One year after the largest protests in decades shook Cuba’s single-party government, hundreds of people who participated are in prison, and the economic and political factors that caused the demonstrations largely remain.
Streets and public squares filled with protesters on July 11 and 12, 2021, some answering social media appeals, others joining spontaneously to express frustration with shortages, long lines and a lack of political options.
Since then, a few things have changed: The Communist Party government has made its most expansive — if still limited — opening in six decades to private enterprise, authorizing small and medium sized companies. And the easing of the COVID-19 pandemic has allowed a gradual revival of the critical tourism industry.
But the overall economy remains dire, with long lines and rapidly rising prices for limited goods. That has fed a huge increase in migration, principally to the United States.
And the economy remains squeezed by U.S. sanctions. While U.S. President Joe Biden has eased some, such as allowing U.S. residents to send more money to Cuban relatives and processing some visas in Cuba, he has been slow to implement his campaign promises to turn back many of the other restrictions imposed by former President Donald Trump. That commitment may have been further delayed by the Cuban government’s crackdown on the protests, which soured the atmosphere for any seeming concessions from Washington.
The protests changed everything, however, for the Román family of Havana’s La Guinera neighborhood.
Three of the family’s members were arrested on June 12, 2021 and two remain imprisoned.
“They haven’t committed a crime so serious that it warrants that punishment,” said Emilio Román, 51, whose 26-year-old son Yosney, a construction worker, and 24-year-old daughter Mackyanis, a housewife, were sentenced to 10 years in prison on sedition charges in March. His youngest daughter, 18-year-old Emiyoslan, was given conditional release because she was a minor when arrested.
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