To no one’s surprise, the Cuban regime’s commitment to dialogue with peaceful young demonstrators, who recently gathered, hundreds strong, to protest the lack of freedom of expression in Cuba, was short-lived. Less than 24 hours after a meeting between protest representatives and the Vice Minister of Culture Fernando Rojas, the regime threw away a chance to respect the rights of the Cuban people. Rojas denounced the protesters and dismissed their concerns over censorship and police attacks on independent artists.
Many of the protesters are members of the San Isidro Movement, a loose collective of writers, artists, musicians, and other citizens who are outraged by the strictures continuously placed upon them by the regime, including a law requiring that any artistic activity be registered with the government. More recently, the demonstrators have been protesting the summary sentencing of prominent members of the group, among them the musician Denis Solis Gonzalez, for expressing himself independently.
The regime has repeatedly targeted Solis for exercising his freedom of expression by denouncing human rights abuses in Cuba, and arrested him on November 9. Cuban authorities held Solis incommunicado for three days before sentencing him to eight months in prison on the dubious charge of “contempt.”
Cuban authorities arrested dozens of journalists and human rights defenders seeking information about his case or calling for his release. Despite the harsh response by the government, protests concerning his case and the lack of free expression in Cuba continued, followed by more attacks and arrests by the police.
Members of the international community have expressed objections to the repression, including Amnesty International. The U.S. State Department took a strong stand.
In a written statement, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “The United States strongly condemns the Cuban regime’s harassment of activists peacefully protesting the imprisonment of human rights defender Denis Solis Gonzalez. We urge the Cuban Government to dismiss this unjust sentence and release him without condition.”
“The United States stands in solidarity with the Cuban people, and we will continue to denounce these flagrant abuses against Cubans exercising their rights,” said Secretary Pompeo. “We call on democratic partners around the world to raise their voices and make respect for human rights a prerequisite for any dealing with the Castro regime.”