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Gay man who live-streamed Cuba anti-government protest faces 8-year prison sentence

Yoan de la Cruz broadcast July 11 demonstration on Facebook

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Yoan de la Cruz (Photo courtesy of Twitter)

SAN ANTONIO DE LOS BAÑOS, Cuba — A gay man who live-streamed an anti-government protest faces an 8-year prison sentence.

Yoan de la Cruz on July 11 used Facebook Live to livestream a protest in San Antonio de los Baños, a municipality in Artemisa province that is just west of Havana.

The San Antonio de los Baños protest was the first of dozens of anti-government demonstrations against mounting food shortages, the government’s response to the pandemic, a worsening economic crisis and human rights abuses that took place across Cuba on July 11.

De La Cruz is one of hundreds of protest participants who were arrested. Others include Maykel González Vivero, editor of Tremenda Nota, the Los Angeles Blade’s media partner in Cuba.

14ymedio, an independent website founded by Yoani Sánchez, a prominent critic of the Cuban government, on Monday reported the country’s attorney general is seeking an 8-year prison sentence for De La Cruz. 14ymedio also notes Cuban authorities continue to hold De La Cruz “somewhat incommunicado” in a prison in Mayabeque province, which is east of Havana.

It is unclear when his trial will take place.

“The Cuban government is again intimidating Cubans to keep them from peacefully expressing themselves,” tweeted Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Brian Nichols on Thursday. “After initially sentencing many July 11 protestors to months of detention and fines, they now seek additional jail time for some of the 500+ detainees to 6-12 years.”

The tweet does not specifically mention De La Cruz.

Luis Ángel Adán Roble, a gay man who was once a member of Cuba’s National Assembly, is now a vocal critic of his country’s government and publicly supports De La Cruz. Adán on Thursday described the proposed sentence as “excessive and unjust.”

“The only thing about Yoan that I know is the charge of which they have accused him is contempt, and they are asking for eight years,” he told the Blade. “I don’t understand what live-streaming something has to do with contempt.”

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Caribbean

Gay man who livestreamed Cuba anti-government protest released from prison

Yoan de la Cruz received 6-year sentence

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Yoan de la Cruz is a gay man who broadcast to the world the first videos of the anti-government protests in Cuba that took place on July 11, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Twitter)

HAVANA — A gay man who received a 6-year prison sentence for live-streaming an anti-government protest in Cuba has been released.

Tremenda Nota, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Cuba, and sources on the island on Friday confirmed Yoan de la Cruz’s release from prison.

De La Cruz on July 11, 2021, used Facebook Live to livestream a protest in San Antonio de los Baños, a municipality in Artemisa province that is just west of Havana. The protest is one of dozens against the Cuban government that took place across the country on the same day.

A Havana court in March sentenced De La Cruz to six years in prison.

De La Cruz’s mother described the sentence as an “injustice” and said her son’s health deteriorated while in prison. One source in Cuba told the Blade that authorities sentenced De La Cruz to five years of house arrest after the original sentence was appealed.

The Blade will provide additional details as they become available.

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Caribbean

British territories appeals court upholds Bermuda marriage equality repeal law

Plaintiff criticized government ‘crusade against same-sex marriage’

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(Photo courtesy of Rebecca Kelliher)

LONDON — A British territories appellate court on Monday upheld a Bermuda law that rescinded marriage rights for same-sex couples.

The 4-1 decision from the Privy Council’s Judicial Committee in London comes more three years after Bermuda’s government appealed a Bermuda Court of Appeals ruling that found the Domestic Partnership Act — which allows same-sex couples to enter into domestic partnerships as opposed to get married — unconstitutional.

Supreme Court Justice Charles-Etta Simmons in 2017 issued a ruling that paved the way for gays and lesbians to legally marry in Bermuda. The Domestic Partnership Act that then-Gov. John Rankin signed took effect on June 1, 2018.

“To my fellow LGBTQ+ Bermudians, I wish to say to you what I also need to hear at this moment. You matter. Your hurt matters. You deserve better than this,” said Roderick Ferguson, one of the plaintiffs in the marriage equality case, in an OUTBermuda press release on Monday after the Privy Council’s Judicial Committee released its ruling. “The Bermuda government’s crusade against same-sex marriage was waged to convince you that there’s something shameful about your sexuality. Don’t believe that tired old lie.”

The Privy Council’s Judicial Committee on Monday also ruled same-sex couples in the Cayman Islands don’t have a constitutional right to marry in the British territory.

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Trinidad and Tobago’s first Transgender senator sworn in

Jowelle De Souza owns beauty salon, champions animal rights

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Jowelle De Souza (Photo via Jowelle De Souza's Facebook page)

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad and Tobago — An activist in Trinidad and Tobago on Feb. 15 became the country’s first openly Transgender senator.

Local media reports note Jowelle De Souza is filling-in for the ailing Sen. Jayanti Lutchmedial, a member the United National Congress, a center-left opposition party.

“Always happy to serve my country,” said De Souza in an Instagram post.

 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Jowelle De Souza (@jowelledesouza)

De Souza, who is also an animal rights activist, owns a beauty salon in San Fernando, the country’s second largest city.

De Souza in 1993 became the first person to undergo sex-reassignment surgery in Trinidad and Tobago.

Maykel González Vivero of Tremenda Nota, the Washington Blade’s media partner in Cuba who reported from Trinidad and Tobago in 2017 for the Institute for War and Peace Reporting, noted De Souza in 1997 became the first Trans person to file a lawsuit against the country’s government.

De Souza alleged the police officers who arrested her during a protest violated her constitutional rights when they harassed her because of her gender identity. De Souza settled her lawsuit out of court.

De Souza unsuccessfully ran for Parliament in 2015.

Trinidad and Tobago’s nondiscrimination laws do not include gender identity and sexual orientation. A High Court judge in 2018 struck down the country’s colonial-era sodomy statute.

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