On Sunday 11 July, protests erupted across Cuba in response to the country's severe and ongoing economic crisis and a surge in COVID-19 cases. They have continued throughout the week, expanding to criticisms of the Cuban Communist Party (CCP)'s decades-long hold on power, crackdown on human rights and pro-democracy movements. and management of the COVID-19 pandemic. The government's response has been predictably heavy-handed and oppressive, detaining protesters and cutting off the internet and electricity in major cities.
Several religious leaders are among those detained, including pastors Yéremi Blanco Ramírez and Yarian Sierra, both tutors at the William Carey Biblical Seminary in Matanzas and both associated with the Berean Baptist denomination. Aside being told that they are being held in a wing of the Matanzas women's prison, their families have had no news of the two men's current situation or well-being. Below is a statement from Claudia Salazar, the wife of Yarian Sierra:
My name is Claudia Salazar, and I am the wife of Yarian Sierra. I want to publicly denounce the inhumane treatment my husband, Yarian Sierra Madrigal, and Yeremi Blanco Ramirez have received for peacefully demonstrating as Cuban citizens in the protests on 11 July just as millions of Cubans did.
First, I want to denounce that they have not even given him the right to a call, nor will they let us see them, nor when they were taken did the police warn us, they have been incommunicado, practically kidnapped, disappeared.
They [the authorities] even violated the health protocols because they only allowed us to send them three masks and they have been detained from Sunday until today. He has only one pair of briefs, a pair of shorts, and one shirt. In order to send medicine to Yeremi, who is recovering from a bad case of Covid, we had to go and get a new medical prescription because they wouldn't allow us to leave his medicine there for him.
I want to denounce that they treated us as if we were dogs who have no right to anything. They kicked us back and forth from one side to the other until on Monday at 11AM they told us where they [our husbands] are, supposedly, because we have no proof that they are there, we only have the word of people who dealt with us in a very poor manner after we demanded our right to be attended to.
I want to denounce that now they tell us that they [our husbands] are facing charges of public scandal, when they didn't attack anyone, they didn't destroy anything, they were just like all the other Cuban citizens in a peaceful march for their right to freedom.
They are prisoners for thinking differently and for manifesting what they think. It makes me think of what deputy Maria Yolanda Ferrer Gomez, president of the Commission of International Relations of the National Assembly, said in response to the declaration from the European Parliament Human Rights Committee. She said that no one in Cuba is punished for their way of thinking or for expressing their opinions.
This makes me think that either my husband, Yeremi and the other citizens are not human beings or everything that this woman said to the European Parliament is a lie and human rights in Cuba are violated.
In Cuba they do punish citizens for thinking differently and even more so for expressing their opinions – this is exemplified by my husband Yarian Sierra and Yeremi Blanco. They are being treated today as political prisoners for expressing their opinion.
For how long will we have to suffer these abuses?
For how long do we have to endure these attacks and so much oppression?
Who is going to judge the communists who did come out to attack the unarmed citizens with sticks and weapons. Those who did commit crimes are judged by no one, while those who peacefully demonstrated are. Where is the justice?
Mr. Diaz Canel who called for a civil war, saying that an order to combat had been issued, the streets belong to the revolutionaries and the communists and the party above all.
Inciting hatred and violence – no one judges this???
My husband Yarian Sierra and our friend and brother, Yeremi Blanco, are honorable Cuban citizens. They have dedicated all of their youth and lives to serve the church and to serve others.
Family men. Loving fathers, loving husbands, with an impeccable life testimony.
They are not any kind of delinquent, nor are they low-lifes as those who govern this country call them.
They are good men, they are men of God, who think differently, who abhor communism and who went out to express this just like any human being has the right to think and to say what they feel.
Freedom for Yeremi Blanco Ramirez and Yarian Sierra – Urgently.