m. that same day, without his suitcases. “After several hours of total abandonment, a couple of officers came and took him as a prisoner to the plane. And the suitcases were forgotten,” García said on his social network.

The suitcases later arrived in Miami. “Everything is intact, but the reality is that the people who needed it will not have it for now,” the journalist adds.

CiberCuba says that the medicines and supplies that DePalma carried in his suitcases were intended for his friends in the Guanabacoa neighborhood, who inspired him to write his book.

He added that for more than 40 years he has traveled to Cuba without a problem, but after the publication of his book the incident occurred. “I think it was the result of the book,” he says.

The shortage of basic products, such as food and medicine, was one of the main economic elements in the anti-government protests of last July 11, the largest in decades.

After these demonstrations, the Cuban government opened the possibility for travelers to bring food, toiletries and medicines to the island without tariff limits, “such as accompanied luggage.” In May of this year, it extended this provision until December 31, 2022, according to General Customs on its website.

Now, the ministry assures that they maintain this temporary decision of flexibility “taking into account that the conditions that underpinned this measure are maintained.” The Cuban biopharmaceutical industry also announced that it only produced 59% of the basic catalog of medicines destined for the public health system.

DePalma is a professor at Columbia University, and in 2001 he published A Biography of the New American Continent. in 2003, he began work on The Man Who invented Fidel: Castro, Cuba and Hebert L. Matthews, which was finally published in 2006.

After the September 11 attacks in New York, he dedicated himself to writing almost 100 profiles of the victims, which led him to win the Pulitzer Prize for Public Service.

In 2009, he received the Maria Moors Cabot Award, and in 2011 he released his third book, City of Dust: Illness, Arrogance and 9/ll, which was the basis of a CNN documentary.

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times

https://havanatimes.org/news/cuba-expels-us-journalist-who-wrote-a-book-about-guanabacoa/