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Dayron Martín Rodríguez, a Cuban psychiatric patient sentenced to 30 years in prison for demonstrating

The 37-year-old has been in treatment since 2014 for 'double depression' and a suicide attempt. His life is in danger in prison, specialists say.

Political prisoner Dayron Martín Rodríguez.
Political prisoner Dayron Martín Rodríguez. DDC

Dayron's mother, Martín Rodríguez, suffered a pre-infarction when she learned that her son was sentenced to 30 years in prison for participating in the protest in La Güinera, one of the neighborhoods that has been punished the most for the July 11 demonstrations in Cuba: of the 790 people prosecuted for participating in the 2021 demonstrations against the Cuban regime, 96 are from La Güinera.

In this humble Havana neighborhood the residents went out to demonstrate on July 12, and were violently repressed by the police, including with firearms. De La Güinera was home to the only fatality recognized by the authorities: Diubis Laurencio Tejeda, 36, who was shot by a policeman.

From Ecuador, Coral Martín Rodríguez shared that her brother Dayron called her from prison after the collective trial that took place in December, and told her about the sentence. "My mom dropped the phone, she fainted... I had to keep talking to him, who asked me: 'What happened to my mother? What happened to my mother...?'" said the young woman, who had to calm her brother down for the three minutes that the call lasted, and then revive her mother.  "When she came to, she started crying a lot, and then suffered a strong chest pain. (…) I took her to the emergency room, where they told me that she had had a pre-infarction triggered by her shock." Coral noted that her mother has been depressed since Dayron's incarceration.

On Wednesday, March 16 the regime unveiled sentences for demonstrators from La Esquina de Toyo, and La Güinera, in Havana. Dayron Martín Rodríguez is Cuban political prisoner number 285 of 1,007 on the list compiled by the NGO Cuban Prisoners Defenders, and one of the two persons sentenced to 30 years for sedition, a political crime. Before 11 June, the number of political prisoners did not reach 200.

"They ended our lives," says Coral in a video posted on her Facebook account, in which her mother also appears, very shaken after the sentence was announced. The family finds the sentence very unfair, and they are not yet able to assimilate the situation, but they insist that they will not stop fighting for Dayron to be released. "We don't agree with the sentence, and we're not going to stop."

"We are his hope," says Esmeralda Rodriguez, Dayron's mother. "Even if I'm dying inside, we're going to continue fighting for my son, and for all political prisoners, because Cubans are very afraid. That's why nothing else has happened, they're very afraid, and they prefer to die in Cuba with fear."

Dayron is 37 years old. He spent his last birthday in prison, where he could spend the rest of his life there after the regime's harsh sentence. The sentence, to which DIARIO DE CUBA had access, took into account his "recidivism," since he had a criminal record for a previous crime of embezzlement, for which he was sentenced to eight years. It was not taking into consideration, however, that Dayron has psychiatric problems, something that the judges did take into account when issuing his previous punishment.

Clinical condition

My brother "suffers from a nervous condition," Coral explains, "to the point that he tried to take his own life. My mom had to move in with his wife for a while, because he couldn't be left alone, and his wife had to work... He didn't want to live, he had no reason to live. As a result, we took him to the doctor and that is when he was diagnosed with his psychiatric problem, and had to take medication, and was hospitalized for a while (at the Sanatorio San Juan de Dios in Havana) until he improved." He continued to attend therapy regularly, and with medication, explained Coral, who pointed out that, after being imprisoned for the events of 11J, he has not received adequate attention for his condition.

"At first, when he was imprisoned, they didn't give him the medicine, we had to fight for it, because without that medicine he gets depressed,” says Coral. Once he was even given the wrong medicine.

DIARIO DE CUBA reviewed the summary of Dayron Martín Rodríguez's medical history, obtained by his wife at the Sanatorio San Juan de Dios in Havana in order to present it at his trial. The document reflects his admission in 2014 with a diagnosis of "double depression," and indicates that Dayron suffers from "dysthymia," a persistent depressive disorder, in addition to a "depressive episode of a psychotic nature" and alcohol addiction.

The psychiatric report, dated July 23, 2021 and signed by physicians of the Cuban public entity, states that Dayron suffers from "severe depression, with self accusations, suicidal impulses, and an inability to make decisions that guide him towards positive goals."

