Authorities Promise Jail Cells for Those Promoting a No Vote

Zelandia de la Caridad Pérez and Juan Moreno were detained in the municipality of Bauta when they were trying to carry out a campaign for No. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, February 18, 2019 — “The next time they will end up in a jail cell,” the Ministry of the Interior official warned two activists who had just given a workshop on voting observation this past Saturday in Bauta (Artemisa).

The electoral process does not need “independent observers because the Revolution has its own observers,” added the official.

The message was clear in the form of a threat that Zelandia de la Caridad Pérez, national coordinator of the Cuban Commission on Voting Protection (COCUDE), and Juan Moreno, executive secretary of the organization Candidates for Change, received.

That is the trend of the campaign undertaken by authorities to silence those attempting to carry out a campaign for No and, with barely a week left before the vote, seems to be intensifying.

Arrests, threats, and raids on homes are some of the strategies employed against those promoting a position that differs from the Yes backed by the government and for which an intense campaign has also unfolded in national media, schools, and public transportation.

This Sunday, in Santiago de Cuba, the opposition figure José Daniel Ferrer was detained while he was promoting voting against the constitution in the central Céspedes park. The leader of the Patriotic Union of Cuba is on a hunger strike along with more than 70 members of his organization who have been uniting in protest over the raid that they experienced in eight of their homes last Monday.

During the police search, Ferrer was also arrested, and two police officials, who were identified as Dayron and Quiñones Zapata, explained to the ex-prisoner of the Black Spring that the raids and the seizure of numerous work resources were motivated exclusively by the campaign that Unpacu is carrying out to encourage the No vote in the referendum.

Adriano Castañeda Meneses, municipal vice-coordinator of the United Antitotalitarian Forum (FANTU) in the city of Sancti Spíritus, has also just had a similar experience. His house was raided this Sunday by the police in order to, allegedly, search for propaganda from the Write Down No campaign that the opposition organization is promoting. The initiative explains in 16 points the reasons to reject the new constitutional text on February 24.

The pressures have led the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights (OCDH), headquartered in Madrid, to once again reject, this Sunday, “the wave of arbitrary arrests, raids on homes of human rights activists, and confiscations from activists who have publicly demonstrated their reservations and questioning of the new constitution.” The organization specifically highlights what happened last week at the Unpacu headquarters and denounces that, among the items being confiscated in the searches are “all the tools and resources of work,” in that particular case, for example, “623 registers of observers from civil society for the referendum.”

The OCDH also laments in its communique that “during seven weeks of campaigning for the referendum, not one article recommending No or abstention has been published in the official press,” which “violates international standards for voting material.”

Translated by: Sheilagh Carey


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