We often hear about the large amount of people being detained by authoritarian regimes. But who is behind those numbers? Parents, teachers, health workers, brothers, sisters, sons, daughters – some of them underage – whose only fault was to demand freedom. Over 1,200 Cuban political prisoners have suffered degrading treatment for protesting on July 11, 2021. These prisoners have since been subjected to lack of food, lack of sleep, lack of medical care, solitary confinement, and physical abuse. The accounts below are just a few of many testimonies of real Cubans who have been tortured for protesting in the streets of Havana:
Walfrido Rodriguez Piloto, 54 years old
“A cherished man in his community, respectful and admired by many”
Walfrido was one of the thousands arrested on July 11, 2021. And, on March 29, 2022, he was sentenced to nine years of prison for “contempt” and “public disorderly conduct” against the regime.
“The only crime he committed was to demand freedom and a change of a 62-year-long regime,” said his sister, Marlin Rodriquez. “He does not deny that he shouted, ‘Patria y Vida,’ but apparently shouting anything that goes against the regime is a serious crime in Cuba.” According to Marlin, he has been beaten, tortured, and thrown into solitary confinement.
Humberto Bello Laffita, 53 years old
“An independent trade unionist of great value, attentive, outstanding in his work and always concerned for his friends and colleagues.” – Union Association of Cuba (ASIC)
Language professor, previously a self-employed tourist guide, and member of ASIC, Humberto was apprehended for confirming on social media his participation in the “Civic March for Change” on November 15, 2021. In under 72 hours, he was sentenced to one year of prison for “purposefully transmitting COVID-19.” His relatives were not notified of the court hearing, and he was not allowed to see a lawyer.
“One of the most deplorable cases,” said Ivan Hernandez Carrillo, Secretary of the ASIC. “Policemen waited for Humberto outside his home and ripped him from his family. He was clearly targeted, and the judicial process was rigged.” Humberto is currently suffering in solitary confinement, where it is pitch black, there is no running drinking water, and it is filled with cockroaches and rodents.
Yunier Herrera Rodríguez, 35 years old
“A beloved and kindhearted person in his community.”- ASIC
Devoted father and husband, self-employed bricklayer, and member of ASIC, Yunier was arrested, savagely beaten to the point of losing several teeth, and charged the day after the July 11 protests for “public disorderly conduct” and “contempt.” Currently, Yunier is illegally incarcerated, as he has not received a trial or a formal sentencing for nine months.
“His wife and children are waiting for him,” said ASIC. “Yunier’s six-year-old daughter does not understand what is happening and asks him every night when her father is coming home.”
These victims have dreams, families, and loved ones, but under a repressive regime they have never truly known the meaning of freedom. Thousands of others continue to face the same torture, if not worse. Now, it is more important than ever to stand firm with the Cuban people and to keep shedding light on the human rights violations carried out by the 62-year-long tyrannical regime in Havana.
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