The silent drama of 9J 11 in Cuba

By Juan Carlos Espinosa |

Havana (BLAZETRENDS).- Anay Hernández sadly clings to her bible when she reads aloud one of the letters from her son Adel, imprisoned after the demonstrations of July 11, 2021 (July 11) in Cuba and, like her, fervent Christian: “Cursed the day I was born (…) God is not with me.”

The 55-year-old woman with two strokes arranges the stack of letters on the kitchen table of her house, in a popular neighborhood in the municipality of Regla (Havana). In them you can see how the hope of Adel de la Torre, 27 and the youngest of two brothers, gradually fades over the months.

They also project the feeling of impotence of this young man, sentenced to seven years in prison for public disorder and contempt in relation to the largest protests that Cuba has registered in decades, mostly peaceful and spontaneous demonstrations, of which this week they are two years old.

“He was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time,” his mother told BLAZETRENDS, who assures that her son was detained on his way to his grandmother’s house. De la Torre has always denied the charges.

The young man, says his mother, suffers from schizophrenia and, before being sentenced, treated victims of the explosion due to a gas leak at the Saratoga Hotel in May 2022 as an orderly, in which 47 people died and dozens were injured.

He is one of the more than a thousand people detained for the protests, according to the count of NGOs such as Prisoners Defenders and Justice 11J. More than 700 have already been sentenced, sometimes to up to 30 years in prison for the crime of sedition.

The Cuban government, which denounced that the protests were orchestrated from abroad, has insisted that due process has been followed in all cases, despite complaints from NGOs and relatives in this regard.

isolated and far

Marta Perdomo, 59, was unable to speak to her sons Nadir (38) and Jorge (39) during her first two months of arrest following the 9/11 protests. She and she did not manage to see them until after a hundred days.

For eight months, the Perdomo brothers were in separate prisons (now they are in the same one), both in opposite directions and tens of kilometers from the family home, in the municipality of San José de las Lajas (west).

“It has been a very great torture. It is a suffering that has not ended ”, he told BLAZETRENDS in a telephone interview.

Nadir and Jorge are now serving sentences of six and eight years, respectively, for public disorder and contempt in a jail about 30 kilometers from the kitchen where before, every day at four in the afternoon, they had coffee with their mother. .

To visit them, his mother has come to spend 7,000 pesos (about 58 dollars, at the official commercial exchange rate), almost double the average salary in Cuba. A titanic task for her, who works as a neighborhood seamstress.

More cases of 11J

This is how Ana Mary García, 57, mother of Brenda Díaz, a 29-year-old trans woman who is serving a sentence of 14 years and seven months in the men’s section of a prison for people with HIV for public disorder, sabotage and contempt, has also suffered. in connection with the 9/11 protests.

García, also a seamstress, sold her machine to be able to pay for trips to jail, almost 80 kilometers from her home, in Güira de Melena (west). For transportation she has come to pay 8,000 pesos.

These prices, triggered by the lack of fuel and the perennial transportation crisis, have a deep impact on families that live on salaries of less than 40 dollars a month.

“Strength is given to me by the love that I have for my daughter and, every day that I see more things happen to her, that gives me the strength to carry on,” García, who has denounced beatings and ill-treatment, stressed to BLAZETRENDS by telephone. his daughter in prison.

But the problems are not only in the cost of transport. “It’s not just the trip, but what you have to bring them (food and medicine),” adds Perdomo.

This has also been resented by Hernández, who shows an almost empty bag of peas and regrets that in recent days he has eaten “just rice.” He acknowledges that he has had to borrow money from neighbors to bring something to his son.

Family members and activists

Seeing his children behind bars made Perdomo an activist and immediately a person of interest to the Cuban Ministry of the Interior.

“I have always told State Security: you have the solution in your hands. Give me back my children and I’ll shut up,” says Perdomo.

And she is not the only one: cases like hers are repeated in the Cuban geography. Relatives transformed into activists, summoned by State Security and even detained for expressing their discontent about the judicial processes, the sentences and the treatment in prison of their loved ones.

For García there is no alternative given the degree of defenselessness in which her daughter finds herself.

Emotional blows after 9/11

Garcia also describes the moments when she can see her trans daughter in jail as painful. The most difficult thing, he assures him, was “seeing her shaved”. “Being in a men’s prison with a shaved head was a damage that we all suffered,” she recalls.

The pain is also experienced in homes with a father in jail. Saily Núñez, 35 and the partner of Maykel Puig, sentenced to 12 years, describes to BLAZETRENDS how the imprisonment of her husband hit her house hard.

“Maykel was the fundamental link, the support of our family, of my children. I stayed alone. Everything has been chaos, she is missed in everything. When my children get sick, she has had to be mom and dad ”, she recounts.

Núñez points to the time that her husband was not allowed to see his children, despite having a scheduled visit in jail, and talks about psychological torture.

Hernández remembers other similar moments, such as when she was not allowed to hug her son the first time she saw him after his arrest.

While touching the crucifix that hangs from his neck, he recounts that he has already tried to kill himself twice. “My biggest fear is that they’ll end up killing me,” he concludes with a broken voice.

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