María Cristina Garrido Rodríguez by Lucy Popescu

Lucy Popescu

María Cristina Garrido Rodríguez

 

The Cuban poet and activist María Cristina Garrido Rodríguez has been in prison since July 2021 for participating in nationwide protests against the authoritarian government of her country and demanding reform. Garrido, together with her sister Angélica, joined the peaceful demonstrations of 11 July that saw thousands of Cubans taking to the streets, frustrated by the repression of fundamental human rights, the government’s handling of the Covid-19 crisis and the country’s worsening economy. Garrido was arrested the following day.

Garrido was born in Quivicán, Mayaquebé, in 1982. She is the author of the poetry collection Examen de tiempo (‘Time Examination’), published in 2022, and a member of the Cuban Women’s Network, which supports women’s activities in various spaces, and other activist networks such as the Fundación Vuelta abajo por Cuba and the Latin Federation of Rural Women.

These were the largest nationwide demonstrations against the government since the Cuban Revolution. One protester, Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, a 36-year-old singer, died, allegedly at the hands of police. Cuban rights groups estimated that more than 1,500 people, mostly peaceful demonstrators or bystanders, were detained. Garrido was reportedly beaten several times by the political police and was subjected to enforced disappearance for eighteen days. The authorities also seized work from her home in Quivicán.

The Cuban government controls the media, restricts access to outside information and represses all forms of dissent and public criticism. Journalists, bloggers, social media influencers, academics, independent activists and political opponents who publish information considered critical of the authorities are routinely subjected to harassment, violence, smear campaigns, travel restrictions, internet cuts, raids on homes and offices, confiscation of working materials and arbitrary arrest. Security officers rarely present arrest warrants when detaining dissidents. Protesting peacefully, singing songs that criticise the government or insulting the president or police can be framed as criminal behaviour. Prosecutors and judges often use unreliable or uncorroborated evidence to convict demonstrators, including statements obtained from state officials.

Garrido’s trial began in January 2022. According to family members, the authorities relied on false testimony from police officers and others. On 10 March, Garrido was sentenced to seven years in prison on charges of public disorder, assault, instigation of a crime, contempt and resistance. She is currently held in the women’s prison El Guatao. Cuban prisons are often overcrowded and abuse is common in them. Since her arrest, Garrido has been subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, including solitary confinement and beatings, and has been denied food, water and adequate sanitary conditions, as well as family visits and calls. Garrido claims she is also punished ‘for every letter I write, but I cannot stop breathing’.

In December 2021, in a letter written from prison, Garrido spoke of her pride at having participated in the protests on 11 July and denounced the horrors faced by those inside Cuban prisons:

On July 11, we showed courage, decisiveness, breaking with the silence of the years; we demonstrated unanimity and pluralism, because young people, adults, the elderly, university students and farmers, housewives and workers, also leaders and even party cadres took to the streets to say yes to the overthrow of the dictatorship and for a prosperous and democratic Cuba.

On 20 September 2022 Garrido and her sister went on hunger strike for five days to protest their sentences and continued detention.

Readers might like to write to the Cuban authorities calling on them to release María Cristina Garrido Rodríguez immediately and unconditionally and drop all charges against her; to ensure for as long as she remains in prison that Garrido is allowed regular communication with her family and adequate health care, and that she is not subjected to any form of ill-treatment; to release all writers and artists unjustly imprisoned for exercising their right to freedom of expression; and to provide assurances that Cuba will abide by its international human rights obligations and uphold the rights to freedom of expression, association and peaceful assembly.

Send appeals to:

President Miguel Díaz-Canel
Email: despacho@presidencia.gob.cu
Twitter: @DiazCanelB

Oscar Silvera Martínez
Minister of Justice
Email: poblacion@minjus.gob.cu
Twitter: @CubaMinjus

Bruno Rodríguez Parrilla
Minister of Foreign Affairs
Email: dm@minrex.gob.cu
Twitter: @BrunoRguezP

Her Excellency Bárbara Elena Montalvo Alvarez
Embassy of Cuba
167 High Holborn
London WC1V 6PA
Email: secembajador@uk.embacuba.cu

Sign Up to our newsletter

Receive free articles, highlights from the archive, news, details of prizes, and much more.

RLF - March

A Mirror - Westend