Journalists, human rights defenders and artists persecuted and harassed in Cuba
On 2nd February 2018, the Cuban Commission on Human Rights and National Reconciliation issued a report citing at least 330 cases of arrests, detentions or harassment of political dissidents by state security agents in the first month of 2018. The Commission also found that state security regularly undermines civil society organisations by seizing computers and cell phones and imposing large fines that prevent organisations from operating effectively. It has been monitoring and reporting on such attacks against activists and civil society since 2010.
#Cuba La Seguridad del Estado ejecutó el pasado enero "una verdadera oleada de despojo sistemático e ilegal" de los medios de trabajo de los opositores, ha denunciado este viernes la Comisión Cubana de Derechos Humanos y Reconciliación Nacional (CCDHRN). https://t.co/Bm7mcsAZ3l pic.twitter.com/ngcpxss83q— Yoani Sánchez (@yoanisanchez) February 2, 2018
On 22nd January 2018, a couple ended a hunger strike to protest the inhumane conditions of the husband's imprisonment. Mitzael Díaz Paseiro, a dissident and member of the Orlando Zapata Tamayo Civic Resistance Front, was arrested in November 2017 on charges of posing a potential danger and criminal threat. Paseiro's mistreatment in prison led his wife, Arianna López Roque, to complete a two-week hunger strike until her husband, who also refused food, received proper medical care and other basic prisoners' rights.
On 27th January, an activist with the Patriotic Union of Cuba ended a 23-day hunger strike. Tomás Núñez Magdariaga has served nearly ten months in prison.The 66-year-old activist had been on a hunger strike to have his money, cell phones, flash drives, and passport returned to him.
Amnistía Internacional relanza su campaña por Eduardo Cardet tras su agresión en prisión https://t.co/xpapeG0Y5t pic.twitter.com/rRzT9XQkYk— 14ymedio (@14ymedio) January 23, 2018
Amnesty International issued a statement calling for the immediate release of the leader of Movimiento Cristiano Liberación (Cuba’s Christian Liberation Movement), asserting that "he is a prisoner of conscience, imprisoned solely for peacefully exercising his right to freedom of expression". The Movement's leader, Eduardo Cardet, was detained in 2016. Reports indicated that prior to his detention, he "gave a number of interviews published in international media in which he was critical of the Cuban government". He has reportedly been attacked and stabbed multiple times by other inmates in the prison.
48h de operativo DSE y PNR contra sede nacional Lawton @DamasdBlanco #Cuba @ForoDyL #LaHabana pic.twitter.com/z8XozbYcJ5— Damas de Blanco (@DamasdBlanco) February 3, 2018
State security forces continue to harass the Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) as they peacefully demonstrate every Sunday for the release of political prisoners. Berta Soler, the group's leader and most prominent figure, was physically attacked and detained multiple times by security forces in January 2018. On 8th January, her husband and a former political prisoner with the Group of 75 Angel Moya was also imprisoned after being beaten by security agents. On 21st January, at least 30 Ladies in White were arrested in multiple cities - 21 in Matanzas, eight in Havana, one in Guantánamo, and one in Santiago de Cuba. Some of the women were fined before being released, while others were threatened by security forces or are still in detention. In a video from 29th January, one of the women is seen chanting “down with Castro” before plain-clothes officers drag her into a police car.
In a separate incident, a bicycle-taxi driver in Jovellanos was sentenced to ten months in prison for protesting outside a government office on 8th January. According to media reports, Lázaro Rodríguez was stopped by a police officer because he lacked a government-issued license to operate his bike-taxi. Afterwards, he decided to protest outside, holding a sign listing his complaints. He was arrested and charged with resisting arrest.
Condena la Sociedad Interamericana de Prensa amenazas de las autoridades en Cuba contra la periodista Luz Escobar https://t.co/SfrDv2U7SW pic.twitter.com/wVFuUm4Dbm— El Universal (@El_Universal_Mx) January 19, 2018
State security agents prevented or intimidated writers from attending a literary festival in Havana. Reasons varied for why some authors stayed away, but according to one of the event organisers, "the writer Ángel Santiesteban was arrested when he left his house in the morning and we could not find the whereabouts of Rafael Vilches, we do not know what happened to him". The event known as Words Excluded was sponsored by the Museum of Dissidence to raise awareness about writers who often face state censorship.
State security questioned four members of Asociación Pro Libertad de Prensa - a free press group - after they presented a report on freedom of the press in Cuba to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland. Odalina Guerrero Lara, Manuel Morejon, Amarilis Cortina Rey and Miriam Herrera Calvo were cited and questioned by the authorities after delivering their report to the UN in December 2017. The report listed the numerous arrests, difficulties and pressure independent journalists commonly face in Cuba, including arbitrary detentions and having their work-related belongings seized.
