Communist state security forces in Cuba have not ceased raiding the homes of and arresting individuals believed to have participated in the July 11 nationwide protests, most recently disappearing dissident Sadiel González from his home on Monday night.
González’s family told the independent Cuban outlet 14 y Medio that González remains missing as of Tuesday following police entering his Havana home on Monday night and requesting an “interview” at the police station. González had broadcast a live stream on Facebook of the protests on July 11 and participated in them. Unlike many who have been arrested or otherwise disappeared into the Communist Party criminal system, González has a track record of dissident activity and had most recently participated in a protest in April prior to July 11.
González’s arrest became publicly known because he filmed the visit by police on Monday — which reportedly occurred after 9 p.m. local time, past the curfew imposed to prevent the spread of Chinese coronavirus in the capital city. Police did not present a warrant for his arrest or state that he would face any charges, leaving unclear why they came to his home.
Video González posted on Facebook showed an officer asking González to accompany the police to “have a conversation at the police station” but authorities ultimately place him in handcuffs and take him away. Responding to outraged demands for an explanation from his mother, one officer reportedly says, “it’s for an interview, mom, don’t worry about it.”
Another officer, following González’s departure in a police car, told his mother that the man was “involved in counterrevolutionary acts” and explained that he had livestreamed video of himself on Monday promoting more protests against the Castro regime.
The arrest on Monday offers proof that persecutions related to the July 11 protests continue three weeks later, even as calls for international aid to the protesters, particularly in the United States, have largely fallen on deaf ears. The administration of President Joe Biden implemented redundant sanctions on two individuals in response to the violent crackdowns following July 11, but has not taken any more significant measures and, following a meeting last week with Cuban celebrities, has not indicated he has plans for more action in the future.
The July 11 protests were a spontaneous eruption of discontent against the communist regime, in power for 62 years, that occurred in nearly every city in the country. Some estimates suggest as many as 200,000 Cubans participated in the protests, which mostly consisted of peaceful marches and assemblies in public squares. The Castro regime responded to the protests by immediately demanding that pro-revolutionary civilians physically assault dissidents in public and executing door-to-door raids to arrest suspected protesters. Some police officers used live ammunition to fire into peaceful crowds; many arrested individuals near protests for whom there was no evidence of participation, including children.
According to the human rights group Cuban Prisoners Defenders in a report published this week, “an impossible-to-determine number between 2,000 and 8,000 people” were detained and remain in police custody as a result of police activity last month, the vast majority of it on July 11 or in the days following. The organization noted that, in the vast majority of these cases, the individuals imprisoned do not receive due process, meaning many have not even been charged with a crime while remaining under police custody. Underlining this lack of respect for legal rights, Prisoners Defenders could only confirm the existence of 272 political prisoners on the island as of June, defined as individuals tried and convicted of crimes consisting of disagreements with the government. The rest are merely in police custody without being convicted — or in many cases indicted — of a crime.
Yet another alarming category of prisoner are dissidents serving time for “pre-criminal” behavior. According to Cuban Prisoners Defenders, 11,000 Cubans fit this category. These are individuals the regime considers a threat but for whom no evidence of any act that can be interpreted in any way as a crime exists.
Another significant group of people the Communist Party deems enemies of the state are consistently beholden to informal house arrest arrangements. This method is especially used in the cases of journalists. Luz Escobar, the 14 y Medio reporter who wrote the story on González’s arrest, regularly reports being unable to leave her home for unclear reasons. On Wednesday, Escobar filmed a suspected state security agent — “he refused to identify himself” — at her front door preventing her from leave her home.
“There’s a lot of COVID out there, it’s better if you stay home,” the unidentified man says in the video, adding a request to go upstairs to her apartment that Escobar rejects, citing a lack of warrant, legal identification, or any explanation for who this man is or why he is preventing her from leaving her home.
#4deAgosto si! De nuevo 😡han llegado a los bajos de mi edificio los enviados de la Seguridad del Estado para impedirme salir. Aquí pueden escuchar cómo se niega a identificarse y su expresión de “afuera hay covid”. De nuevo todo ilegal y arbitrario. #SosCuba #InformarNoEsDelito pic.twitter.com/pNMbJUVqHS
— Luz Escobar #SOScuba🇺 (@Luz_Cuba) August 4, 2021
The status of many others remains unknown since July 11, as the government effectively disappeared them without explanation. The most prominent of these cases is that of José Daniel Ferrer, the leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), believed to be the largest dissident group on the island. No evidence suggests that Ferrer participated in the protests on July 11 or that UNPACU helped organize them, but authorities took him out of his Santiago de Cuba home that day and his family have not received any explanation or updates on his whereabouts since.
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