Mother of imprisoned Cuban social media influencer worried about her mental health

Socialism in action: Cuban social media influencer Sulmira Martinez is suffering the effects of the psychological torture she has suffered since her arrest in January for criticizing the communist regime on Facebook. Her mother is growing more concerned as Sulmira is now suffering depression and has begun expressing thoughts of suicide.

Via Martí Noticias:

The mother of Sulmira Martinez is worried about the mental health of her daughter: ‘I see her very depressed’

Norma Pérez, the mother of Cuban social media influencer Sulmira Martínez (Salem), who has been imprisoned since January 10, 2023, for her Facebook posts. She told Martí Noticias that during her last visit with her daughter at the El Guatao penitentiary in Havana, she noticed that she was “very psychologically distressed.”

“My daughter is in a very bad state. They sent her to the psychologist and psychiatrist because it seems she’s already mentally drained from Villa Marista. She says she wants to hang herself, that she wants to give up, that she can’t take it anymore, that she’s tired. She told me with teary eyes,” she said.

Pérez visited her daughter last Friday and returned home overwhelmed. “I saw her very strange, not like other times. I didn’t like the way she looked, the way she spoke. I know my daughter, and I saw her very depressed,” she explained.

Martínez, who is 21 years old, was arrested after posting a series of Facebook posts encouraging Cubans to take to the streets to protest against the regime of Miguel Díaz-Canel and recreate another uprising like the one on July 11, 2021. After her arrest, she was taken to Villa Marista, the country’s main State Security headquarters, and on March 17, she was transferred to El Guatao, where she is currently held.

Almost six months after her detention, Norma Pérez still doesn’t know the exact charges her daughter is facing. The only document she has received was a report detailing the confiscation of some equipment taken from her house shortly after the arrest.

Initially, officials from Villa Marista told the mother her daughter was accused of propaganda against the constitutional order, which carries sentences ranging from two to ten years of imprisonment. Later they mentioned incitement to commit crimes, which is penalized with fines or sentences ranging from six months to a year and a half in prison.

The uncertainty about her case, which is not out of the ordinary in the Cuban context, is one of the issues affecting her daughter, according to Norma Pérez. Furthermore, the mother said that during Sulmira’s time in El Guatao, her lawyer has only visited her once.

Norma Pérez believes that the 67 days her daughter spent in Villa Marista, where she was subjected to interrogations and mistreatment that various human rights organizations have classified as psychological torture, have also affected her mental health.

“She told me she went through a lot in Villa Marista, that they would take away her cigarettes and give her only the lighter, or they would give her cigarettes and not the lighter; they would leave the light on; they would tell her it was three in the morning when it was noon… They broke her there. They waged a tremendous war against her, so it seems that has traumatized her a lot. She has lasting effects from Villa Marista that are surfacing now,” she said.

Pérez specified that it also greatly affected her daughter when the Cuban authorities broadcasted her images on national television without her consent during an interrogation in Villa Marista, in which she made self-incriminating statements and appeared under duress.

Furthermore, the conditions in the women’s prison in El Guatao have not helped Martínez’s recovery. “There is no water inside. There is no water to bathe, they have to go somewhere else to fetch it and carry in the water. They make them weed with their hands and without gloves. The food is still bad, there is no cold water to drink,” Pérez said.

Three other young Cubans, Daniel Moreno, Alejandro Garlobo, and Yasmani González, who were imprisoned between January and April of this year, find themselves in similar legal circumstances as Sulmira Martínez. All of them were engaged in activism on social media and were initially detained at Villa Marista before being transferred to the Combinado del Este.