For the second time, in the course of just over a year, the independent journalist and activist from Guantanamo, Emilio Almaguer de la Cruz, has to face a fine of 3,000 pesos, under Decree-Law 370, for exercising the right to freedom of expression in social networks.
Almaguer de la Cruz, resident in the city of Baracoa, member of the dissident organization Unión Patriótica de Cuba and promoter of the Cuba Decide platform, shared On his personal Facebook profile on September 10, an image of the fine that had been given to him the day before.
The reason, as he explained in a comment, was a post he made on Facebook on August 31, in which he said that “Cuba needs officials committed to its people” who carry out their work seeking the good of the community.
“Enough of double standards, visit hospitals and isolation centers without the usual protocols and respond more to the needs of the population, than to the ideology of a party,” he said then.
A few days later, on the same September 9, the head of the sector in his area – of the La Asunción popular council – appeared at his house on a motorcycle, at six in the afternoon, and told him that he should go with him for the Baracoa station, where a provincial inspector was waiting for him; Almaguer de la Cruz tells in an interview with Cibercuba.
The journalist, who collaborates with ADN Cuba, believes that the head of the sector wanted to detain him and that, if he did not, it was because at that moment a neighbor yelled at him that there, in that family and in the neighborhood, there were sick people.
In Almaguer de la Cruz’s house, everyone had symptoms associated with the coronavirus: high fever, catarrh, pain in the eyes, head and lungs. They had started developing them on August 28, two days after receiving the first dose of Abdala. And in the surroundings there were several positive cases.
“Between dengue and coronavirus, this looks like a war,” he says.
However, neither his wife, nor his two children, nor he, wanted to go to a health center to receive a proper diagnosis and medical attention.
“The health centers do not have medicines or artificial respirators; if the person gets worse, then they are taken to a hospital, but you must remain isolated in these centers and for fear of that we stay at home, “explains the Guantanamo.
Those who have followed them have been close doctors, friends that Emilio maintains from when he worked for ten years as an electrician in the health sector, and neighbors with whom he shares food and medicine.
“Baracoa is a hospitable town and in my area we all help each other. The electrician in this area is me, I help the wealthy, but also the poor, and when I need to, I receive ”, he assures.
Thanks to this network of solidarity, the members of his family managed to get X-rays in a city hospital and learned that they were suffering from reinforcement in the lungs.
Emilio showed Cibercuba an X-ray of his from September 10 and added: “You can see on my plate that I am already quite better, but still with some reinforcement. The one who came out the worst was me, because the antibiotic was not enough for all of us and I stopped taking it to leave it for my children and I almost screwed up ”.
He had to buy the antibiotics at 1200 pesos each package: four in total. This is one of the reasons why the family economy is suffering right now.
When Almaguer de la Cruz went to the police station on September 9, half an hour after receiving a visit from the sector chief at his residence, he still had a fever and a severe cough. There the inspector was already waiting for him, carrying a badge with the number 00068; the head of the Baracoa confrontation, who would be called Alfredo Olivero, and another official from the province.
They kept their distance from him all the time: about four meters, Emilio points out. But anyway, he couldn’t help coughing at various points during the time he was there. When he got out of the summons with his unsigned fine, he was 3,000 pesos poorer.
In July 2020, when they put the first one, the story was not very different. On that occasion he was also summoned by an officer for the Baracoa unit and, once there, after two hours of waiting, another inspector who told him that he was in charge of applying 370 throughout the province of Guantánamo, fined him! 3,000 pesos for “speaking ill of a government official.”
Almaguer de la Curz then recounted the events in a video that he spread through his YouTube channel.
“I’m not going to get into debt. If I get 3,000 pesos, it would be to feed my children and keep the house, so I’m not going to pay. I’m not going to pay anything to the government and let them do whatever they want with me. ”, He said in that video.
In addition, he assured that he would continue to publish on social networks everything that was found of any government official.
“Enough of silencing and silencing the right to receive and disclose information, which is a right with which one is born,” he added.
And although in the end he paid the fine, thanks also to the solidarity of his friends, Emilio decided to continue saying what he thought on social networks. Neither now, after this second fine, which was accompanied by a threat of jail if he continued with his “rebellious activities”, does he intend to give in to pressure.
The difference is that, this time, you are not sure you can pay on time. In the last year the economic situation of the country has worsened. But, if you don’t pay it within one month, the amount doubles. And if after 60 days you still have not paid it, you could even risk going to prison for several months.
The imposition of fines has long been a repressive mechanism used by the Cuban authorities to repress anyone who questions the system too much or is uncomfortable.
Only in 2020, according to the registers of the independent organization Cubalex, specialized in legal issues and human rights violations on the island, in Cuba 30 citizens were fined with Decree-Law 370 of 2019, and the majority were independent journalists and activists linked to dissident organizations.
The first fine was imposed on January 13 of last year on the reporter and activist Iliana Hernández, a collaborator of Cibercuba, four days after a raid on her home by police agents, during which she was seized work tools and personal belongings without her having to They will give you an occupation certificate.
The stories of the victims of the Azote Law show that said fines are politically motivated. Paragraph I of article 68, which is the one used, establishes as a violation the act of “disseminating, through public data transmission networks, information contrary to social interest, morals, good customs and the integrity of the people ”, but until now the authorities have always interpreted it arbitrarily against those who express criteria contrary to the interests of the government.
Furthermore, although it is usually officials from the Ministry of Communications who apply the fines, they almost always operate in scenarios in which it is evident that they follow the guidance of agents of the Department of State Security.
After June 2020, perhaps due to the rejection that this regulation received from different international spaces, as it constitutes a violation of the right to express oneself freely, its use decreased. However, new reports of fines warn of a possible reactivation of this repressive measure.
Before Emilio Almaguer de la Cruz, in March this year two other people were fined under 370: Adrián Góngora, in Las Tunas, and Yeris Curbelo, an independent journalist from Palenque Vision, in Guantánamo. To the first, for transmitting live on Facebook a queue in a store in his city and, to the second, for filming the protest of a self-employed worker in front of the Caimanera police station.
For now, Emilio’s main concern is not his lungs but whether he will be able to pay the fine on time.