The Trials of Cuba’s July 11th Protest Prisoners

By Xel2 (El Toque)

HAVANA TIMES – This week our drawings reflect the trials of the July 11th political prisoners. Six months after the events, we are seeing rigged judicial processes in which long sentences are requested for those who protested peacefully.

In the courts, only one family member is allowed to pass for each defendant and convincing evidence on the defense’s behalf, such as videos, has been dismissed due a to lack of “technical support” in the courtrooms.

In this environment, citizen initiatives have emerged to show solidarity with the prisoners and their families, publicize these injustices, and demand greater media visibility. An example of this is the hashtag #EFECubreLosJuicios, which pressured the Spanish EFE news agency to comment on the matter.

Among the many arbitrary actions of these days, was the arrest of an entire family that was going to witness a trial and of a political activist, as well as the confiscation of their phones.

While we wait for the outcome of the trials (because the sentences seem to come signed from above), we will keep you informed of our immediate reality.

Wimar Verdecia Fuentes

We shouldn’t continue to see each other in this WAY!

A product 100% made in Cuba. Repression kit. Use in case of a social uprising.

Proscecutors Anonymous. Hi, my name is Yurislunis Mendez and it has been four days since I screwed up the life of innocent young people.

Read more from Cuba here on Havana Times

8 thoughts on “The Trials of Cuba’s July 11th Protest Prisoners

  • Yes there was some looting of the US dollar stores that divide Cuban society, and when the State Security and Police violently attacked the peacefull unarmed protestors on President Diaz Canel’s TV combat order, yes some kids threw rocks at the attackers. A very small minority defended themselves, the vast majority just took the beating or got away or got arrested. And just like in the USA the Cuban government is known for using state security agent provocateus to break some windows or other violence to justify the Police assault. And guess what, none of police, state security or other civilian attackers of the peaceful marchers have been investigated, jailed, tried and/or sentenced. What was very clear was that they were large peaceful unarmed protests in dozens of cities on July 11, 2021.

  • Circles,

    We have probably reached the end of this string. I agree with you that Cuba overreacted to July 11-12 in arrests and violent treatment of protestors, and about the harsh sentencing emerging from trials, but we disagree over how the US can productively and humanely respond.

    Do you agree that some of the protestors committed acts that would be considered criminal here, or do you follow the view of excusers of violence in US racial justice protests and Tania Bruguera about Cuba.

    “[Vandalizing] the food stores means they are hungry and there is no way they have access to food. And turning over the police cars is saying they have enough of the police abuse. The people have spoken very clearly….”

    Like during the Black Spring trials (and some trials in the US), I believe that objective justice is not being provided by the courts. But I also do not take as self-evident truth the claims of total innocence by protestors and their supporters and family members.

    I have no illusion that my call for a diplomatic solution will be taken seriously be either government. Cuba will pay a price by alienating sectors of domestic opinion because of its draconian court actions, as often happens in the US in reaction to unfair politicized trials. The US will pay a price by losing any positive influence in Cuba’s evolution and by advantaging Russia and China as they seek to offset US presence in their proclaimed spheres of interest.

  • John, this is an apples and oranges situation. To lift the embargo major change would have to take place first in the US Congress and the White House. As you note that doesn’t seem in the cards for the forseeable future. Cuba is very different and the Cuban government can right its terrible injustice on its own. The Communist Party/government does what ever it decides and has a guaranteed unanimous support of the National Assembly. A recent example is the highly unpopular economic reforms of January 2021. It didn’t and doesn’t matter that the situation for many has become much worse, they have total support from their legislature for any decision action they want to take. That doesn’t mean the burocrats will implement it efficientely but as to decisions they have a free reign. So to make a long story short, the Cuban government can act unilaterally to right its terrible wrong of attacking unarmed protestors and jailing well over a thousand and carrying out bogus trials and imposing Draconian sentences. It’s an internal matter totally in their hands. The embargo is a complicated foreign policy / congressional matter.

  • Circles,

    I agree that ending the embargo is a big lift. Expecting the Cuban government to “set free and annul the sentences of all its political prisoners and for starters the hundreds of people who protested on July 11th” is an equally big lift.

    A unilateral embargo is an act of economic warfare and conditions everything, including deep mistrust of US motives even when we do good things. It is closely linked to the goal of regime change. Add in millions of dollars annually for USAID and NED “democracy” programs, Radio and TV Marti and presumably covert regime change funding, you are asking more of Cuba than the US has manifested when it feels under threat.*

    Cuba was too cautious in its reaction to Obama, too fearful of Trojan Horses. I have wondered if Obama had followed the example of the Popes and made a courtesy call to Fidel whether the reaction would have been different. It is also clear that the US did not do as much as it could, most notably on banking agreements and letting Cuba join International Financial Institutions and receive infrastructure loans. Obama could have solved the Guantanamo problem had he followed the path opened by Ben Rhodes and Alejandro Castro. Unfortunately both governments put off harder steps, assuming that President Hilary Clinton would move the process forward.

    Biden-Harris did much to create the current impossible situation by ignoring their campaign pledges. Refusal to abandon Trump by restoring remittances, travel, regional flights, exchanges, etc. had both material and psychological impact on the hope Cubans had put on hold during the Bolton/Claver-Carone era of Trump. It also affected Cuban government attitudes about the space it could risk giving to opposition. My personal hope is that going back to Obama-Castro would be enough to prompt release of all but the most violent and destructive protestors. The additional step of legalization of all travel and normal agricultural sales would provide more confidence in the permanence of rapprochement.

