U.S. officials on Wednesday criticized the Cuban government for what they called “inhumane” interference with the families of jailed Cuban protesters, some of whom were prevented from meeting with U.S. diplomats in Havana.
“We condemn the Cuban government’s detention of relatives of jailed #11J protesters who were scheduled to meet with US officials today in Havana,” said Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Brian A Nichols on Twitter. “Preventing parents from speaking about their incarcerated children is unfair and inhumane.”
Protesters had been jailed following island-wide protests that began on July 11, 2021.
U.S. officials planned to meet with their families during a trip to Havana on migration issues — one of the highest-level meetings Cuba has had with the Biden administration — that appeared to signal a new approach toward the communist-run island after years of increased sanctions. .
But on Wednesday, at least six of the protestors’ families were detained by police on their way to the rally, according to human rights activists.
Although Cuban officials often complain that US and European diplomats meet with anti-government activists, it is unusual for authorities to make group arrests to prevent a meeting at an embassy.
“They stopped me at a checkpoint and took me to a police station,” Marta Perdomo told CNN. She was traveling to the US embassy where she had been invited to speak to visiting officials about the case of her two sons, who are serving prison terms for their roles in the protests.
Perdomo, who said she was freed by police on Wednesday afternoon, has defended her children’s release after they took to the streets in her town on July 11 last year, demanding more freedoms and criticizing Cuban officials.
Although some of last year’s protests turned violent, many remained peaceful, with protesters calling for changes to the island’s system, which is a one-party state led by the Cuban Communist Party that prohibits political opposition.
The Cuban government has claimed that the US government orchestrated the protests and handed down long sentences to hundreds of protesters.
Cuban officials did not respond to a request for comment.
But on Wednesday afternoon, Carlos Fernández de Cossío, the Cuban Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ top diplomat for US affairs, he wrote Twitter: “The US mistaken belief that it has the prerogative to interfere in Cuba’s internal affairs is almost as old as both countries. It goes some way to explaining the immoral and illegitimate economic blockade designed to depress living standards of every Cuban”.