La Asociación Pro Libertad de Prensa denuncia amenazas contra sus miembros#Cuba https://t.co/qDlTN1AZjK pic.twitter.com/yof2t4JPh7— 14ymedio (@14ymedio) February 7, 2018
On 15th January, a journalist with 14ymedio was threatened by state security officers who were trying to stop her from reporting on daily life in Havana. Luz Escobar says she had been summoned to the police station because of a recent story she wrote about Cubans trying to obtain visas at the Colombian embassy. Escobar said the officer told her that she should inform the authorities before reporting on stories like that and that she could face criminal charges if she continued.
The Inter-American Press Association issued a statement of concern over the intimidation Escobar faced:
"[W]e are concerned that this new harassment of an independent journalist only reflects the government's intolerance and lack of will to respect the freedom of expression and the press, and we hold the authorities responsible for the reprisals against the physical integrity of Escobar and other threatened journalists".
At the interview with the Political Police, journalist Luz Escobar @Luz_Cuba was warned she should quit her informative work at the daily outlet @14ymedio She was threatened with being convicted for any "civil crime" pic.twitter.com/65xgJ1mOhY— Yoani Sanchez (@yoanifromcuba) January 20, 2018
On 29th January, it was reported that a third journalist from La Hora de Cuba was arrested and now faces up to one year in prison for "usurpation of legal capacity" (practicing unauthorised journalism). Iris Mariño García received a call from the police notifying her that she was to turn herself in, which she did at a police station in Camagüey. At the police station, she was charged with crimes similar to that of her colleagues, thus joining Sol García and Henry Constantín who were arrested last year, as previously reported on the Monitor. The three journalists say the state is trying to intimidate them and curtail their reporting.
A reporter with Diario de Cuba, Adriana Zamora, claims that state security in Havana summoned her and her partner on 2nd February and made threatening remarks about her pregnancy.
'Tu embarazo depende de ti', amenaza la Seguridad del Estado a la periodista de DDC Adriana Zamora - ... pic.twitter.com/bJxULsnmcb— FACE Cuba (@facecuba) February 6, 2018
After being detained for three days and threatened, Eliecer Palma Pupo, an activist and freelancer for Diario de Cuba, was released. On 26th January, police had raided his home and took his possessions, including cameras and electronic storage devices, books, and photographs. While under interrogations, the writer was informed by the police that he was not legally permitted to write because he did not belong to the writers' union. He told Diario de Cuba that:
"Those are the same threats, the same language that they use at the country level to repress and intimidate independent journalism".
On 1st February, Yanela Durán Noa, the wife of a journalist, says state security officials threatened her and her family. They also threatened to prevent or deny members of their family living overseas from being able to enter Cuba, and even suggested they could harm relatives living in the U.S., should the journalist continue his reporting.
Also on 1st February, the director of Instituto Cubano por la Libertad de Expresión y Prensa (Cuban Institute for Freedom of Expression and Press) was reported missing. Raúl Velázquez, a frequent target of the authorities, was last seen at a meeting with his editorial board at his home before heading to Pinar del Río. According to reports, he had been detained by police for four days in December 2017.
#Cuba Piden investigar la desaparición del periodista cubano Raúl— Diario Las Américas (@DLasAmericas) February 8, 2018
On 29th December 2017, three activists who were arrested in July for carrying signs protesting the government were detained for 72 hours. Leonardo and Alberto Ramírez Odio and their father Alberto de la Caridad Ramírez Baró were summoned to a local police station and told they could retrieve belongings taken from them when they were arrested in July. However, when they arrived at the station, they were detained and interrogated. The brothers, who are members of the Committee of Citizen Human Rights Defenders, believe the security forces were attempting to discourage them from protesting again.
An activist who was arrested in December for attempting to attend a play was detained again on 2nd February. Lia Villares and her partner, Luis Trápaga, had their home raided and their possessions, including laptop computers, cameras and artwork, seized by police. The couple is connected to CubaDecide, a campaign that seeks to hold a public referendum on free and fair elections, freedom of expression and political pluralism in the country.
On 7th February, the director of Centro de Estudios Convivencia (Center for Coexistence Studies) was prevented from leaving Havana to Miami to deliver a lecture. An immigration official at José Martí International Airport refused to allow Dagoberto Valdés to leave the country. According to reports, he was allowed to travel a few days later.
Civic Space Developments