The Anguish of the Relatives of the Young People Arrested in Cuba on July 11
“They are young, they are not criminals or bandits who went to throw stones or loot stores, they went to fight for the things they lack, that they are drowning.” Berta Baruch, 58, is one of the mothers who gathered on Monday in front of the 100th y Aldabó prison, in Havana, to find out the whereabouts of her children, detained after the protests on July 11.
Her daughter Yanay Bárbara Solaya (39 years old), her niece Annia Romero Fonseca (47 years old) and her son, Mikel López Romero (27 years old), took to the streets of Centro Habana that Sunday. They were arrested that same day. According to the niece in a last call she made, they were arrested around 8:45 pm on Avenida Carlos III and taken to the Zanja police unit.
“They are decent, hard-working people, they don’t have a criminal record,” Baruch told 14ymedio,” and now they tell us that they have to go to court and that we have to find a lawyer.” The woman received a complaint number and the crime they are charged with: disturbance of public order.
The family, who lives in La Lisa (Havana), waited for a demonstration in the municipality, after seeing on the networks how protests had multiplied since the first one that took place, in San Antonio de los Baños. But when they saw that it wasn’t happening, the three members left for the center of the capital.
“I’m on Facebook day and night looking for the videos where she appears because I would like the video of when they were arrested,” she says. “It makes me very helpless to see how they tear gas them inthe face, I saw them there helping each other. I would have liked to have been there to have defended and protected them and it makes me angry to see many men who were filming, instead of helping to keep the police from taking them away.” Berta is desperate: “I am very distressed, I am very anguished, I have no more to give.”
Heissy Celaya Pérez is in the same situation, as the mother of Amanda Hernández, who, at 17, is one of the minors who have been detained since that Sunday.
Celaya learned of the arrest from the young woman herself, a senior high school student and dancer. “She called me to tell me that she had to get out of the car that was taking her to her dance classes on the corner of Prado and Malecón because there were many people on the street and the car could not move forward,” she tells this newspaper while waiting in a line to hire a lawyer for her daughter.” There he warned me that I would be walking back home.”
Knowing the situation, Celaya, who was working, asked Amanda to hurry, but the girl “evidently, on her return, took out her phone and started filming the protests.” Five minutes later,s he called her again, “hysterical, breaking into tears,” to tell her that they were putting her in a police car.
After that call, she did not hear from his daughter for more than 24 hours and since then, she has not seen her or been allowed to speak with her. “The next day I managed to reach the fourth station in Cerro, at Infanta and Manglar,” she continues. “There they told me that my daughter had been transferred to 100th y Aldabó”, a piece of news that felt like a bucket of cold water but did not paralyze her. “On the same Monday I flew over there. They told me to bring toiletries, as if she were a common prisoner,” she laments.
Hernández is charged with the same accusation made against Berta Baruch’s relatives: public disorder. Her little daughter, she says, “is experiencing the same thing and hugs me every five minutes and says I love you when she sees me like this.”
Other testimonies are those reported by the relatives of the young Gabriel Alfonso González, detained in the vicinity of the Havana Capitol, and those of Daniela Rojo, mother of two children aged four and seven who are now in the care of their grandmother.
Because they not only arrested well-known activists, such as José Daniel Ferrer, leader of the Unpacu, and the artist Luis Manuel Otero Alcántara, but anonymous Cubans who simply peacefully manifested a desire for change. “I am destroyed,” Celaya confesses.
“Daniela is not a traitor, nor does she support an interventionist aggression against Cuba,” wrote Rioger Guilarte in his networks defending the cause of his friend. “Neither is she pro-imperialist nor is she a ’worm’*. Daniela is an anti-communist and does not mince words. She is a dissident, because dissent is a vital option for development and evolution, it is an ideological decision and not a crime.”
If there are detainees who are outraged, it is precisely the youngest, who abounded in the protests. The activist Salomé García Bacallao has compiled a list of the nine minors arrested from the demonstrations: in addition to Amanda Hernández Celaya, there are Brandon David Becerra (17 years old), Giancarlos Álvarez Arriete (17), Glenda de la Caridad Marrero Cartaya (15), Jonathan Pérez Ramos (16), Katherin Acosta (17), Leosvani Giménez Guzmán (15), Luis Manuel Díaz (16) and Yanquier Sardiña Franco (16).
“Education in Cuba is compulsory up to the upper secondary level, therefore it follows that all those under 18 are students,” García Bacallao wrote in a Facebook post. “When is the Ministry of Education of the Republic of Cuba going to be interested in these minors? For some of them, the station where they are detained is not even known, so they are considered disappeared.”
Nine days after the first protests, the government has not provided a number of injuries and detainees. To date, the legal organization Cubalex documents a total of 34 victims of forced disappearance – the United Nations last week estimated them at 187 – and a total of 500 detainees, although other independent lists determine that 530 have been arrested. Laritza Diversent, executive director of the NGO, detailed this Monday to Cibercuba that, of all those arrested, 74 have already been released and for 108 the detention center where they are held is known; the whereabouts of another 284 remain to be confirmed.
On its networks, Cubalex issued a call to collaborate to those who have any information about or charges against those arrested since July 11.
Translator’s note: “Worms” (gusanos), is a term Fidel Castro chose to describe the first wave of people who left Cuba after the Revolution, and it has been repeatedly applied to anyone who doesn’t support the government ever since.