"The prison system is not compatible with the clinical and psychiatric condition of this patient," psychiatrist Emilio Arteaga Pérez categorically told DIARIO DE CUBA, after analyzing the medical summary.

"Someone who has a history of mental health like him, and a diagnosis of alcoholism, with depressive episodes, depressions that, due to their nature, have been significant, who has had a psychotic episode, such that he has been admitted... someone with all these elements is much more vulnerable than average," the physician said.

"The prison system we have, which does not guarantee even the most basic health (...), imagine with something as delicate as mental health, and we are talking about someone who has a record, who has gone through a major depressive mental disorder. No, the prison system is not compatible with it. The risk of suicide exists, and it is high," warned the specialist.

The family took action to obtain this clinical report and have it presented at trial, but it was disregarded when it came to sentencing the young man. It was taken into account, however, when Dayron was previously sentenced, in 2016. Dayron was on parole when he was arrested on July 13.

What is he accused of?

Dayron did not go out to protest on July 12, but rather to get food for his pigeons, Coral explains. "My brother raises pigeons and went out to get food when he found that the demonstrations were coming ... and when he saw that mob (...) he was astonished to see so many people fighting with the police, and he took out his phone to send a video to our father, who lives in La Palma, so that he could see what was happening at the time."

While filming "he was hit by a stone from behind ... so hard that he dropped the phone, and there he reacted (...) by starting to throw stones too."

Dayron's phone was picked up by a policeman while he, frightened by the events, ran home, according to his sister. "The next day he went to the El Capri station to pick up his phone, because he didn?t think he had done anything wrong. They then arrested him and, to this day, haven't released him," said Coral.

According to the sentence document, "it was significant for the judges, when viewing the images, that he could clearly be seen throwing stones at the police cordon and making obscene, disrespectful and denigrating gestures and movements against the law enforcement agents, also carrying a t-shirt in his hands that he was waving sporadically and that bore Cuba's national insignia."

Lawyers consulted by DIARIO DE CUBA believe that "the regime has ratcheted up repression against those who filmed the momentous events and incidents on 11, as well as against those who posted or forwarded information." The act of filming "instead of being interpreted as a natural right to information/communication to be exercised within any public context, is being unduly handled as a serious crime of sedition and of incitement to commit crime."

"With the severe criminalization of this civic behavior, those in power are sending a clear message to citizens who might be related in any way to a subsequent social uprising: those who transmit the events to others and/or document repressive actions by the regime will receive disproportionate punishments, with no expense being spared," the lawyers concluded.

"The case of Dayron Martín Rodríguez is another example of the crisis of the judicial system's independence and survival, however pliant it may remain to the interests of those in power," argued the lawyers. Given Dayron's medical history, they believe that "his life in prison is, obviously, in grave danger."

Dayron's defense attorney "challenged the prosecutor's indictment on the grounds that his client should be punished for a crime of disturbing the peace," the trial record read. But that request was ignored, as were reports of his mental health, at a trial where the witnesses were the same policemen who quashed the demonstration that day.

An appeal to the families

When Dayron speaks to his sister on the phone from prison he always asks her "to continue fighting for him, not to be afraid, because they already destroyed his life, and can't do anything more to him."

He "has a strong temper" but is "very noble" and "very family-oriented," says his sister, who defined him as a sociable person who "likes to get along with neighbors" - something that was even included in the trial's record.

Dayron has a 12-year-old daughter who lives in the United States with her mother: "The girl says that her father is a hero because he went out to fight for freedom in Cuba," noting that her brother "adores the girl. He gave his mother permission to take her to the United States, so that they could live better, but he video called her every day, and was always keeping tabs on her, but since this happened he hasn't been able to talk to her."

Esmeralda Rodríguez appealed to the mothers of all political prisoners not to give up, and to continue demanding justice: "Don't be intimidated, don't let fear paralyze you, and fight for your children. Even if we think that, with this Government, perhaps what we're doing is all in vain, we cannot leave them alone, because we have to continue fighting, because we're their relatives (...). we have to fight because they trust us. Inside, they can't do anything, so we have to be their voice out here, wherever we are."

"We're suffering, but this suffering must serve to give us more courage, and to be able to do something for them, so that tomorrow we don't regret doing nothing," says Dayron's mother Martín Rodríguez, who called for freedom for all political prisoners in Cuba.

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