    Restoring Obama should happen because it is “a unilateral action to do what is right, not because of some future deal with” Cuba.

    In reality, neither side will budge because it is in principle the right thing to do. Both will need a diplomatic arrangement that is mutually beneficial and face saving. Self-righteous rhetoric from President Biden, Secretary Blinken, the Congress and American editors may score points in Florida and with Menendez but will not impress other countries and will do absolutely nothing to free the prisoners.


    * US response to perceived threats to its governing system: 1) Civil War = martial law, suspension of habeas corpus; 2) post Civil War = Jim Crow, radical reconstruction; 3) World War I = Palmer Raids, imprisonment of socialist leaders; 4) World War II = Japanese internment; 5) Cold War = McCarthyism, anti-communist purges in unions, schools, Hollywood and government; 6) 9/11= rendition, suspension of habeas corpus, black sites, torture, Guantanamo prison, forced feeding of hunger strikers

  • John, to end the embargo you will have to convince the Republicans especially the likes of Rubio, Cruz, and the demo Menendez, etc. I wish you luck. To me and others it is a lost cause. Those of us that oppose the embargo can keep saying end it, its not right, like virtually all the world at the UN, but that’s been going on for 30 years and neither under Republican or Democratic presidents has there been any real interest in the decision makers to repeal it. So what can Cuba do to promote the type of rapproachment between Obama and Raul Castro, that by the way had a big bucket of water thrown on it by Fidel and that was that. The Cubans blew the opportunity for quick advances at the end of the Obama presidency (or just didn’t want that) and then came Trump… In my opinion the Cuban government should set free and annul the sentences of all its political prisoners and for starters the hundreds of people who protested on July 11th. It should be a unilateral accion to do what is right, not because of some future deal with the US. By holding summary trials on fabricated charges and imposing ridiculously long sentences makes it very hard for Biden to do anything regarding a new opening with Cuba. He wouldn’t even have blanket democratic party support to do so, let alone the needed number of Republicans (in the case of the embargo). And the ending of the embargo is not even on the agenda. The ball is clearly in the Cuban government’s park to not continue to repress its people and not present an easy pretext for nothing to change in relations with the US.

  • Circles,

    The question is not whether one supports or opposes the July 11-12 protests; or whether one thinks they were largely a reaction to difficult conditions of life or a conscious political protest; or if one believes they were the result of the embargo and US democracy interventions over the past decade or the consequence of Biden’s continuation of Trump’s harsh policies in the time of Covid; or the long awaited beginning of the end of the Cuban revolution.

    The question is whether the hundreds of mostly young prisoners stay in prison until the regime falls–or if it doesn’t for ten to twenty years.

    Cuba can be like US cities that want to punish protestors harshly enough to discourage similar acts in the future by others. The US can treat Cuba differently than Columbia and other allied countries that have far worse records of killing and arresting protestors to indulge the return to power fantasies of politically powerful exiles.

    Or the two countries can negotiate a mass release that enables people to regain their lives in Cuba or as emigrants and get back on the path that Barack Obama and Raul Castro opened, an imperfect accommodation of two different systems that cannot escape each other so need to find a way to live side by side–just as must Russia and Ukraine and China and Vietnam and England and Ireland.

    I watched the video months ago. It offers a compelling argument, but it is just one argument. I believe his commendable hopes for change could be advanced furthest and fastest by the US ending the embargo, not by the country’s deeply established system surrendering to the wishes of the big neighbor.

    My recommendation is that everyone read Dr. Lou Perez “Cuba as an Obsessive Compulsive Disorder”. The problem did not begin in July, or when Fidel Castro’s revolution took power, or at the time of the Cuban-Spanish-American War. The only solution is mutual respect and tolerance between our countries and self-determined natural evolution that includes greater political rights for all sectors of opinion.

  • It is common in protest related trials in the US that defendants charge the police and prosecution with making up evidence and insist they are completely innocent. Sometimes that is true, sometimes it is not.

    About 14,000 people were arrested during racial justice demonstrations in the US during the spring and summer of 2020. A data base has been compiled of 1429 cases (including 367 federal) facing felony charges.

    In Cuba someone looted stores, threw rocks and destroyed vehicles on July 11-12 because we have seen the videos, but maybe it was not these defendants.

    The problem is we don’t know and won’t know.

    In any case, objectively the punishments appear disproportionate to the charges.

    Partisans of the protestors and from the governments of Cuba and the US can spin numbers and stories in dueling press statements and tweets for years while those convicted sit in deplorable prison conditions. They are useful symbols for all sides.

    After the trials are finished the two governments should negotiate a path to release that undoes contributing factors from the Trump/Biden sanctions against remittances, travel, consular authority, etc. Ideally negotiators will go to the underlying problem and finally end the unilateral US embargo that has received virtually universal legal and political condemnation, including by Archipielago leader Yunior Garcia.

    There is precedent for resolving criminal charges politically: 1113 Bay of Pigs POWs freed in 1961 for medical supplies valued today at $463 million; intervention by the Catholic Church and Spain leading to release of 75 victims of the Black Spring in 2011, followed by the end of European sanctions; the exchange of USAID contractor Alan Gross for three Cuban spies in 2014 opening the door to normalization of diplomatic relations.

    The question is whether there are leaders in either government who can rise above real and immediate conflicts and their own sense of justice to find a humanitarian solution that opens the door to long term reconciliation domestically and bilaterally.

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