Rights Commission Counts 1,380 Political Arrests in Cuba in April / 14ymedio

A police operation outside the home of a regime opponent. (Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca)
A police operation outside the home of a regime opponent. (Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, Havana, 3 May 2016 – A report released on Tuesday by the Cuban National Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation (CCDHRN) announced that during the April there were “at least 1,380 arbitrary arrests for political reasons” in Cuba. A situation that “confirms the ultra repressive policy adopted at the highest level of the government of the island,” says the document.

The independent entity questioned the attitude of the authorities which is “aimed at trying to silence dissenting voices and any form of peaceful public demonstrations of discontent.” In the introduction to the report an estimate for politically motivated arrests during the first four months of the year is provided: “At least 5.351.” continue reading

The CCDHRN comments on “the inability to quality the acts of repression and the climate of intimidation against all society, a victim, also, of massive campaigns of disinformation and diversionary propaganda.” A situation that keeps the Cuban people “in a state of complete defenselessness and hopelessness” it says.

On 25 April, the CCDHRN published its most recent partial list of prisoners currently incarcerated for political reasons, which included the names of 82 Cubans imprisoned for so-called “crimes against the state.” However, in the report released Tuesday, it is reported that a few days later that figure “had increased with four other women,” members of the Patriotic Union of Cuba (UNPACU) found in “provisional detention.”

The four activists added to the list are Xiomara de las Mercedes Cruz Miranda, Yunet Cairo Reigada, Yaquelin Heredia Morales and Marieta Martínez Aguilera.

Two of them “are also members of the harshly repressed Ladies in White movement,” says the text.

The CCDHRN submitted a request for opposition detainees to receive an “international recognition as prisoners of conscience.” A request that will extend also to “at least 20 peaceful political prisoners.”

The Commission, chaired by dissident Elizardo Sanchez, will continue demanding the “release, for purely humanitarian reasons, of 22 other prisoners classified as counterrevolutionary who have been in the Castro regime’s prisons for between 24 and 13 years.” The text details that these prisoners are being held “under inhuman and degrading conditions.”

The IAPA Does Not See Progress In Press Freedom In Cuba / 14ymedio

Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca has been threatened and detained for documenting repression. (14ymedio)
Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca has been threatened and detained for documenting repression. (14ymedio)

14ymedio bigger14ymedio, 2 October 2015 — Within a few hours of the opening of the 71st General Assembly of the Inter American Press Association (IAPA), scheduled between 2 and 6 October in Charleston (South Carolina), regional reports from the Commission for Freedom of the Press and Information were made public. According to the organization, ten months after the beginning of reestablishment of diplomatic relations between Cuba and the United States, journalism on the island continues to be “dogged by censorship in the Cuban Communist Party monopoly over the national media.”

The report details that in Cuba there are still no signs of “economic improvement,” nor an increase in the respect for “human rights, greater freedom of expression, association and the press,” derived from the process of diplomatic rapprochement that both countries are experiencing.

With special alarm, the text includes the threats and arrests made this summer by State Security against the reporter Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca, when he tried to document in videos and photos the repression suffered by the Ladies in White. The independent journalist denounced the repressive methods against the exercise of the unofficial press, including detentions for “several days without records of arrest nor of the seizure of our belongings” and the “confiscation of the tools of our work.” continue reading

The case of the artist Danilo Maldonado Machado, known as “El Sexto,” was also highlighted by the IAPA as evidence of the lack of freedom of expression on the island. Nine months after his arrest for planning a performance, the Graffiti artist remains in prison without having been brought to trial. This week Amnesty International named him as a prisoner of conscience.

 

The IAPA report also denounces “the censorship maintained on digital sites, as is the case of sites like Cubaencuentro, Martinoticias, and the digital newspaper 14ymedio, as well as other sites that address the Cuban issue from a perspective critical” of the authorities.

Raul Castro’s government maintains a tendency towards “paramilitarization” of the repressions, with physical and verbal violence but without leaving legal footprints, says the report. This method was demonstrated during Pope Francis’s visit in mid-September, “particularly with the detention of the opponent Martha Beatriz Roque and the independent journalist Miriam Leiva, when both were traveling to accept an invitation from the Aposolic Nunciature to greet the pontiff at Havana Cathedral,” it says.

Civil society wins spaces

Among the achievements of Cuban civil society, IAPA enumerates the first Encuentro de Pensamiento (Meeting of Ideas) for Cuba, hosted by the independent think tank Center for Coexistence Studies in the city of Pinar del Río and the magazine of the same name. Founded in 2007, the publication has already published 45 issues and addresses issues ranging from culture to citizenship.

The opening of 35 WiFi points to connect to the internet also found space in the report, although the text reminds us that Cuba remains one of the least connected countries in the world, with only 5%, which is reduced to 1% in the case of broadband.

Half of Latin Americans Have Internet Access, But Only 5% of Cubans Do / 14ymedio

The reports comments on the parole granted to the writer Angel Santiesteban and transfer to a minimum security prison mid-year of the journalist Jose Antonio Torres, a former correspondent for the Party newspaper Granma, accused of espionage.

The report made special mention of the illegal compendium of audiovisuals and alternative information, known as the “weekly packet.” The IAPA said that the weekly packet “has continued to gain ground among the Cuban population and is causing great concern in the ruling party,” while the official press continues to be characterized by self-censorship and the absence of “a journalism of investigation, that puts pressure on government entities to have greater transparency about their internal workings.”

