Cuba sanctions nearly 400 people over anti-government protests

Nearly 300 of those sanctioned were sentenced to between five and 25 years in prison, attorney general’s office says.

Anti-government protest in Havana
Amid rising food costs, medical shortages and other socioeconomic problems, thousands of people took part in anti-government protests in Cuba in July of last year [File: Yamil Lage/AFP]

The Cuban government has sanctioned 381 people for participating in rare, anti-government protests on the island last year.

Thousands of Cubans took to the streets of the capital Havana and other towns in July 2021 in protest over rising food costs, medical shortages and dire socioeconomic conditions that worsened during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Of the 381 people sanctioned on Monday, a total of 297 have been sentenced to between five and 25 years in prison for crimes of sedition, sabotage, robbery with force, and public disorder, the attorney general’s office said in a statement released to state media.

The prosecutor’s office noted that 84 individuals, including 15 young people, were not given prison sentences.

However, it warned that tougher sentences could be imposed for those who breached their sanctions or who engaged in new criminal offences. Cuba’s age of criminal responsibility is 16 years.

“The Attorney General’s Office continues to inform the public about the legal response to the events of July 11, 2021, which attacked the constitutional order and the stability of our socialist state,” the statement said.

In late January, Cuba acknowledged that 790 people were indicted in relation to the protests.

Some of the protesters last year took direct aim at the government of President Miguel Diaz-Canel, chanting “down with the dictatorship” and “we want liberty”.

The Cuban government has previously accused the US of financing and instigating the demonstrations.

But the state’s crackdown on the protests, and the subsequent arrests of, and indictments against, participants, have drawn condemnation from rights groups.

In October, Human Rights Watch accused Havana of systematically engaging in “arbitrary detention, ill-treatment of detainees, and abuse-ridden criminal prosecutions” in response to what were “overwhelmingly peaceful” protests.

“When thousands of Cubans took to the streets in July, the Cuban government responded with a brutal strategy of repression designed to instill fear and suppress dissent,” Juan Pappier, the group’s senior Americas researcher, said in a statement at that time.

“Peaceful protesters and other critics have been systematically detained, held incommunicado and abused in horrendous conditions, and subjected to sham trials following patterns that indicate these human rights violations are not the actions of rogue agents.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies