Cuban citizens were awarded the “Freedom Award” named after the late Senator John McCain (1936-2018), for “bravery and courage” shown during the protests launched last July 11 to demand freedom and democracy in Cuba.
Grammy Award-winning singer Willy Chirino, a leading figure in Cuban exile, received the award on behalf of the Cuban people from Florida Republican Senator Rick Scott at a ceremony held Wednesday night in Washington.
Chirino asked not to let “the cry of the Cuban people be ignored; the time for Cuba’s freedom is now.”
The “John S. McCain Freedom Award” is an award given by the Republican Institute (IRI) to those who have excelled in the struggle for democracy and human rights in the world.
Among those awarded since 1995 are Ronald Reagan, president of the United States from 1981 to 1989, Pope John Paul II, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the Cuban Ladies in White and the people of Hong Kong.
The official statement of the “Freedom Award” presentation recognizes that the world witnessed the more than 200 protests that took place throughout Cuba, in which “the people defied fear and uncertainty to send a message of freedom and resilience.”
“Despite Miguel Diaz-Canel’s efforts to control the protesters, the freedom movement has not ceased and continues to express a strong desire for change. Cubans showed unwavering courage in their struggle to achieve respect for their rights. Their call must be heard and answered,” the text concludes.
Senator Scott noted during the award ceremony that the Cuban regime promised “prosperity and equality for all, but the only thing that remained the same for all is poverty, suffering and repression, except for the Castro family and their friends, who live in opulence”.
This week the human rights organization Human Rights Watch (HRW) denounced in a report the “brutal strategy of repression” deployed by the Cuban regime after the July 11 protests, which has resulted in at least 130 cases of arbitrary detentions, mistreatment and false trials.
Juan Pappier, HRW’s researcher for the Americas, stressed that this strategy is aimed at “instilling fear” and regretted that Cubans have been “systematically detained, held isolated, subjected to abuses in dire prison conditions, and judged in trials that are a real sham.”
The organization warned that the authorities may respond with greater force to the protest march called for November 15.