Communist state security officials in Camagüey, Cuba, detained and interrogated seven-year-old Katherin Acosta Peña on Thursday regarding her mother, dissident Marisol Peña Cobas, who faces charges of corruption of youth for insufficiently indoctrinating Acosta into communism.
Peña — who spent a month in solitary detention after joining the July 11, 2021, anti-communist protests – revealed in late March that Cuban authorities had arrested her for the crime of “acts against the normal development of minors” because she refused to teach her daughter to love the Castro family and its figurehead president, Miguel Díaz-Canel. Peña is currently out on bail.
Her husband, José Luis Acosta Cortellán, is also an anti-communist dissident and facing criminal charges for “disobedience,” a crime often used to persecute those who disagree with the regime on the island.
The interrogation of seven-year-old Acosta Peña is the latest documented incident of state intimidation and abuse against minors. The Castro regime has increased its persecution of children, particularly girls, since the outburst of dissent in 2021. Detentions, trials, and sentencing of children to years in prison under adult legal codes has become increasingly common, as has police abuse against girls.
On Thursday, Peña livestreamed the appearance of state security agents in front of her door, demanding to take away her daughter.
La seguridad del estado y la oficina de atención a menores (si se les puede llamar así), se han llevado en una patrulla policial a la activista Marisol Peña Cobas y a su hija de tan sólo 7 años para someterlas a un interrogatorio forzado.
Coño, ya ustedes no respetan ni el… pic.twitter.com/CInbvKWzAw
— Héctor Luis Valdés Cocho (@HectorValdes_91) April 13, 2023
“These are the things they want to do to my daughter, who can’t even sleep at night,” she narrated, asking the public to amplify the story. “A seven-year-old girl being called [to the police station] suddenly, with no notice.”
Police reportedly took away both Peña and Acosta and interrogated the child in a room separate from her mother. According to Peña, who spoke to the U.S.-based Radio Martí outlet afterward, a prosecutor, an official with the Ministry of the Interior, and a psychologist with the Ministry all interrogated the child.
🔴| Agentes de la Seguridad del Estado detuvieron esta mañana a la hija de la activista Marisol Peña Cobas.
Katherin Acosta Peña, de siete años de edad, fue sacada en horario lectivo y conducida junto a su madre a paradero desconocido (…)#Urgente #Denuncia‼️
Abrimos hilo⚠️ pic.twitter.com/xzqPgocGdY
— Observatorio de Libertad Académica (@OLAcademica) April 13, 2023
“They spoke to me first that I had to sign some paper, I told them that I wouldn’t sign any paper because I don’t sign their papers. This is happening to me not because I am not taking care of my daughter,” Peña explained, “but because I don’t teach her to love and respect Díaz-Canel and all their spawn.”
Peña said her daughter told her that the interrogators asked her if her mother treated her well, the identity of her father, and if she knew who Díaz-Canel was. The girl said she responded affirmatively, that she knew him “from TV.” Peña said that she thinks the regime asked Acosta repeatedly who Díaz-Canel was, including showing her a photo of the man without identifying him, to see if the girl would disparage the puppet leader.
Peña noted that the officers said they did not want to talk to her, the mother, “but I was clear with them. I told them that I know that I am here because of my ideals, but they are going to have to execute me, because I am not going to teach my daughter ever to love and respect communist leaders.”
“My daughter only needs to love and respect God, her family, those who are good to her, and freedom above all,” Peña told Martí.
Peña published a message on Facebook on Friday, confirming that her daughter was safe and at home with photos.
“I am a little calmer today although I did not sleep well last night but I’m used to that now,” Peña said, “since after July 11, 2021, the kiddo has the same nightmare every night and gets up in bed shrieking in terror, since then I sleep with her to avoid that she hurt herself.”
“God, love, peace, life, and freedom for Cuba,” Peña signed her message.
Buenos días hermanos, hoy estoy un poco más tranquila aunque no dormí bien pero ya es costumbre ,pues después del 11…
Posted by Marisol Peña Cobas on Friday, April 14, 2023
Peña and her husband were most recently arrested in late March on their way to Catholic Mass. Catholicism, and religion generally, are poorly tolerated under the Castro regime outside of pro-regime leaders, who are largely unpopular with people of faith.
Martí reported at the time that police detained Peña and her husband, Acosta, on their way to Mass and told them specifically that authorities believed their acts of worship were counterrevolutionary. Peña told the outlet that police beat them and said they “could not go to the church anymore.”
“They told me … that I go to church to commune against communism, that I needed to leave the country because this was the last time they were going to let it slide,” she narrated. The couple were both detained separately for some hours.
The incident with young Katherin is the latest in a series of similar abuses documented against children. In one particularly harrowing account, in August, Cuban police in another part of Camagüey, Nuevitas, physically assaulted a group of 11- and 12-year-old girls who had joined their parents on the street to protest a wave of blackouts. Under the communist regime, Cuba has not invested in maintaining its power grid or any of its infrastructure generally, resulting in decades of deterioration that have made blackouts a common occurrence. Last year, following the passage of Hurricane Ian the entire island was left without electricity.
Prior to that, however, families in Camagüey took the streets to protest local blackouts.
“I was holding on to my dad, and she was holding on to my dad, and then, to arrest my dad, the police had to hit us,” one of the three girls beaten in August narrated in a mobile phone video taken immediately after the incident. One of the girls admitted to hitting back at the police in an attempt to protect her family. Following the spread of the video of the children denouncing the incident online, Cuban state police arrested the mother of one of the girls, Ivonne Breijo.
A similar incident occurred in central Santa Clara after Hurricane Ian, in October, in which police arrested a 12-year-old boy participating in blackout protests, identified as 12-year-old Cristian Hernández Villavicencio. Hernández reportedly spent 25 hours in police custody at the “Directorate for the Reeducation of Minors.”
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