Freedom in Their Hands

The recent release of reporter Juliet Michelena doesn’t imply any significant change in the repressive environment. The one-party regime may have slightly modified its behaviour to improve its international image, but basically, it still keeps using force.

Juliet Michelena, member of the Community Reporters Network (“Red de Comunicadores Comunitarios”), spent around seven months behind bars, waiting for a trial. She was luckier than another female prisoner of conscience, Sonia Garro, member of the Ladies in White Movement, who, in several months, will have spent three years in prison without ever being formally sentenced.

by CubaRaw
by CubaRaw

The formula is nothing new: Political Police officers have a bad habit of violating the laws of criminal procedure whenever they want. Thus, putting a person in jail before releasing him or her without any charges has become a common practice.

In case of Juliet Michelena, the prosecution requested two years in prison for an alleged crime of assault. Although it hadn’t been possible to prove her guilty at the hearing, as Juliet’s relatives asserted, it must be emphasised that that wasn’t the real reason for her recent release from prison. As a matter of fact, charges punishable by imprisonment are tailor-made in Cuba and it’s in the offices of the Interior Ministry where the fate of the condemned is decided.

Juliet owes her freedom to lucky circumstances. At some other time, the verdict would probably have been unfavourable. Perhaps the regime simply saw no benefit in adding another woman to the list of political prisoners.

However, Juliet knows that she could go back to prison any time – for a reason one would never expect. Reluctant to give up her work, she is inevitably going to face new risks within the space of her fragile liberty. As a reporter, she continues to be the focal point of the oppressors.

Yet, she doesn’t seem to care much. She is a courageous woman who believes in what she does. After all, the only thing she did was provide information about the Cuban reality, which is not published in the official press. That’s the reason why her name remains on the blacklist.

Jorge Olivera Castillo

Olivera Castillo is a former political prisoner. He published number of books. He lives in the old part of Havana.