United States officials criticized the Cuban government on Wednesday for what it described as “inhumane” interference with the families of jailed Cuban protesters, some of whom were prevented from meeting with US diplomats in Havana.
“We condemn the Cuban government’s detention of family members of imprisoned #11J protesters who were scheduled to meet with American officials today in Havana,” the Assistant Secretary of State for the Western Hemisphere Brian A. Nichols said on Twitter. “Preventing parents from talking about their jailed children is unjust and inhumane.”
The protesters had been jailed following island-wide protests that started on July 11, 2021.
US officials planned to meet with their families during a trip to Havana about migration issues – one of the highest-level meetings Cuba has had with the Biden administration – that seemed to indicate a new approach towards the communist-run island following years of increased sanctions.
But on Wednesday, at least six of the protesters’ family were themselves stopped by police as they headed to the meeting, according to human rights activists.
Though Cuban officials often complain that diplomats from the US and Europe meet with the anti-government activists, it is unusual for authorities to carry out group detentions to prevent a meeting from taking place at an embassy.
“I was stopped at a check point and taken to a police station,” Marta Perdomo told CNN. She was traveling to the US Embassy where she had been invited to speak with the visiting officials about the case of her two sons, who are both serving prison sentences for their role in the protests.
Perdomo, who said she was released by police later on Wednesday afternoon, has advocated for her sons’ release after they took to the streets in their town on July 11 last year, calling for greater freedoms and criticizing Cuban officials.
While some of last year’s protests turned violent, many remained peaceful with demonstrators calling for changes to the island’s system, which is one-party state led by the Cuban communist party that bans political opposition.
The Cuban government has claimed the US government orchestrated the protests and has handed down lengthy sentences to hundreds of protestors.
Cuban officials did not respond to a request for comment.
But late on Wednesday, Carlos Fernández de Cossío, the Cuban Foreign Ministry’s top diplomat for US affairs, wrote on Twitter: “The mistaken belief by the US that it has the prerogative to interfere in Cuba’s domestic affairs is almost as old as both countries. It explains to some degree the immoral & illegitimate economic blockade conceived to depress the standard of living of each Cuban.”