Tuesday, June 30, 2020

#JusticeForHanselErnesto and #FreeKende: Do Black Lives Matter in Cuba for the International Community?

 Official version: Shot in the back while running away from the police and throwing rocks.

Hansel E. Hernández shot in the back by police in Cuba on June 24, 2020
This Tuesday non-violent demonstrations in Cuba have been called for through social networks to ask for justice and to protest the death of the young black Cuban Hansel E. Hernández. On June 24, 2020 in Havana, Cuba Hansel was shot in the back and killed by the police while allegedly trying to flee.  One protest gathering site has been identified as the movie theater Yara in Havana, Cuba.

It took three days for the authorities to report the killing, despite repeated requests for clarity on what had happened.

Hours later, the authorities released a statement indicating that the 27-year-old had been caught by a
National Revolutionary Police patrol when, according to the Cuban Ministry of the Interior (MININT), "he was stealing pieces and accessories from a bus stop", then fleeing. 

During the chase "on the run for almost two kilometers, over uneven terrain", the young man, to avoid being arrested, "attacked one of the policemen throwing several stones, one of which hit the policeman in the crotch, another in the side of the torso and a third dislocated his shoulder and threw him to the floor," indicates the statement posted on social networks on June 27th.

In response to Hansel Hernández's throwing stones, “the soldier fired two warning shots. Immediately afterwards and due to the danger to his life due to the magnitude of the aggression, the policeman riposted from the ground, firing a shot with his regulation weapon that impacts the individual and causes him to die," continues the official version.

Family held open casket service for Hansel.
Hernández's case has caused controversy in the interior of Cuba, where it has been compared with the death of George Floyd, the  Black American who died last May in Minneapolis (United States) during his arrest for a suffocation maneuver made by a white police officer.  

His death sparked protests and riots across the United States, protests that spread to other major cities around the world. He also encouraged in other countries (France, Mexico) to unearth similar cases of suspected deaths at the hands of the police.

On June 18, 2020 The Progressive published an article titled "Foreign Correspondent: Police Lessons From Cuba" by Reese Erlich that claims "Contrary to the image of brutal and repressive communists, police in Cuba offer an instructive example for activists in the United States."

If the United States adopted the Cuban approach recommended by  Mr. Erlich any person recording a police officer, then sharing that image on a digital platform would be violating their right to privacy, and if what they record the police officer doing, whether his or her actions were right or wrong, they would be fined and if they did not pay the fine would be subject to prison.

A law, patterned after Cuba's, would require those who record police on or off the job to get the approval of the police officer recorded before sharing the video with any digital platforms. Thankfully, the First Amendment prohibits such restrictions in the United States, and also runs afoul of international human rights instruments such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, of which Cuba is a signatory, even though the document is censored in the island.
El Kende de Cayo Hueso
Now we have learned that 17 year old social influencer El Kende de Cayo Hueso was first fined then jailed for recording video from the rooftop of his home of a long line in the street. He is being held with adult criminals. Four days have passed since his arrest.
According to a January 13, 2020 report in The New York Times a former high-ranking judge in Cuba provided documents which "showed that approximately 92 percent of those accused in the more than 32,000 cases that go to trial in Cuba every year are found guilty. Nearly 4,000 people every year are accused of being “antisocial” or “dangerous,” terms the Cuban government uses to jail people who pose a risk to the status quo, without having committed a crime." Furthermore, the article says that "records show that Cuba’s prison system holds more than 90,000 prisoners. The Cuban government has only publicly released the figure once, in 2012, when it claimed that 57,000 people were jailed."

Based on the Institute for Crime and Justice Policy Research, according to the January 13, 2020 article by EuropaPress, Cuba today has the largest per capita prison population in the world.
Hansel E. Hernández was just 27 years old when he was killed. 
Hansel was shot and killed for throwing rocks.  On Friday, June 5, 2020 news broke that a police station had been assaulted and two policemen killed and a third seriously injured allegedly by Yusniel Tirado Aldama an assailant that had a grievance with the police over poor treatment when making a complaint and harassment. The shooter was caught alive, unlike Hansel, the suspect was white.

Yusniel Tirado Aldama (Photo: Courtesy)
Today at 11:00am on June 30, 2020 protests have been called in a country where the freedom to assembly and to speak is outlawed. Please monitor along with us what is happening via the hashtag:
#JusticiaParaHanselErnesto and #FreeKende.

Media sources for report below: ABC, MartiNoticias, 14ymedio and Diario de Cuba

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