A Cuban man denounced the communist regime in a video published Tuesday, alleging that his local hospital prevented him from entering to visit his ailing pregnant wife because he was wearing shorts emblazoned with the American flag.
The man, identified as Genrri Wilian Martínez Jerez, tells the outlet Cubanet that authorities from the Ministry of the Interior told him that his shorts were enabling the infiltration of American culture in the country at a time in which President Donald Trump was planning a full-scale invasion of the island.
Since the demise of dictator Fidel Castro and imposition of enabling policies on the bilateral relationship under President Barack Obama, brother Raúl Castro has expanded the repressive efforts of the communist regime, using beatings, temporary detentions, and psychological holds to punish pro-democracy dissidents. Martínez does not claim to be a dissident, merely a Cuban man wearing a U.S. flag on his shorts, but he states authorities at the hospital feared that the presence of the flag in the facility would be enough to erode the strength of the communist ideology.
In the Cubanet video, Martínez states that the incident happened on November 23, when his wife was forced to remain in their local hospital for complications related to a respiratory infection during her pregnancy. Doctors and administrators refused Martínez entry to see his wife.
“They denied me entry because I was wearing shorts that had the American flag on them,” he says, noting that his first instinct was to record the officials speaking to him “because I found it stupid. Why wouldn’t they let me in because of my shorts?”
Medical staff refused to speak to him, sending him to speak to a representative of the Ministry of the Interior.
“He told me that the president of the United States was going to invade Cuba and ideologically penetrate Cuba through articles of clothing,” Martínez narrates. “I asked if I would have been rejected wearing a Canadian flag or any other flag and they said no, that only the American flag was prohibited.”
“How weak does the ideology of a country have to be when an article of clothing with a flag or insignia of another country can weaken its strength?” Martínez asks.
The video also features some of the footage he managed to record on his cell phone. He attempted to record the hospital staffer initially sent to address him, who pushed the phone’s camera towards the floor and angrily tells him to stop “photographing” her. The tone of all officials in the video is belligerent and clearly intended to intimidate Martínez.
Clothing with American flag branding is not uncommon in Cuba, as many Cubans rely on donations from their families in the United States for survival. American flag displays were encouraged during the Obama era, when the White House announced a series of reforms to profit Cuba’s military-run tourism industry and grant the rogue state more leverage on the international stage. Yet even under President Obama, Cuban soldiers marched to chants and slogans about assassinating the U.S. president and persecuted pro-U.S. dissidents.
Under President Donald Trump, who has worked to limit the negative effects of Obama’s policies, the regime has acted even more strictly to restrain support for the United States. The most prominent example is that of Daniel Llorente, a dissident whose signature act of protest is waving an American flag in public. In 2016, Llorente arrived alone at Havana’s port to welcome the first U.S. cruise ship to sail to the island since the 1959 Revolution. The government sent a mob to harass him and shout racial slurs at Llorente before ultimately arresting him for waving the American flag.
A year later, Llorente interrupted the Marxist May Day parade by running in front of the parade waving a U.S. flag. Cuban state security beat him in public and whisked him away; the incident was caught on video, including the beating. Llorente was never charged with a crime, instead identified as a psychiatric patient because he expressed belief in God. He spent a year in involuntary “psychiatric” treatment, which he later stated included torture such as electroshock.
“Taking me to a psychiatric hospital, that is a lack of ethics and respect. That is how the system works, repressing anybody who tells the truth,” Llorente said after his release in May 2018, vowing to continue waving the flag and demanding the government return the flag they confiscated.
In August, the regime placed a state security agent on watch in front of Llorente’s home after he began using a business card that featured the U.S. flag and referred to himself as “the flag man.”
“An agent of state security has positioned himself in [front of] my house, he came and said that he became aware that I am distributing my business card and suggested that I should change the format of the card or no longer distribute it,” Llorente explained.