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Sight Magazine – Essay: One year after unprecedented nationwide protests, Cuba still needs our prayers

UK

Reverend Lorenzo Rosales Fajardo spent a year as a prisoner of the Cuban Communist Party. As it stands, he faces six others. The Protestant pastor was one of many arrested during the CCP’s aggressive crackdown on peaceful protesters on July 11, 2021, and a year after the events of that day, the situation in Cuba remains unchanged.

Reverend Lorenzo Rosales Fajardo and his family in an undated photograph. PHOTO: Courtesy of CSW

“This is a regime that has maintained a grip on power for more than six decades, and it shows no willingness to let go any time soon.”

The demonstrations were quite unprecedented, bringing together Cubans across the island who were initially united in criticism of the country’s current severe economic crisis and a record rise in coronavirus cases, before moving on to broader calls for the respect for democracy, civil society and human rights.

It is perhaps not surprising that the CCP reacted the way it did. This is a regime that has maintained a grip on power for more than six decades, and it shows no willingness to let go any time soon. In recent years, anyone perceived by the government to be a dissenting voice has been subjected to intense harassment ranging from travel restrictions, to repeated police summons and questioning, to public “acts of repudiation” in which large crowds are encouraged by CCP officials to threaten, intimidate, and sometimes even physically attack suspected critics of the communist regime.

In the year since protests erupted for the first time, the government did everything in its power to project an aura of total control, including for example crushing attempts to stage a second wave of peaceful protests in November 2021. many civil society and religious leaders were threatened and even placed under house arrest ahead of planned protests, while others saw their homes surrounded either by large crowds or by armed police and members of the military .

In Reverend Lorenzo’s case, he was only allowed to see his family – which includes a teenage son and daughter – during tightly controlled visits to the maximum security prison where he has been held since August. His wife Maridilegnis Carballo was barred from visiting him until mid-October 2021, and in February he was arbitrarily denied a planned visit in retaliation for his refusal to obey orders from security officials. prison not to share his faith with other prisoners.



In April 2022, he and his family learned he had originally been sentenced to eight years in prison. It was not told to them directly; it was rather communicated to them as an afterthought in a letter sent by the Permanent Mission of Cuba in Geneva to the United Nations. Even then, his trial had taken place more than three months previously, from December 20 to 21.

In May, the government finally officially informed the pastor’s family prison sentence reduced to seven years for an unspecified reason. This sentence, along with that of 14 others, was subsequently confirmed on appeal in a June 22-23 trial, in which only the prosecutor’s side was allowed to testify, and in which at least 12 police officers testified.


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Reverend Lorenzo is not the only individual to have been targeted in this way. Several other religious leaders initially arrested during the protests continue to be harassed by the authorities since their release, while others are also still imprisoned.

Among them is Loreto Hernandez Garcia, a leader of the Afro-Cuban religious group known as the Association of Free Yorubas, who was arrested as part of the government’s post-protest crackdown on July 16, 2021. Hernández García is currently serving a seven-year sentence in Guamajal prison charges him with disrespect and public disorder, which CSW considers to be false. His wife, Donaida Perez Pasairo, is serving an eight-year sentence.

Most concerning in the case of Mr. Hernández García is the fact that he suffers from hypertension and diabetes and that he allegedly suffered serious ill-treatment in prison, including being thrown down a flight of stairs by a guard in November 2021 The leader was admitted to hospital on May 29, but was forcibly returned to prison on June 7. His brother, Jorge Luis Garcia Perez, told CSW, “the Cuban government could send my brother…to prison to die there instead of in the hospital.”

With cases like these in mind, it is essential that we continue to stand with the Cuban people who bravely raise their voices in the face of relentless government repression. You can sign CSW’s petition specifically calling for the release of Reverend Lorenzo hereor join us in praying this verse for Christians and others in Cuba today: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in Him, that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.” (Romans 15:13).

ellis heasley

Ellis Heasley is a public affairs officer with the UK-based Religious Freedom Advocacy CSW.


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