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Crackdown on Cuba protests sparked human rights crisis: HRW

#Crackdown #Cuba #protests #sparked #human #rights #crisis #HRW

The Cuban government has committed “systematic human rights abuses” in response to unprecedented anti-government protests last summer, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a report Monday.

The report, released on the first anniversary of the demonstrations, accuses the Cuban authorities of carrying out “arbitrary detentions, abusive law enforcement and torture”.

The goal is to punish protesters and deter future demonstrations, the New York-based NGO said in Prison or Exile: Cuba’s Systematic Repression of July 2021 Demonstrators.

“One year ago today, thousands of Cubans protested demanding rights and freedoms, but the government gave many of them only two options: prison or exile,” said Juan Pappier, HRW’s principal researcher on the Americas.

“Governments in Latin America and Europe should urgently step up their human rights reviews on Cuba and prioritize a concerted, multilateral response before this human rights crisis gets any worse,” he added.

On July 11 and 12 last year, mass protests erupted across Cuba, with demonstrators demanding freedom, amid economic unrest, food and medicine shortages, and mounting anger at the government.

It was the largest protest in Cuba since the 1959 revolution.

According to the civil society organization Justicia 11J, the security forces’ raid left one dead, dozens injured and 1,300 arrested.

HRW’s report documents 155 cases of protesters being treated unfairly.

They include Lorenzo Rosales Fajardo, a 50-year-old evangelical pastor who joined the protests with his 17-year-old son.

Police arrested Fajardo, “pulled him, hit him in the back and face with batons and knocked out a tooth and several fillings,” HRW said, citing a family member.

When Fajardo’s son asked about his father’s whereabouts, he was also arrested, the report said.

Fajardo was sentenced to seven years in prison in April.

HRW wrote that Cuba’s courts upheld convictions of more than 380 protesters and bystanders, including several children.

The human rights organization said it interviewed more than 170 people in Cuba for the report, including victims of abuse, their families and lawyers.

The Cuban government accuses the United States of being behind the protests.

In a statement marking the anniversary, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the United States “will always remain with the Cuban people in their desire to build a better future.”

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