During the 71st General Assembly of the Inter American Press Association, there will be seminars run by the Press Institute that will focus on current issues under the title “Beyond the Digital Transformation.” Other panels will address the growing contribution of women in the media, value added and copyrights, according to information from the organizers.

The meeting will feature Literature Nobelist Mario Vargas Llosa, who will participate in a special session and be interviewed by journalist Andres Oppenheimer.

Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca Letter to Interamerican Press Association and Reporters Without Borders

Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca in Havana
Lazaro Yuri Valle Roca in Havana

Havana,13 June, 2015

TO: Representatives of the Interamerican Press Association, and Reporters Without Borders

FROM: *Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca, Independent Journalist

SUBJECT: Indiscriminate repression Against Ladies in White, peaceful activist opponents, journalists, bloggers, and independent communicators

By this letter, I am contacting you to make you aware of what is happening against the Ladies in White, activist opponents, journalists, bloggers, photojournalists, and independent communicators, who are committed to the struggle for citizen, human and political rights that have been violated, and seek to disseminate the reality that our country has suffered under the Castro brothers’ totalitarian regime for more than 56 years. Now that the repression unleashed by their specialized entities is worsening, their intent is that we not make known the brutal repression to which are subjected all who unite in demand for the release of political prisoners, and for reforms that will truly benefit the people. continue reading

I am not alone in this case. Sharing this situation are my colleagues: Vladimir Turró Páez and Enrique Díaz, collaborators on Misceláneas de Cuba and Primavera Digital; Juan González Febles, director of Primavera Digital; Agustín López Canino and Liván Serafín Moran, independent journalists; and Antonio Rodiles, director of the Estado de SATS project, to name a few among those most persecuted by the political police–a repressive institution that abducts, tortures, threatens with death and holds abductees in Detention Centers such as police stations, as well as the so-called “Vivac” prison, located in the village of Calabazar, at the southern edge of the City of Havana.

We are held in these places for several days with no arrest warrants, nor safekeeping of our belongings. Our cell phones, cameras, flash drives, and USB devices are confiscated, and their contents are erased. In addition, we are verbally and physically threatened; we are beaten inside the detention centers, and in the vehicles in which we are transported to them–even while defenseless and handcuffed with plastic clamps so tight that they cut off our circulation, and we cannot move our hands, etc. Later, they leave us for hours in the sun inside hermetically-sealed police vehicles, inducing serious disorders that have caused many to lose consciousness and present hypoglycemic symptoms.

My case, especially, is notable for the series of arrests, abductions and death threats that have been made. The last three weeks, particularly, stand out because my house has been surrounded by agents from the Department of State Security (DSE) and uniformed patrolmen of the National Revolutionary Police Force (PNR). They explained their presence by telling my neighbors that I had committed suicide. This past May 9, during the night, an automobile rushed at me on 26th Avenue, and almost ran me over. The matter reached a climax last Sunday in an incident that I will recount as follows:

On the morning of Sunday, June 7, 2015, I exited my residence to go to Santa Rita Church, located on 5th Avenue and 26th in the Miramar district, to cover the news of the return of Ladies in White leader Berta Soler from a trip to the United States and Europe. A few blocks from the church, on 7th Avenue and 28th, I was forcefully detained by an automobile carrying four agents of Precinct 21 of the DSE. They handcuffed me and put me in the car, on the floor, and immediately put their feet on me so that I would not move.

In Coyula Park, a few blocks from where I was abducted, they got me out of that car and put me in another, in the same manner as before, and after making several turns we arrived at Villa Marista prison, headquarters of the State Security police. After holding me for all that time inside the car, under the sun, they took me to an office where a gray-haired man–to all appearances, a high-ranking official–without first stating his name, started hurling all kinds of threats at me, so that I would stop going to Santa Rita Church. One such threat was that I would be responsible for any misfortune that might befall me, to which I replied that they could do what they wanted, but I would go on attending the gatherings of the Ladies in White, to cover the news.

At the end of the interview, they again placed me inside another vehicle, in the usual manner. After driving for about 20 minutes, the agent who was at my right got out of the car, drew his weapon (an automatic Browning 9mm or CZ pistol), and they got me out, made me kneel on the grass, and put the gun to my neck. After a few seconds of silence, he said, “You are now on notice about what can happen to you. Do not go to Santa Rita anymore.” He gave me a kick in the ribs that knocked me over. They got back in their Lada, threw my backpack and phone out the window, and left me helpless about 3 miles from the village of Santa Cruz del Norte, which is about 30 miles to the east of Havana.

As may be seen, the methods employed by this dictatorship are worse against independent journalists. This is even more the case following the statements by General-President Raúl Castro during the farewell to French President François Hollande at José Martí International Airport last month–remarks delivered with a burlesque and ironic tone.

Without further ado, I trust that what I am reporting to you will not fall on deaf ears. Perhaps you will agree with me that these procedures do not meet the standards for humane treatment that correspond to the century in which we live. I place responsibility on the government of Raúl Castro for whatever may happen to me and to my colleagues from now on.

Thank you very much,

*Lázaro Yuri Valle Roca
Independent Journalist

I reside at:
Loma Street, ICP Building, Apt.#1
Between Tulipán and Colón
Nuevo Vedado, Plaza de la Revolución
La Habana, Cuba.

Tel: +537-8818203
Mobile: +535-2494085

lazaroyurivalleroca@gmail.com

Translated by: Alicia Barraqué Ellison