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Cuba protests: They dared to protest last July. Now these Cubans are facing 30 years in jail

Like so many different companies, the small cafeteria she and her husband ran was shuttered due to the Covid-19 pandemic. Worsening meals and drugs shortages had left many retailer cabinets in Cuba utterly naked. The authorities’s adoption of a plan to upend Cuba’s twin forex system meant these with out entry to remittances from overseas had been at a fair higher drawback.

“There was no medicine, nothing. And on top of that they sell everything in a currency that most Cubans don’t have,” Vázquez mentioned referencing the brand new Freely Convertible Currency, or MLC, a forex which comes on pay as you go playing cards.

“I lived next to a store where they sell things in the hard currency and I can’t even go buy a lollipop for my kids. Everyone was in great need.”

Increasingly determined and related by way of cell networks, Cubans organized their first protests in San Antonio de los Baños on July 11 in protest of energy outages in the midst of the sweltering summer time warmth following months of frustration over shortages and pandemic-related restrictions. Quickly the protests unfold throughout the island, with Cubans brazenly defying the communist-run authorities — which blames Cuba’s financial woes on US sanctions — in a approach not seen because the 1959 revolution.

In the town of Cárdenas, a two-hour drive east of Havana, the place Vázquez lives, lots of poured onto the streets to denounce the persistent shortages and an absence of freedoms. One of them was Vázquez’s husband, Daniel Joel Cárdenas Díaz.

Vázquez mentioned her husband took half in the protests exterior a state-owned gasoline station close to their dwelling, however was too afraid to enter the shop the place police say looting came about. When police arrived and commenced clashing with demonstrators, Vazquez mentioned her husband retreated again to the house they shared with their two-year previous twin boy and woman.

“I even said, ‘You didn’t grab anything for the kids — not even a snack?'” she mentioned.

Two days later, after police had quelled the protests throughout a lot of the island, Vázquez mentioned that police and Cuban “black beret” particular forces appeared exterior the couple’s dwelling and commenced battering down the door.

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Vázquez managed to report two temporary movies together with her cellphone as police pressured their approach into the house, weapons drawn. She says she hid the cellphone between her legs to maintain it from being taken and sheltered together with her younger youngsters as police fired at her husband. She mentioned that one of many rounds grazed the again of his head.

“When I saw him on the floor they were hitting him with a baton,” she mentioned. “He was on hurt on the floor covered in blood, in a huge pool of blood. I thought he was dead.”

While the video Vazquez took exhibits a pool of blood on the ground of her dwelling, CNN was not in a position to independently verify the extent of her husband’s accidents.

In a 3rd video taken after police took her husband away, Vázquez exhibits the blood on the ground and cries to her neighbors who’ve gathered at her entrance door, “They have destroyed my house!”

Vázquez mentioned she believes police raided their home as a case of mistaken identification. She mentioned that police first accused her husband of serving to to overturn a automobile in entrance of the headquarters of the town’s communist get together.

Vazquez mentioned her husband was not concerned with that incident.

CNN has reached out to the federal government for remark.

Vázquez's husband Daniel Joel Cárdenas Díaz, seen here with their two children.

After the harrowing video Vázquez took was aired by the worldwide press, Cuban-state run media launched photographs of Cárdenas being calmly being questioned by police to refute what they known as “fake news” reviews that he had been critically wounded. The nationwide information program additionally confirmed safety digicam video that state media mentioned confirmed Cárdenas exterior the gasoline station after it had been broken.

In December, Cárdenas was tried and convicted of sabotage and public dysfunction. He now faces a 15-year sentence in jail, Vázquez mentioned.

“These people didn’t kill anyone, they didn’t put bombs,” Vázquez mentioned. “They threw rocks and asked for liberty, that was all. And they are being sentenced to more than 20 years in prison.”

According to a press release launched by Cuban prosecutors, 790 folks have been charged for his or her involvement in the protests, with 172 folks already convicted. The trials are seemingly the biggest mass trials to happen in Cuba since Fidel Castro took energy in 1959 and presided over televised trials of lots of of officers of the deposed Batista regime.

Despite widespread requires amnesty for the July protesters, the federal government has vowed to harshly punish those that took half in the spontaneous rebellion.

“It has been corresponded to us to judge those who, acting as pawns of the subversive onslaught and attempted destabilization by the enemies of the revolution, have committed vandalism (and) violent aggression against authorities and officials,” Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero Cruz mentioned at a authorities ceremony in January attended by the Minister of Justice, judges and different high-ranking officers, in accordance to the state-run media.

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But human rights observers say lots of the accused protestors haven’t had ample entry to attorneys or been in a position to mount a protection as they face decades-long jail sentences.

“This is a level of massive, systematic criminalization of demonstrators that we have very rarely seen in Latin America in recent decades,” Juan Pappier, a senior Americas researcher at Human Rights Watch, informed CNN. “It’s very clear the message the Cuban government is trying to convey is that what happened in July is absolutely forbidden and cannot happen again.”

In a short cellphone name from El Guatao, the ladies’s jail in Havana the place she is being held, protestor Mackyani Yosney Román Rodríguez decried the “awful” circumstances of her incarceration.

Román mentioned she was arrested in July after clashes with police, whom she blamed for inflicting the violence in the working-class Havana neighborhood of La Guïnera the place she lived.

“It was terrible, the police arrived and just started shooting,” she mentioned.

Román, 24, mentioned she is charged with a protracted checklist of crimes, together with sedition, and faces 25 years in jail. Two of her brothers additionally face prolonged jail sentences for allegedly participating in the protests, she mentioned.

CNN has reached out to the federal government for remark.

The protests — and now the trials of lots of of protestors — mark a earlier than and after in the island’s historical past for a lot of Cubans.

Some of the protesters’ relations say whatever the mass trials and harsh sentences, anti-government resentment will continue to simmer.
Marbelis Vázquez Hernández, pictured at her home in Cárdenas last week.

“When will our kids see him again? When they are adults,” Marbelis Vázquez Hernández mentioned from her new home, a easy construction created from cement blocks on a tough, grime highway that she moved to together with her youngsters following her husband’s arrest.

She mentioned she was too traumatized by seeing police beat her husband to stay in their previous dwelling. Even although it appears seemingly her husband will spend years in jail, Vázquez mentioned she is going to attraction his case and proceed to advocate for his launch. She says she won’t be intimidated by the federal government’s marketing campaign in opposition to the protesters.

“I am not afraid, they have made me stronger,” she mentioned.

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