Brutal Repression against Cuban Women

Alina Barbara Lopez Hernandez

HAVANA TIMES – Generally speaking, repressive dictatorial regimes tend to register fewer victims among women, including a lesser quantity of long prison sentences for women. The news from Cuba, however, contradicts the above impression.

On April 18, on the Havana-Matanzas highway, PhD in philosophy Alina Barbara Lopez Hernandez, 58, was detained without charges and with no explanation whatsoever. When she asked the reason for such an illegal proceeding, not unlike several bitter experiences she’d had previously, the response from a policewoman was to employ martial arts and knock her down onto the pavement.

The university professor later recounted: “I’m quite tall, and I hit the ground very hard. I fell on my back, and for a moment my eyes clouded over, and I felt something like the taste of blood in my throat.”

According to the victim, three agents then dragged her to the police patrol car and violently attempted to shove her inside. In the struggle, the desperate academic grabbed the epaulette of the police agent “That’s now one of the elements they’re using to accuse me of assault, because I pulled off her insignia.”

In other words, the victim has now become the criminal, with a fabricated criminal charge of assault now pending against her.

Why such a savage procedure against a defenseless woman? Because Alina Barbara Hernandez is a person who abides closely to the law, well educated, with the good manners of a university professor, yet who publicly expresses her rejection of despotism.

The crime of assault is one of the charges most often used by the repressors. It was similarly applied to Lizandra Gongora Espinosa, who was persecuted for 18 days following her participation in the multitudinous demonstrations of July 11, 2021. A Major in Cuba’s Interior Ministry was dispatched to declare, with no other proof than his words, that the 35-year-old mother of five children had thrown a rock at him.

Lizandra Gongora Espinosa

A commitment to non-violence is answered by fabricating a violent crime. Non-violence irritates the repressors and must be discredited, because as contemporary history shows, it’s an effective weapon against dictatorships, whether they be rightists or leftist.

Lizandra was sentenced to 14 years in prison for the combined accusations of public disorder (demonstrating in the street), disobedience (calling out a governing official or institution while protesting) and, as already noted, assault. Judged by a military tribunal, the sentence was ratified by the corresponding chamber of the Supreme Court.

A photo of this brave woman, an active member of the opposition organization Cuban Republic Party – declared illegal because the government refuses to recognize the opposition – shows her indignant face, with the phrase “No is No” written on the palm of her right hand.

Lizandra’s life is in grave danger, since she’s being kept in a penitentiary for common women prisoners located on the Isle of Pines – a de facto deportation in the old style of Siberia under the Tsars. She is the only prisoner of conscience in the place and has been suffering from heavy vaginal bleeding due to a fibroid tumor which needs an immediate operation.

Her husband, Angel Delgado, tells me she was taken to the emergency department of a local hospital, where the doctor warned her: “We don’t have any specialists here, or supplies to handle a surgical intervention. Also, there are 1,300 people like you, waiting for an operation.”

To use medical practice as a form of repression, aggravating the health of the patient, or even provoking their death, is a topic about which there’ve been many validated testimonies during these 65 years of the dictatorship. Laura Polan, founder and leader of the organization “Women in White” died in a hospital on October 14, 2011, with a suspicious diagnosis, following an collapse caused by incorrect medical procedures.

Laura Polan (l) with Berta Soler

Laura was a teacher, and the Women in White paraded through the streets with a flower in their hands demanding freedom for the political prisoners. Now they’re not even allowed to go to Mass on Sunday. Apparently, flowers are a lethal weapon in the eyes of the dictators.

The latest news to stir public opinion has to do with 22-year-old Mayelin Rodriguez Prado. Mayelin, mother of a little girl, has been sentenced to 15 years in jail, accused of “continual enemy propaganda” and “sedition.” In the briefest of trials, held in a single session as if the country were under a state of siege, distributed 134 years of prison time among 13 youth, one of them another young woman, who received an 8 year sentence.

Mayelin Rodriguez Prado

The vicious treatment of that young woman was because she used her phone to record the demonstrations held on August 22, 2022, in the Pastelillo neighborhood of the city of Nuevitas in Camaguey and posted them on Facebook. The video contained images of the police violence, including the physical mistreatment of three minors.

Those proceedings lead us to imagine the sentence that awaits university professor Alina Barbara Hernandez, especially since she has declared: “State Security can’t decide how I’ll live one day in my life.”

According to her reasoning: “We must defend the few spaces we have, because they’re going to squash them all. There isn’t the least possibility for social dialogue in Cuba. The problem is no longer ideological: it’s not a question of left against right; it’s not a matter of conservatives against liberals, capitalists against socialists. It’s a civic problem.”   

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times.

2 thoughts on “Brutal Repression against Cuban Women

  • Mr Stephen, we agree with the behaviour of some men in Cuba in treating their women, but here the key is that women have throughout history been a refuge for the struggle for freedom in the face of widespread repression. The dictatorship does not feel the slightest consideration for women when repressing, it is about not leaving the victims even a minimum refuge. If you are an opponent, no matter your sex, age or educational level, you will be repressed with brutal violence.

  • I have seen many women in Cuba get hit by boyfriend or by their husband when they have been drinking. There is no system that provides enough support to single moms in Cuba
    I also have seen the police and other gov officials treat women in a way that would not be allowed in Canada or the United States or some parts of Europe. I would not to be woman in Cuba now with children to look after. I am very afraid for them.

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