On the anniversary of the demonstrations of 11 and 12 July 2021 in Cuba, leading MEPs raise deep concern over the trials and harsh sentences handed down to protestors.

One year ago, on 11 July 2021, important social demonstrations took place across Cuba in at least 40 towns and cities in the country. The reaction by the Cuban government has been arbitrary detentions and prosecutions leading to harsh sentences, in some cases up to 30-year prison terms. These were the largest protests in Cuba since the 1994 Maleconazo protest.

Following the protests, 1,400 people have been arrested, including journalists, and 790 have been indicted in connection with these events. At least one protester died during the demonstrations.

The protests in July 2021 came in the context of a difficult economic situation on the island. The US embargo against the country has deepened the economic crisis and restricted access to food, water, medicines and electric power. The situation was made worse by the COVID-19 pandemic, which has had a devastating effect on the country’s tourism industry. A combination of these factors created an increased demand for civil and political rights in Cuba.

“It is concerning to see that the reaction to the protests by the Cuban government has been arbitrary detentions and prosecutions leading to harsh sentences, in some cases up to 30 years. In a resolution adopted by the European Parliament on 16 September 2021, Parliament called for the release of all political prisoners, prisoners of conscience and those arbitrarily detained for exercising their rights to freedom of expression and peaceful assembly. We also called on the Cuban authorities to guarantee due process, and we have continuously demanded full transparency around the judicial processes of the persons imprisoned following the demonstrations. The government of Cuba must acknowledge, protect and ensure the right to peaceful assembly and freedom of expression, without discrimination of political views,” said Tilly Metz (The Greens/EFA, Luxembourg), Chair of the delegation for relations with the countries of Central America.

“The EU – Cuba Political Dialogue and Cooperation Agreement forms the basis of our cooperation. That does not mean that we cannot criticise our partners when we do not agree. Rather, constructive dialogue demanding full respect of human rights and fundamental freedoms will strengthen our cooperation. We call on the Cuban authorities to engage in this constructive dialogue with the European institutions, to allow a European Parliament delegation access to the country and to allow international observers to attend the trials. We also call on the Cuban authorities to release all prisoners of conscience, to listen to the voices of the citizens and to engage in an inclusive national dialogue towards a process of modernisation and democratisation,” said Maria Arena (S&D, Belgium), Chair of the Subcommittee on Human Rights.