Free your mind of the society you thought was a baseline and try to create your society within your mind. Cuba is a country with a profound history of communism. With state council members much like Gerardo Hernández who’ve spent sixteen years in a U.S. prison on charges of espionage and conspiracy to commit murder, one wonders how honorable, truthful, and fair the legal system in Cuba can be.
In Cuba, your right to free speech and opinion is illegal. On July 11, 2021thousands of Cubans took to the streets chanting ‘Libertad’, with a thirst for freedom. The protests were the largest since Fidel Castro’s 1959 revolution. They were prompted amid a severe economic crisis with protesters voicing anger over price increases, and shortages of food and medicine. Many were also critical of the Cuban government’s handling of the Covid pandemic.
Upon the movement for change, more than one-thousand people got arrested. The Cuban government has been facing continuous scrutiny and has since justified its actions during the protests. They attempted to deflect the civil conflict by accusing the United States of funding and fomenting the protests, this was not the case. Once Cuban officials labeled the protests as threatening, they’d sent a unit of elite troops called “Black Berets”, where, upon their arrival, they rounded up a minimum of 800 protestors, some minors.
The Cuban government released a statement claiming that the detainees “overturned vehicles and threw stones, bottles and petrol bombs at police and Interior Ministry agents”, however, Javier Larrondo of rights group Prisoners Defenders said that “the vast majority had demonstrated peacefully”. The violence that ensued on the demonstrators resulted in the death of one person and the injuries of dozens.
Following the detainees, Cuba had announced late Wednesday night 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. Out of the 129 defendants, only one got acquitted. Officials continued grasping at straws by claiming those convicted had “tried violently to subvert the constitutional order.” However, most of them were from poor, marginalized neighborhoods of Havana, which was a hotspot for the protests last July.
Family members of those detained claim that the detainees were given summary trials and that many got sentenced without defense lawyers present. When releasing its statement about the sentencing Cuba insisted that the detainees were properly processed under the law. However, mothers of the detainees are losing their fear of speaking against their government to protect their children.
A mother who claims her son was not at the sight of the protests but was detained for his actions there, went to her local police to seek clarification as to how such a horrible ‘mix-up’ could happen. But, when her concern was greeted with a cold silence she revealed a T-shirt beneath her top with the words “Down with the dictatorship!” on it. She said she was immediately beaten, arrested and is now facing charges, too.
It is nearly a guarantee the society you thought about earlier looked nothing like the dystopia that seems to be modern-day Cuba. Imagine being trapped in a nation filled with violence, lies, and disregard for its people. It’s a hard job seeing that you haven’t witnessed it in real-time; never felt the tension between the eye contact citizens make with nearly all government officials.
As the Cuban people continue climbing out of the communist hole Castro dug for them, they continue to be ambivalent and fight for their loved ones. They chanted ‘Libertad’, on the streets with a thirst for freedom; nothing changed.