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The Use of the Cuban Political Prison System by Castroism

Presos políticos, El American

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Castro-Communism continues with its sham trials. Cubans that took part, or are accused of taking part, in the 11th of July Popular Uprising (11J) have been showcased through the dictatorship’s kangaroo courts. The massive 11J protests, where hundreds of thousands of Cubans, in a spontaneous fashion, broke their silence and publicly demanded freedom and an end to Marxist-Leninist rule in over 72 localities across Cuba, continue to haunt the island’s rulers. The Castro regime has, throughout the years, employed various tools to exert pressure and procure concessions from the United States. Immigration has been one mode. The Cuban political prison system has been another.

Maykel Castillo, a Cuban rapper also known as Osorbo, and Luís Manuel Otero Alcántara, a performance visual artist, are currently the communist dictatorship’s most prized political prisoners. On Monday, May 30, ten months after being arrested for partaking in 11J, their cases were “heard.” Castillo is facing a ten-year sentence and Otero Alcántara, seven years. The rapper and songwriter (Castillo), as well as the visual artist (Otero Alcántara) have acquired international notoriety. This causes a panic attack within the Castro regime. It also raises their stock as negotiation pieces, according to Castro-Communism.  

Both dissidents were involved in the San Isidro Movement, a group composed of artists, journalists, and intellectuals who publicly voiced criticism of the Marxist regime. The Latin Grammy-prized song, Patria y Vida (“Fatherland and Life”), became the vibrant national anthem of the 11J uprising. The fact that the bulk of Cubans who took to the streets during those historic demonstrations were born during socialist captivity, makes these two political prisoners particularly important to Castroism. The cultural appeal of Castillo and Otero Alcántara enabled them to go beyond the traditional venues of political opposition/dissidence and transmit a civic ethos to the Cuban youth. The patriotic sacrifice of previous generations of Cuban freedom fighters was instilled subtlety in their message.   

In Monday’s hearing, diplomats from the Netherlands, Germany, Czech Republic, United Kingdom, Norway, and Sweden attempted to attend the hearing as observers but were denied entry. They patiently waited for nearly two hours to no avail. International media outlets were also excluded. Western NGOs, as well, were prohibited from being present. Only regime-approved propaganda outlets were allowed.

The homes of opposition and dissident members were blocked by the political police. The thought of another 11J-type public gathering, even if more contained, is enough to scare the pants out of Cuban communism. The Internet was also blocked for individuals deemed by the island’s Marxist regime to be ideologically conflicting.

Three days before the hearing, Castillo’s regime-appointed lawyer, Ginett del Solar Vega, was removed from the case. No coherent explanation was given. Not that any lawyer could make a significant difference within the context of socialist legalism, however, even the system’s own defense attorneys, as meaningless as they are, find obstacles to representing a defendant. The newly assigned lawyer, as was expected, did not say very much on Castillo’s behalf. As has been a tradition since the onset of Cuba’s communist legal structure, any remote possibility of judicial fairness is systemically out of the question.

Just as Cuban communism has historically worked the immigration card to impact American administrations, the necessity arose again after 11J. Last November announcement that Cubans could leave through Nicaragua without any visas and obtained from Mexico assurances that they would not be harassed, the predicted exodus ensued, breaking previous immigration figures. The Biden administration’s recent announcement of relaxing sanctions against Castro-Communism is a direct reaction that the exodus ploy always works. Curiously, this is an exclusively chartered policy when there is a Democratic president in the Oval Office. 

The Castro regime’s financial aid package negotiation with Biden, in exchange for assurances that Havana will somehow “regulate” the stampede from the island, is part of the equation. The other component will be the Cuban political prison population, in exchange for greater concessions. The ineptness of the Biden administration, along with its inertia in supporting freedom when the Cuban people rose on 11J, will be falsely labeled by this appeasement president as “support” for a non-existent civil society and opposition/dissident groups.

At some point, the communist dictatorship will agree to release all or a portion of the 11J political prisoners. Biden will claim “victory” and the Marxist dictatorship will say they are acting on “humanitarian” grounds. The bottom line of that agreement with Washington will extend a greater transfer of American wealth to Cuban communism. Cuba’s political prison system has always had a revolving door. Some leave and others enter. Castillo and Otero Alcántara will, undoubtedly, be among those bargained for. This is why the Castro regime is handling their cases in such a meticulous way, dictatorially speaking. 

Julio M Shiling, political scientist, writer, director of Patria de Martí and The Cuban American Voice, lecturer and media commentator. A native of Cuba, he currently lives in the United States. Twitter: @JulioMShiling // Julio es politólogo, escritor, director de Patria de Martí y The Cuban American Voice. Conferenciante y comentarista en los medios. Natural de Cuba, vive actualmente en EE UU.

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