Brutal crackdown on protesters in communist Cuba hurts poorest Cubans the most

The poorest Cubans struggling to survive amidst shortages and blackouts have taken the brunt of the Castro dictatorship’s brutal crackdown on protesters since the July 11 protests a year ago.

Lillian Perlmutter explains in Foreign Policy:

In Cuba, Protesting While Poor Is Now a Crime

A year after mass demonstrations, the island continues to crack down on its most vulnerable communities.

“And how are my daughters?” is Walnier Aguilar’s first question when he calls his dad, Wilber Aguilar, from prison. Walnier Aguilar, who is 22 years old, has two toddlers, ages 1 and 3, growing up just as he did in La Güinera, a neighborhood of dirt streets and crumbling cement buildings 20 minutes outside central Havana.

Last year, before he was arrested, Walnier Aguilar made a video for his parents, his girlfriend, and their two kids: a slideshow of family photos with little phrases professing his love for each of them. His family describes him as distinctly childlike himself, having lived since birth with a neurological disability that makes it difficult for him to follow conversations.

“Sometimes, when you’re talking to him, he’ll just freeze and look at you,” his dad said in his living room in March. Walnier Aguilar is facing 23 years behind bars and may not see his daughters until they are older than he is now. His crime was attending a protest on July 11 last year.

That day, tens of thousands of people took to the streets across the island to protest skyrocketing prices of essential goods. It was the largest event of civil unrest in Cuba since the 1990s. Local advocacy group Justicia 11J has counted around 1,500 Cubans arrested in subsequent weeks and months, with around 700 still in prison. The actual number “could be double,” said Camila Rodríguez, one of Justicia 11J’s founders, since the group relies on word-of-mouth accounts from family members and witnesses to gather these figures. The group also says more than two dozen minors have been arrested: The youngest, who is 12 years old, remains in detention.

In March, after a new wave of sentencing, the U.S. Embassy in Havana released a statement saying the government had placed “disproportionate” sentences on “peaceful and innocent young people.” The Cuban public prosecutor’s office denied that the sentences were too severe, stating the trials displayed “verified compliance with constitutional rights and guarantees of due process.”

Yet a disproportionate number of those arrested are indeed from Havana’s poorest enclaves. According to Justicia 11J, of the approximately 500 people detained in the province of Havana, around 165 are from La Güinera alone, and 135 of those people remain incarcerated. La Güinera, a neighborhood of around 25,000 people, contains only 1 percent of Havana’s population.

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1 thought on “Brutal crackdown on protesters in communist Cuba hurts poorest Cubans the most”

  1. Sure, because those worst off and with the least to lose are the most likely to rebel. Makes perfect sense.

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