Woman crying as she holds cell phone displaying photo of her brother (© Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty Images)
Virgen Frometa, sister of Luis Frometa, who was sentenced to 25 years in prison for his participation in recent anti-government protests, displays a photo of her brother March 29 in Havana. (© Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty Images)

The Cuban government continues to persecute its citizens for voicing their opinions.

On July 11, 2021, tens of thousands of Cubans took to the streets to peacefully demand respect for their human rights and fundamental freedoms. Cubans tried unsuccessfully to do so again in November. In the last year, the regime has arrested over 1,300 citizens, resulting in more than 550 sentences so far. The majority of those detained received prison sentences.

“Sadly, this year we saw a continuation of the unrelenting wave of repression in Cuba. Weeks prior to July 11, 2022, we saw the Cuban government systematically detaining, arresting, and limiting the ability of activists and journalists to depart their homes as a tactic to deter potential political activism. We heard of Internet slow-downs. This weekend we saw reports of the Cuban government deploying police and military around the country to intimidate citizens from organizing on the dates surrounding the anniversary of 11J,” Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian A. Nichols said July 12 during a media engagement.

The Cuban government also convicted and sentenced to forced labor minors who were 16 and 17 years old at the time of their arrest and had already spent nearly a year in prison. More than 25 children under 16 have been subjected to the government’s disciplinary action.

The Cuban regime handed out prison sentences of up to 25 years for protesters, while prosecutors sought 30-year sentences “for crimes of sedition, sabotage, robbery with force, and public disorder.”

Families of July 11 protesters who have spoken to diplomats or the press about their loved ones’ cases report routine harassment by Cuban state security officials. They have been harassed regularly in their homes, made to repeatedly appear for interviews at security offices and routinely surveilled and detained.

In May, judges convicted the outspoken father of a minor protester to two years in prison.

In June, Cuban authorities prevented two mothers of July 11 protesters from traveling to Europe to meet with European Union and United Nations officials.

Man grabbed by the throat while being arrested for protesting in Cuba (© Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty Images)
A man, later identified as Rolando Remedios, is arrested July 11, 2021, during a demonstration against the government of Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel in Havana. (© Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty Images)

Lawyers for protesters and human rights activists report that judges severely restrict trial testimony of defendants and their witnesses.

Their crime? Disagreeing with their government, calling for the protection of human rights and peacefully demanding medicine and food.

Human Rights Watch reports Cuban prisons are overcrowded, with prisoners forced to work 12-hour days and punished if they don’t make production quotas.

The United States supports statements by Canada, the European Union and the Organization for American States condemning the Cuban government’s oppression of its citizens.

“Each and every voice that speaks up in the face of this repression makes a difference in the lives of those so unfairly persecuted,” said Nichols.