Cuba Arrests a 24-Year-Old YouTuber for Describing Daily Life on the Communist Island
Hildina Nuñez Diaz is now confined to her home, bereft of her equipment for broadcasting.
Fines for defaming the government; threats regarding her child; confiscation of property: These are only some of the things that a Cuban woman has been enduring for covering on YouTube the ongoing crisis in Cuba.
The Cuban regime seems intent on ensuring that 24-year-old Hildina Nuñez Diaz does not post another video. On Thursday, government officials arrested Ms. Nuñez Diaz in her home, leaving the Cuban fearing for her life and uncertain about her future.
About 30 agents stormed into Ms. Nuñez Diaz’s home at Santiago de Cuba and arrested her in front of her five-month-old son, Liam Jesus, her mother, and her father. During the arrest, the officials confiscated all technological devices, including her cellphone, computer, wifi router, and camera.
“When the police arrived at her house, they closed the block so nobody could walk by,” Ms. Nuñez Diaz’s husband, Jesus Reyna, tells the Sun. “They removed her from her own house as if she was a criminal.” Mr. Reyna was working in Texas at the time of the arrest.
Ms. Nuñez Diaz was held at Santiago de Cuba’s police station for seven hours. According to Mr. Reyna, she was passed along to several government officials, who threatened her physical safety and her son’s custody.
“They never told her what her rights were while arrested,” Mr. Reyna says. “She wasn’t even given the right to a lawyer.”
Before releasing her, the officials forced Ms. Nuñez Diaz to sign a consent saying she would no longer post videos. She also received a fine for “taking over social media to discredit the government.” In addition, she was told that she is not allowed to leave Cuba and that Mr. Reyna could not re-enter the island, as they claim he “influenced” her into making those videos.
Ms. Nuñez Diaz opened her YouTube account in 2020 and since then has been posting videos of the daily struggle that Cubans face on the island. The account has 114,000 subscribers.
The dangers one witnesses at night in Cuba, the consequences of the shortage of basic products such as rice and sugar, and how a Cuban can easily spend a monthly salary on vegetables are only some of the many realities of the island that she illuminates on YouTube.
“I want to show you Cuba’s reality, the one that many are afraid to tell but it’s time for the world to know the true situation in which Cubans live today,” Ms. Nuñez Diaz says in one of her YouTube videos. She says that she “loves” her country, but it “hurts to see it like this.”
“Hopefully one day we Cubans will see that light that we so much need at the end of the tunnel,” Ms. Nuñez Diaz adds. The executive director of the Center for a Free Cuba, John Suarez, tells the Sun that Ms. Nuñez Diaz “faces great danger in Cuba.”
“Cuba’s penal code has grown more draconian and is targeting individuals expressing themselves in any way that portrays the Cuban government in a negative light,” Mr. Suarez says.
According to Cuba’s penal code, anyone who provides information to international foreign services against the Cuban regime “incurs a penalty of deprivation of liberty from 10 to 30 years, life imprisonment, or death.”
On May 15, 2022, the Castro regime passed a bill that restricts free expression by prohibiting Cubans from receiving foreign funding. The Committee to Protect Journalists condemned the bill, as the Cuban press has often relied on international funding.
The following day, the Biden administration announced it was easing sanctions against Cuba. What Ms. Nuñez Diaz has undergone “is happening, and has happened before,” Mr. Suarez says. “International leaders need to condemn it and keep drawing attention to this outrage.”
Ms. Nuñez Diaz earlier had received several threats from the regime. In December, she received a call from the university where she works as a professor, telling her to go into the directives office for a check-in meeting.
Instead, she was greeted by officials from the Castro regime, who threatened her job if she did not stop making videos. They said the videos were “against the road to revolution” of the Cuban communist president, Fidel Castro.
The second encounter occurred in February at Havana, where Ms. Nuñez Diaz was recording a video. A policeman, who had been following her for weeks, entered her home and told her that if she did not stop recording, she would be arrested.
“They told me to double think my actions as I am a mother of a child,” Ms. Nuñez Diaz said in a video in which she told her followers about the confrontation.
Ms. Nuñez Diaz is now at her house at Santiago de Cuba with no form of communication. She is prohibited from leaving the island and is in a psychologically ill state of mind, suffering from “severe” anxiety over what the regime holds for her future, Mr. Reyna says.
Ms. Preve-Durrieu is a staff reporter at the New York Sun. She is a bilingual journalist who has reported from several countries including Australia and India. She has a master's degree in journalism from the University of Southern California and a bachelor's degree in social communications from Universidad Austral, Buenos Aires, Argentina.