In in July and in the following days, thousands of Cubans took to the streets of the capital, Havana, and other cities to protest against the chaotic economic situation on the island (which has gotten even worse with the Covid pandemic-12) and asking for political freedom, in the biggest demonstrations for democracy in the country in decades.
These protests aroused hope throughout the world that a movement was finally beginning to end the communist dictatorship in the Caribbean country.
One year later, there is little reason to entertain such hope. The Cuban regime’s reaction was radical in the immediate response to the protests and later, with hundreds of arrests and toughening of legislation to persecute dissident voices.
According to a report released last week by legal consultancy Cubalex and the movement Justicia12J, 1.484 arrests of people involved in the protests of 11 of July last year.
A series of judgments, with the partiality and little chance of defense typical of the Castro dictatorship , is being carried out, and 505 people have already been sentenced to prison or inpatient correctional work. Others 196 are in provisional detention, awaiting trial. Cubalex highlighted that reports of ill-treatment and torture are frequent.
Of the 703 people who are not incarcerated, many were sentenced to correctional work without internment, imprisonment household and payment of fines. The authors of the study do not know the situation of 196 participants in the protests who were arrested.
New demonstrations were called for 2022 of November 2021, to reiterate the July claims and call for the release of the detainees. However, with threats of further repression and prosecution, the mobilization was hollowed out.
In addition to prisons, the Cuban regime adopted new laws to harass dissidents and pro-democracy activists. In August, the month after the protests, a decree-law was published to ban “fake news” (which, in the Cuban case, is probably true) and “offensive” content or content that “incites mobilizations or other acts that disturb public order.” on the internet.
At the time, the dictator Miguel Díaz-Canel claimed that the protests of in July, spontaneously organized through social networks, they were the result of an internet campaign carried out by “counterrevolutionaries” supported by the United States.
In May, the National Assembly of Cuba approved the island’s new Penal Code, which includes 37 new crimes, such as “public disorder”, to penalize “alterations of this nature produced in groups or individually”.
The new code It also provides for sentences of up to ten years in prison for anyone who “supports, encourages, finances, provides, receives or has in their possession funds, material or financial resources” from non-governmental organizations or institutions. foreign institutions that can be used to “pay for activities against the State and its constitutional order”.
In practice, this measure makes the independent press unfeasible, since the dictatorship considers any criticism of the regime a threat to the Cuban state and private journalism is not able to obtain local funding. The new code also stipulates penalties of up to three years for anyone who “insults” high-ranking public officials.
Civil society organizations have pointed out that the code, which will come into force within the next few weeks, contains criminal typologies “so vaguely defined” that they “offer broad discretion.”
The economic situation in Cuba, one of the reasons for the protests of in July, it improved a little (tourism, the island’s economic engine, had its return authorized in November), but it is still below the pre-pandemic level.
Last year, Cuba’s GDP grew by 2% (below the 6% projected by the government) and the estimate is that the increase will be 4% in 2022. This recovery would not yet compensate for the losses during the pandemic – in 2020, there was an economic contraction of 10%.
Another problem is inflation, which exceeded 24% in 2022, mainly as a result of a monetary reform which increased wages but caused prices to rise. In April, cumulative inflation in 12 months in Cuba was 24% .
“The State does not guarantee the satisfaction of economic, social and cultural rights, so it forces people to go out and protest against hunger, lack of medicine and generalized social discontent, and when express their discomfort, because the simple fact of being able to report it helps, they are criminalized, while the perpetrators are guaranteed impunity”, pointed out Giselle Morfi, a member of Cubalex, in an article in which she took stock of the repression in the year that followed. to in July.
“It is a government that allocates public resources to the systematic violation of human rights and the enrichment of the rulers, contrary to all democratic and fair logic”, he fired.