Cuban authorities have reportedly beaten and mentally abused a handful of demonstrators that took to the streets protesting communism in July.
Thousands of Cuban citizens took part in the nation’s July 11 protests in 32 cities throughout the country with demands for “Liberty” and “Patria y Vida” (Homeland and Life) in response to the government’s handling of the COVID-19 pandemic. The protesters demanded greater access to food, medicine, vaccines and boldly called for the end of the communist regime that has remained in power since the Communist Revolution of 1959.
Cuban authorities detained over 1,000 protesters within hours and days of the nationwide demonstration, according to the Washington Post. Nearly 500 demonstrators remain imprisoned and have endured humiliation and both physical and mental abuse.
Michel Parra, a demonstrator in the July protest, was arrested and taken to an interrogation room located at the local Tecnico—a facility run by Cuban security services, the Post reported. The authorities threatened him and called him a “gusano” (worm)—the state slur used against anti-Communist citizens— and was physically beaten, according to the Post. (RELATED: Anti-Communist Freedom Protesters Have One Thing Inn Common: The American Flag)
.@hrw report says the Cuban gov engaged in systematic abuse against detained #11J protesters. Abuses in prison included being forced to“squat naked, apparently deliberately deprived of sleep, brutally beaten, and held in cells without natural light.” #Cubahttps://t.co/3Cz5eeOPU0
— Nora Gámez Torres (@ngameztorres) October 19, 2021
“They were yelling, saying they would shoot me and my family,” Parra told the outlet. “They gave me a slap that knocked me to the floor. I was kicked all over my body. They wouldn’t stop. I was hit in my hands and knees with a baton. For me, it took forever, but maybe it was only 60 seconds. What I know is that I felt pain for 20 days straight.”
Journalist Orelvys Cabrera said he was forced to strip naked in the interrogation room for covering the protests, the outlet reported. Guards told him tales that glorified communism then placed him in a crammed cell along with seven other inmates where he slept on the ground for 33 days.
Michale Valladares, a construction worker, told the outlet that authorities beat his wife, Maria Cristina Garrido, for her refusal to say “Viva Fidel!”
“Every time she refused, she said, a female soldier would hit her so hard she would wet herself,” Valladares said.
Human Rights Watch has investigated 130 prisoners’ cases through interviews with inmates and their families, concluding that 48 had suffered some form of physical abuse and a greater number were forced to reside in overcrowded, unsanitary cells, the outlet reported. Little information is currently known about the current conditions.
Human Rights Watch Senior American Researcher Juan Pappier said the authorities’ treatment of the prisoners is “an effort to instill fear” in order to prevent another anti-government protest from taking place, the outlet reported.
“The people who protested because they were tired of not having freedom, of waiting hours in line for bread or milk, they thought they had nothing left to lose,” Pappier said. “But the government has shown them that they do have something more to lose, that they can end up punished, and live in worse conditions in jail.”
Cuban President Miguel Diaz-Canal denied that anyone had been tortured back in August, according to the Post. The Foreign Ministry said the protesters’ pending court cases are related to violations of “public order.”
Cuban actors, artists and influencers have organized for another major protest scheduled for Nov. 15, but the abuse the former demonstrators faced could lead many to refrain from participation, the outlet reported. The government plans to reopen the country for international tourism, which could potentially be interrupted by mass demonstrations and lead to more arrests.