When Cubans took to the streets in July for the biggest challenge to the communist state in decades, Michel Parra joined the electric crowds. “For the first time in my life, I was marching,” the 20-year-old hospital worker said.
But exhilaration turned to fear when men in civilian clothes snatched Parra and his sister from the protest in Matanzas. Hauled to the local Técnico – a feared facility run by Cuba’s state security services – he was taken to an interrogation room. “They were yelling, saying they would shoot me and my family,” he said. “I begged them to stop while they kept calling me a gusano” – a worm, the state slur against anti-communist Cubans.