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'When will Daddy be back home?': A Cuban family's nightmare after 11-J

The trial of Maikel Puig Bergolla and eight other protesters from Güines, Mayabeque begins this Wednesday.

Maikel Puig Bergolla with his wife (left), together with their children.
Maikel Puig Bergolla with his wife (left), together with their children. Saily Núñez Pérez/Facebook

This Wednesday the trial against nine 11-J protesters gets underway in Cuba. This group of defendants who participated in the protests in Güines, Mayabeque, face jail sentences ranging from 4 to 25 years. The hearing is scheduled for this Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at the Mayabeque Provincial Court, located in San José de las Lajas.

Among the defendants is 40-year-old Maikel Puig Bergolla, who faces the Prosecutor's harshest request: 25 years in prison, with the regime accusing him of "public disorder, contempt, aggravated contempt, instigation to commit a crime, and attempted murder."

"On July 12, a day after the protests, a group of police officers arrived at the house and, without further explanation, arrested him and took him away," says Saily Núñez Pérez, Puig Bergolla's wife, told DIARIO DE CUBA. She considers the case an "injustice" and a blow to herself and their two children.

"Maikel's arrest was unexpected and traumatic, seeing so many police. The children had thousands of questions. Maikel did nothing. There's no evidence, they're prosecuting him as if he had killed an army of people," she added.

According to Núñez Pérez, on July 11 she and her husband simply observed, in different locations in the town, "what was happening, peacefully."

Puig Bergolla has been in the Quivicán prison for three months "in solitary confinement, due to an order that was given, whose reasons we do not know. There, he has been medically neglected," complained Núñez Pérez.

"He is living under subhuman conditions, in a dank cell with a leaky toilet. It's all walled up, without a ray of sunlight, and the guard sometimes forgets to bring him his awful food," she relates.

Puig Bergolla has suffered from high blood pressure for several years. He arrived in prison with diabetes, and also suffers from lymphangitis.

"After so many complaints, they began to give him medical treatment. They've made me lose my fear. Now, I suffer for Maikel," says his wife.

"The lawyer tells us that everything favors Maikel, but these are show trials based on lies and injustices. My husband does not appear in any video. There is only one photo in which he is seen walking alone, with his hands behind his back, wearing a mask, not breaking any laws, not shouting, not attacking anyone, not doing anything," she says.

"Those accusing Maikel are five policemen. What can you expect? They have no other witnesses against him," says Núñez Pérez, who demands "that her husband's case be reviewed."

In addition to Puig Bergolla, on January 12, 13 and 14 Yanier Santana Díaz will be tried for his participation in the 11-J protests in Güines, also accused of "public disorder, contempt, aggravated contempt, instigation to commit a crime and attempted murder," with the Prosecutor asking for 15 years of incarceration.

Also facing trial is Noslen Roque Cordero, who is accused of the same crimes, with the Prosecutor asking for 18 years in prison; Noel Martínez Tápanes, accused of "public disorder, contempt and aggravated contempt," with a request for 6 years of imprisonment; Mariurka Díaz Calvo,  charged with "public disorder, contempt, aggravated contempt, and instigation to commit a crime," with the Prosecutor asking for 20 years in prison.

In addition, Dunieski Ruiz Cañizares stands accused of "public disorder, contempt, aggravated contempt, and assault," and faces 8 years; Luis Miguel Valls Pérez is charged with "public disorder, contempt, aggravated contempt, instigation to commit a crime, attempted murder, and abetting escape," with the Prosecutor seeking a joint sanction of 20 years; Yeriel Cruz Pérez is accused of "public disorder, contempt, aggravated contempt, assault, resisting arrest, and abetting escape," with a request for 15 years in prison; and Erick Rodríguez León, accused of "contempt and assault," faces 6 years in jail.

The Prosecution's arguments

In its requests the Prosecutor argues that all the defendants "moved, through the middle of the streets, obstructing the circulation of vehicles, towards the area of the central park of Güines, where around 2,000 people joined in as they repeatedly shouted slogans in accordance with their political ideas and others aimed at denigrating the police and the country's president, such as 'Díaz Canel Singao (villain) and Pinga (damn) Police.'"

It also alleges that "they disturbed the peace, making a racket and instigating the residents along the way to join in."

In addition to claiming that the defendants Puig Bergolla and Santana Díaz shouted the phrases mentioned above, the document contends that "with total disrespect for the authorities, and to prevent them from quelling the protest, they yelled 'kill the police' and ran towards the officers while throwing stones at them, hitting a patrol car and damaging it."

With reference to Puig Bergolla, the Prosecutor's allegations claim that "he does not participate in civic organizations in his place of residence, he is involved with people exhibiting maladjusted social behavior, and the authorities classify him as a person prone to the commission of criminal acts, and disturbing the peace."

Puig Bergolla's wife believes that the authorities intend to vilify the detainee. "Although they want to portray him as antisocial and a criminal, things aren't like that. We've been married for 11 years, have two children, a girl and a boy, ages 12 and 9,  respectively. Maikel and the kids are inseparable. They always say to him 'you're the best dad in the world'. He's their superhero," says Núñez Pérez.

"He's the one who takes the children to school, picks them up. He's never missed the start of the year. He's always looking out for them. He's the parent who gets them up in the morning. If I were to be born again, I’d choose him as a husband and father again," she says.
According to the woman, her husband "gets up very early, hardly sleeps, and works hard."

"He was a Viales worker, always laughing, happy, but that smile that he always wears in the photos is fading, due to the conditions he's enduring," she says.

"We spent a lot of time together. We're more than a couple, we're friends. I'm his mom, his sister, his everything. In the town of Güines everyone knows us, and it's 'Maikel, Saily's husband' or 'Saily, Maikel's wife.' We're seldom separated, there's absolute trust."

Today the situation is very different for this family. Puig Bergolla can only call twice a week, Monday and Thursday, and receive one visit a month.

"We see each other only once a month. That same day the conjugal visit is scheduled, and then the family visit," Núñez says.

"Now the loneliness is tremendous, not having him, missing him. Family visits are traumatic. They're very short. It's very hard on the children, not knowing when this will end and Dad will be home again," she adds.

"Maikel has been greatly affected. Not only is he imprisoned, but they want to break him mentally, to destroy him, little by little. He hardly speaks, except during interrogations. He reads a lot. Hopefully this nightmare will end. The only thing left for me is to call for freedom for Maikel Puig Bergolla and for all the 11-J detainees," she concludes.

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