Families of jailed Cuban protesters blocked from meeting US officials in Miami (Photo: Ricardo Rojas/AFP/Getty Images)
On July 20, 2017, the Cuban government arrested members of their own citizens‘ revolutionary youth group, the Marea 18, which had been planning to protest the country’s political oppression.
On August 20, the day of their arraignment, the group was able to finally meet with their US government representatives, who had been promised “immediate and unconditional release,” but instead had been met with a barrage of pressure tactics and threats.
In the hours after the meeting, family members of the group were physically stopped from traveling to and from Miami, and their ability to leave the country was severely restricted.
The group refused to leave the country after the meeting. They made this decision because they believed that this was the only way to secure their freedom: “By physically occupying our homeland, we hope to secure a measure of justice for our brother and for all those imprisoned in Cuba, and to show that their only recourse remains in their homeland,” one of the group’s leaders, Antonio Miguel Etchecolatz, said. The protest resulted in the arrest of a total of 41 people, and it also sparked the largest gathering of Cuban citizens in years, with more than 50,000 people turning out to demand their human and political rights, and to demand their release after a month in what appears to be the longest hunger strike in the history of the country.
Today, the members of the group are still without freedom, facing multiple charges and the possibility of prison. However, after speaking out, the Cuban government has not only agreed to their conditions of release, but has also granted them all medical care and permission to leave the country, so that they can meet with their lawyers and discuss the next steps of their legal process.
The US is not only refusing to meet with the group, but it is also threatening to send them back to Cuba if they do not comply with the terms of their release conditions.
The Freedom for Cuba Youth