HAVANA (AP) — Relatives and friends of Cubans arrested during the unprecedented recent protests on the island said authorities are carrying out summary trials at a time when Cuba's government is receiving criticism from international groups and governments, including the U.S., for its crackdown on the demonstrations.
Martha Acosta, mother of 38-year-old plastic artist Carlos González Acosta, told The Associated Press that her son was sentenced to 10 months in prison on Tuesday for public disorder. She said she wasn't able to attend the trial in Havana because she was not informed of it until it was over.
"It doesn’t seem fair to me. My son has no record, he is not a criminal," said Acosta. She said the family will appeal the sentence before a tribunal.
After being sentenced, González was sent to the Havana’s Valle Grande jail. He is only one of an unspecified number of people arrested after the July 11 protests, when thousands of Cubans took to the streets of the capital and other cities to protest food shortages and high prices during the pandemic.
The Cuban government hasn't said how many were detained, but some NGOs, like Human Rights Watch, have made public lists with the names of more than 500 people allegedly arrested or missing.
Amid the criticism, the U.S. government on Thursday reinforced sanctions on some Cuban officials. The Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control listed Alvaro Lopez Miera, Cuba’s Minister of the Armed Forces, and the Brigada Especial Nacional del Ministerio del Interior, or Interior Ministry Special Brigade, as among those who will face the latest sanctions.
Cuban Foreign Relations Minister Bruno Rodríguez has denied there are people missing or that detainees are being mistreated, saying authorities are only applying the law. Meanwhile, Interior Ministry Col. Víctor Álvarez said on Thursday that families have been informed of their relatives’ legal situations.
Yoel González Acosta, Carlos’ brother, told the AP that after almost a week and a half they have not been able to see him or speak to him.
Other Cubans have been telling similar stories of people already sentenced or with surveillance outside their homes.
Cuban film producer Claudia Calviño said on her Facebook page that photographer Alexander Diego Gil was sentenced to 10 months in prison for public disorder, and family members of visual artist Anyelo Troya said he was also found guilty and he will have to spend a year in jail.
Another plastic artist, Julio Llópiz-Casal, who was part of the protests, told the AP that he is at his house, but there’s an official in plain clothes in front of it, and he has decided not to leave it.