14ymedio, Havana, 2 July 2020 — Ariel Ruiz Urquiola today proposed to Cuban exiles that they return to the Island all at the same time to limit the Government’s ability to react. The biologist and activist, who has called his proposal Operation Return, has spoken in Geneva from the esplanade in front of the United Nations headquarters where his intervention, scheduled for the plenary session this Thursday, has been postponed until tomorrow.
“Long live free Cuba,” Ruiz Urquiola has demanded, dressed in a shirt and tie and holding a flag of the Island on which Justice4Ariel and No+ [More] Dictatorship could be read. “They may imprison some people, but if all Cubans living outside of Cuba unite, they cannot imprison us all, they cannot kill us all. I think that would be an unprecedented way of peacefully destroying a dictatorial regime which has been in power for six decades,” he said in his plea.
At the end of the morning session in Geneva, with Ruiz Urquiola not yet having spoken, many of his followers expressed their concern, but the activist has clarified that his presentation was postponed, presumably, without the time limit that he was going to have today. The activist, who smiled as he presented his accreditation and explained in detail the good attention he received, has taken the opportunity to reject the today’s presentation by the Cuban delegation in regards to human trafficking. The biologist recalled that medical brigades are comparable to this type of crime.
Subsequently, the activist has once again asked Cubans living outside the island to participate in Operation Return, an idea that had been previously raised by other exiles. “It is up to us to remove them, put them out with peaceful and civic activities. They cannot control us any more. Freedom or liberation,” he cried. “They will be able to crush one ant but they cannot crush all the ants, we are three million and we cannot live like rats.”
A week ago, UN Watch assured the activist that he could use his speaking time before the United Nations Human Rights Council after Ruiz Urquiola protested at the office of the High Commissioner, Michelle Bachelet, to whom wanted to deliver a letter asking to present his case “without intermediaries in plenary, as a victim of a crime against humanity, of torture, by the Cuban dictatorship.”
In the letter, the activist stressed that Cuba has been a member of the UN Human Rights Council since 2006 and that, although it has signed international covenants on Civil and Political Rights, as well as Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in 2008, these have not been still ratified by Havana.
Furthermore, he recalled that, in May 2018, the working group on Arbitrary Detention supported his complaint when he was detained for a year and that Amnesty International recognized him as a prisoner of conscience.
In December 2019, the activist reported to several German NGOs that his country’s government inoculated him with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Ruiz Urquiola insists that he has medical evidence that a strain of the virus was inoculated at the Abel Santamaría Provincial Hospital in Pinar del Río, when he was in the final phase of his previous hunger and thirst strike. “All tests are in the hands of Swiss and German infectologists,” said Ruiz Urquiola.
Tom Haeck, an official of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, approached last Wednesday to speak with the scientist, who had started a hunger and thirst strike to demand his positions and who the Swiss police had to ask to leave. This morning, the agents also approached the group of Cubans to inquire about the reasons for the recording at the United Nations headquarters.
Haeck, in charge of Mexico, Cuba and Brazil in the agency, listened to the Ruiz Urquiola demands and assured that he would try to move contacts to see that the activist could present his case and be heard.
A biologist and doctor of science, Urquiola has participated in several research projects on Cuban biodiversity, especially related to marine and terrestrial species. He was expelled from the Center for Marine Research under the official excuse of unexcused absences, but, according to the scientist, it was a plot against him for not being “reliable” for the authorities of the scientific center due to his political inclinations.
Urquiola has previously conducted at least three other hunger strikes. One of them was in front of the Oncology Hospital in Havana, when his sister, Omara, was not given a medicine for the cancer she suffers from. The other two were carried out during his arrest in 2018 when he was sentenced to one year in prison for the alleged crime of “contempt.” On that occasion, the fast ended with the liberation of the scientist.
The plenary session this Thursday has dedicated a space to the situation of human rights in Nicaragua. Bachelet has stated that there continue to be “persistent human rights violations against those whom the (Nicaraguan) government perceives as opponents, including human rights defenders, journalists, social leaders and political voices.”
“The right to peaceful assembly continues to be systematically curtailed with police deployments, arbitrary arrests and attacks by pro-government elements when critics of the government try to peacefully meet,” he said, among others.
In addition, regarding the pandemic, which was analyzed in today’s session, “there is little transparency and lack of clarity in public information on cases” of Covid-19. Government measures do not conform to the recommendations of the World Health Organization and the Nicaraguan medical community, especially regarding physical distancing, and the pandemic has increased violence against women, added the high commissioner.
The Nicaraguan delegation defended itself against both accusations and accused the High Commissioner of not taking into account the authorities’ version. “Nicaragua, in addition to fighting the pandemic, must also combat disinformation and hatred campaigns emanating from sectors adverse to the Government of reconciliation and national unity,” it said.
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