Yoani Sanchez reports from Havana in 14yMedio via Translating Cuba:
‘It Is Not a Crime to Ask for the Freedom of our Children, They Will Not Silence Us’
“I told him that he had the soul of an old man because he got up at dawn to go to work on his father’s farm. He liked to be in the fields and take care of the animals.” This is how Migdalia Gutiérrez Padrón remembers her son Brusnelvis Cabrera Gutiérrez, sentenced to 15 years for the La Güinera protests in the Havana municipality of Arroyo Naranjo.
Cabrera calls his mother every two or three days, as allowed in the Combinado del Este prison, the largest on the island, where he has been confined for months. Every time he manages to communicate, he insists on asking about the appeal process that the family began after learning in March of his sentence for the crime of sedition.
“What does the lawyer say? Is there anything new about my case?” asks the 21-year-old on the other end of the line. But still his mother has not been able to give him the joy of a positive response. The days are lengthening and the hope that justice will be done seems to fade. “My son was not even in the demonstration that July 12,” the woman points out.
Gutiérrez remembers every hour of that Monday. “He went around nine in the morning with his wife to a pool in El Globo for a party,” a neighborhood located in the municipality of Boyeros. “He was there with some friends until around five in the afternoon and then he left for his father’s farm,” close to his home.
“He was there until after eight o’clock at night when he was in charge of looking after the cows. That was his journey that day,” says the mother. “We have four witnesses who confirmed that she was in the pool and also others who confirmed his presence on the farm, but the complaint against my son was based on a photo.”
An image of a young man on a motorcycle who, with the movement of his arm, summoned the protesters, was enough for the People’s Provincial Court of Havana to make the sentence final. Something that Gutiérrez refutes: “the young man in the photo does not have tattoos on his arm and my son has an arm full of tattoos.”
In the ruling issued on March 16, to which 14ymedio had access, the Court dismissed this evidence and alleges that “it was clear that those who testified” in favor of Cabrera “were not credible,” but the only action described by the young man during that day is to “drive a red moped” and with “gestures with his hands and movements with his body” summon people to join the march.
Married, without children yet and with dreams of prospering in farming, Cabrera also raised pigs and helped plant mangoes on land that pays part of its production to a cooperative in the area. Now all those dreams of building a future for his family through the rows and the stables are very distant.
“The prison conditions are terrible and my son feels very bad because the witnesses we brought to the trial were not taken into account,” the mother summarizes. “In the appeal we are not asking for a reduction of years or that they put another crime such as ‘attack’ or ‘disrespect’ but immediate freedom, because he is innocent.”
“He is a boy very well loved in the neighborhood, I have not had any rejection here because he was a person who made himself loved,” recalls Cabrera. “He was 20 years old when he was arrested, but he was still like a child. He liked everything that people of that age like: music and being with his friends.”
The family lives on 2nd Street, in Reparto Rosario, a very humble area. “The demonstration began in an area of ??wooden houses,” explains the mother. “The son of my neighbor María Luisa Fleitas Bravo was sentenced to 21 years,” she adds. This is the young Rolando Vázquez Fleitas, one of those arrested for the La Güinera protests.
After the demonstrations, the authorities began at full speed a project to remodel and touch up the neighborhood. “They sent for the school and some blocks to be fixed up a bit. The place where the demonstration came from was a garbage dump before and now they have made it a small park,” the woman details.
“As a mother, I hope that he will be released, but I see it as difficult because I look at myself in the mirror of other people who have gone through the same thing and have had to serve their sentences,” admits Gutiérrez.
What she has no doubt about is the attitude that she will take. “They want the mothers of La Güinera to shut up, but we are not going to shut up. State Security visits us and harasses us, but we are going to continue asking for the freedom of our children. That is not a crime,” she concludes.