Cuba: Protestors face decades in prison

i24NEWS - Reuters

3 min read
Three police officers speak with two people walking in Havana, Cuba, November 15, 2021.
AP Photo/Ramon EspinosaThree police officers speak with two people walking in Havana, Cuba, November 15, 2021.

According to human rights watchdogs, more than 1,000 people were arrested following protests in July

Cuban protestors from a neighborhood in the capital Havana face decades in prison at upcoming trials over anti-government demonstrations, rights groups said.

The protests in July 2021 saw thousands take to the streets across Cuba, many denouncing the communist government as well as shortages of food, medicine, and electricity amid a surge in Covid cases.

According to human rights watchdogs, more than 1,000 people were arrested following the protests.

Trials for those accused of serious crimes began in December, with some having already led to prison terms of more than 20 years.

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Authorities said those arrested were guilty of public disorder, resisting arrest, robbery, and vandalism, as Cuba blames the United States for funding the unrest.

In the poor district of La Guinera - where demonstrations on July 12 led to confrontations with police and the only death during the unrest - residents told Reuters that many youths who were involved now face stiff prison sentences of between 15 and 25 years.

Laritza Diversent, director of the US-based human rights group Cubalex, said authorities in Cuba maximized penalties to make an example and deter future protests. 

"The government is saying, 'Look, I'm not playing games... if you go out again to protest this could also happen to you,'" she said.

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Not all who took part in the demonstrations faced harsh penalties, such as Leonardo Fernandez Otano, who had his charges recently dropped. 

He said race and poverty weighed on the process.

"The young people of La Guinera have not had the same luck and are condemned to unjust and politicized sentences,” said Fernandez Otano.