There is no consolation for the parents of Mario Josué Prieto Ricardo, a citizen 27-year-old Spanish resident in the US who has been sentenced to 12 years in prison for demonstrating peacefully on July 11, 2021 in Cuba. The famous 11J march caught him circumstantially on the Caribbean island. The young man, with a Spanish father and a Cuban mother, lived in the state of Virginia until his sister died of cancer. Then, decided to spend a season with his parents and returned to his country of birth.
He arrived in Cuba on March 13, 2020. Surrounding himself with his family helped him recover mentally and experience some improvement in the depression that has even led him to try to end his life on several occasions. The arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic surprised him while he was there. The communist regime closed its borders and Mario Josué was forced to stay longer than expected on the island. Initially, it was not a problem for him.
On July 11, 2021, the Cuban people took to the streets to claim the freedom that the dictatorship has been stealing from them for more than 60 years. He was carried away by that community feeling that pushed his neighbors to demonstrate without fear, knowing the possible consequences that such an act of protest could have, and he joined them. That day marched through the streets of Holguín as one more, but he could not imagine the seriousness of the reprisals that could fall on him and his family.
The next day, the police arrested him for violating the movement limitation measures imposed in the pandemic, despite the fact that the curfew had not yet begun. Once at the police station, they informed him that his name was on the list of people who had demonstrated on July 11 and asked him to identify himself. He showed his green card (US permanent residence card) and your Spanish passport.
Next, U.S. ID withheld and they transferred him to the criminal investigation prison, where he was questioned about his participation in the march, his meetings with other Cubans and the reason for his return to the island. Insistently -recounts his family- they asked him if he was against the revolutionary process or the Cuban president, Miguel Díaz-Canel.
On July 14, two days later, the young man is released after warning that he should “defend the revolution” and that “he does not get into trouble”, in addition to the imposition of a fine of 2,000 pesos, with the excuse that Mario Josué had skipped the movement schedules imposed by the regime in the face of the health crisis caused by the spread of the new coronavirus .
Another trial without guarantees
On July 23, the young Spaniard is arrested and taken back to the criminal investigation prison, although it is not until a week later that his family is informed of his indictment for the crimes of public disorder and attack, in relation to his participation in the 11J demonstrations. They accused him of having punched a police officer during the summons, but they did not present any evidence of this.
As the relatives of dozens of those convicted of 11J have been denouncing, Mario Josué was sentenced after an irregular and unfair trial. The result: a sentence of 12 years in prison, for sedition (common among protesters’ convictions). His parents feel powerless and helpless. “Spain has the legitimacy to protect Mario Josué Prieto Ricardo. He is a Spanish citizen, they can request his transfer“says his mother.
According to Niurka Ricardo for LD, he fears for his life. “I’m sure my son won’t last long under these conditions,” he says, “he is much thinner and more nervous.” “He knows he is unjustly imprisoned,” he says. “They never showed a single piece of evidence during the trial so that they could sentence my son to a day in prison , and less than 12 years”.
Imprisoned in poor conditions
Mario Josué Prieto Ricardo has been a psychiatric patient since childhood, so he needs medical control and regular administration of the drugs prescribed by his doctor. Needs that have not been met during the 13 months he has been incarcerated, even reaching refuse to give him the medication that had been provided to them by the prisoner’s mother.
According to his family, he is subjected to constant interrogations in which psychological torture practices are used. The sessions are long and at any time, day or night. Circumstance to which should be added the terrible hygiene conditions and health in which it has been forced to live.
It is common for them to give you a liter and a half of water to cover the needs of a whole day. That is, to drink, wash, flush the toilet or clean your cell. On the other hand, they give him spoiled food -putrefacta- which has caused different food infections, as well as the worsening of his stomach ailments (he has suffered from an ulcer, chronic gastritis and Helicobacter Pylori infection for several years).
Niurka appeals “to the feelings of the Spanish authorities, and of the entire European Union if necessary, to help us process and get my son out of here.” She remains “hopeful that it can be resolved,” she says in statements to LDdespite the fact that until now have not received any help by any institution.