Women are the main victims of State repression

Association

The Comisión Cubana de Derechos Humanos y Reconciliación Nacional (Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, CCDHRN) reported an increase in the number of arbitrary detentions for political reasons between August 2018 where the organisation documented  at least 219 cases, and September 2018 where the number increased to 224. More than half of the detained activists were women and out of the 224 cases, only 7 were arrests of more than 24 hours. This confirms the strategy by the Cuban government of using short term detentions to dismantle specific actions undertaken by the opposition movement. 

Between August and September 2018, the Eye on Cuba Network registered five cases in which activists and social leaders were prevented from travelling. For example, Ernesto Oliva, a representative of the National Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU), was detained by immigration officers minutes before boarding a plane to Prague to participate in an event regarding democracies in Latin America. Activists who are able to travel are questioned by authorities when returning to Cuba. Two police officers interrogated Dagoberto Valdés, Director of the organisation Centro de Estudio Convivencia on 27th August 2018 after returning from an event in Miami where he participated in an analysis of the Cuban economy.

Several international bodies, local CSOs, and foreign governments are demanding Cuban authorities to release Tomas Nuñez Magdariaga, an activist of UNPACU, who has been on a hunger strike for over 50 days to denounce what he considers an unfair court ruling that sentenced him to one year in prison.

In a separate development, Amnesty International expressed its concern over the consequences of the Decree 349 that restricts artistic expressions and includes, among other provisions, the obligation to obtain prior authorization from the Ministry of Culture to develop any cultural and artistic activity. The Decree will enter into force in December 2018, however, activists and artists opposing it are already facing restrictions. For example, rapper El Osokbo was arrested on 24th September 2018 for rejecting this decree during a concert. Amnesty International said:

“Amnesty International is concerned that the recent arbitrary detentions of Cuban artists protesting Decree 349, as reported by Cuban independent media, are an ominous sign of things to come. We stand in solidarity with all independent artists in Cuba that are challenging the legitimacy of the decree and standing up for a space in which they can work freely without fear of reprisals.”

Peaceful Assembly

The Damas de Blanco (Ladies in White) continue to be subjected to harassment for their activism and traditional gatherings on Sundays to reject State repression and demand the release of political prisoners. During their concentrations in August and September, 82 activists of the movement were arrested for short periods and released soon after. Other methods of repression used by the National Police include  offering to pay their plane tickets to leave the island, the imposition of fines, defamation campaigns, and physical violence while the activists are kept in detention. 

The Observatorio Cubano de Derechos Humanos (Cuban Human Rights Observatory, OCDH) reported 208 cases of arbitrary detentions in August 2018, most of them took place in the context of peaceful demonstrations. According to the report, Ladies in White is the organisation that was most affected by the repression. In September 2018, OCDH registered 200 cases of arbitrary detentions. In both months, women were the main victims. The three main issues that brought people together to protest were the discussion of the Constitutional reform, demands to release political prisoners, and the Decree 349 that restricts artistic expressions.

Expression

On 6th August 2018, independent journalist Alejandro Hernandez Cepero was attacked by an unknown person and received a death threat while he was making a phone call in 10 Octubre Avenue. Hernandez said that the attacker:

[L]eft shouting that the next time he would shoot me if I did not stop "bothering". I think he was referring to the claims I made to the prosecutor's office and the State Security Directorate." (translated from Spanish)

In a separate incident, the CCDHRN reported the detention of journalists Roberto Rodríguez Cardona, Enrique Díaz Rodríguez and Iliana Hernández. 

Rodríguez Cardona was transferred to the Criminal Instruction Unit in the city of Bayamo and stripped of his belongings; Díaz Rodríguez was arrested on 13th August when he was about to take photographs of a peaceful protest demanding the release of UNPACU leader José Daniel Ferrer. He was threatened for his journalistic work and was later abandoned at a distant point in Havana. In addition, the opposition activist and director of the online program Lente Cubano, Iliana Hernández, was detained on 30th August and released the next day.

According to Jose Antonio Fornaris, director of the Asociación Pro Libertad de Prensa (Association for Freedom of the Press, APLP), the organisation documented more than 13 arbitrary arrests of journalists in August 2018, including the arrest of Mario Echeverría Driggs, Osniel Carmona Breijo, Adriana Zamora, Ernesto Corralero, Borís González Arenas, Henry Constantín, Iris Mariño, Dagoberto Valdés, Luis Cino Álvarez, Oscar Padilla Suárez, Odalina Guerrero Lara and José Antonio Fornaris.