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'They Don't Let Our Family See Him.' Relatives Of Arrested Cuban Protesters Speaking Out

Courtesy Montelier Family
Cuban dissident Enrique Montelier, who was arrested and allegedly beaten by Cuban police in Guantanamo on July 11 during nationwide anti-government protests.

Hundreds of Cuban families on the island, and in Miami, say they need international leverage to help determine their arrested relatives' whereabouts and status.

Human rights groups say Cuban authorities have arrested more than 500 people after last week’s unprecedented anti-government protests.

Now, many of their families can’t get information about them — including the relatives of Cuban dissident Enrique Mustelier.

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He was arrested during protests — which were captured on video — in Guantánamo, Cuba, on July 11.

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“Other protesters who were with him told me the police beat Enrique badly, and that may be a reason they don’t let our family see him,” said Mustelier's sister, Katiuska Mustelier, in an interview with WLRN.

Since Enrique's arrest, Katiuska Mustelier — a Miami Cuban exile — says her mother and other relatives on the island have not been able to see or talk to him. Nor are they certain where he’s being held. WLRN was not able to independently confirm Enrique Mustelier's arrest.

Hundreds of families like hers tell Cuban and international rights organizations they are also in the dark about detained relatives — about where they're detained or the status of their legal cases (due process information that under Cuban law is supposed to be divulged in a few days after an arrest).

Katiuska Mustelier and Miami Cuban exile leaders say it’s why the international community should put more pressure on Cuba’s communist regime — which has never faced protests like those that erupted last week.

Tim Padgett
Katiuska Mustelier (right) speaking at the Cuba Studies Institute in Coral Gables on Wednesday about the arrest in Cuba of her dissident brother Enrique Mustelier, with Janisset Rivero seated next to her representing the Center for a Free Cuba.

“The regime is afraid of the Cuban people right now, because they cannot stop this movement spontaneously growing in Cuba," said Janisset Rivero, a Miami spokesperson for the Washington D.C.-based Center for a Free Cuba, who joined Katiuska Mustelier to speak on her brother's case.

"So the regime's repression is probably even worse than usual for the Cuban people at this moment.”

Katiuska Mustelier said Cuban authorities may be treating her 38-year-old brother, who has a private construction company in Guantánamo, more harshly because he's been a vocal dissident since he was a teenager. He'd been imprisoned by the regime once before in 2010, for attempting to flee Cuba, for five years. Mustelier's father was also once imprisoned in Cuba as a dissident.

Katiuska Mustelier insisted, though, that her brother has never taken part in violent acts against the regime, which she hears may be one of the accusations against him after he took part in the July 11 protests. She fears he may also now be subject to one of the summary trials being held across the island resulting in the swift convictions of protesters who have little if any chance to mount a legal defense.

Groups like the Center for a Free Cuba are also asking the international community to help Cubans regain access to the internet after the regime all but shut it down last week.

Tim Padgett is the Americas editor for Miami NPR affiliate WLRN, covering Latin America, the Caribbean and their key relationship with South Florida.