14ymedio, Havana, 12 April 2018 — The Cuban government has taken another step in its policy of restricting travel, by preventing the departure of Dora Leonor Mesa from the Cuban Association for Early Childhood Education, and Marthadela Tamayo and Juan Antonio Madrazo from the Committee for Racial Integration. The three were invited, as presenters, to the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Cuba, which takes place this Friday in Geneva before the United Nations Human Rights Council. However, Cuban authorities prohibited them from leaving the island, according to the organization Archivo de Cuba.
This decision places Cuba in a tiny and inauspicious group, the few nations that have blocked their citizens from participating in the UPR, which currently, in addition to Cuba, consists of Bahrain, Sudan and South Sudan.
The UPR sessions are preliminary meetings to assess the human rights situation in different countries and, from them, recommendations are offered. Member countries of the UN are subject to this scrutiny every five years.
Maria Werlau, director of the Cuba Archives project based in Flordia, will speak at the review to “expose violations of the right to life contained in the report prepared by her organization in October 2017” and developed jointly with Cubalex and Human Rights Foundation, as the organization said in a press release.
The meeting will also hear from Alejandro González Raga, from the Cuban Observatory of Human Rights, and José Fornaris Ramos, from the Pro Free Press Association (APLP). In addition, several NGOs presented reports to the working group to address the situation of rights and freedoms on the island, including: Apretaste, Buró de Derechos Humanos, Cadal, Civicus, Cuban Commission for Human Rights and National Reconciliation, Cubalex, Democratic Directorate Cuban, Foundation for Human Rights in Cuba, Patmos Institute and Race & Equality.
Juan Antonio Madrazo explained to 14ymedio that before going through the ticket office of the Directorate of Immigration and Emigration (DIE) at José Martí International Airport in Havana, he was informed that there was an exit ban against him. “I do not understand why. Before traveling, I went to the Immigration Citizenship Office and was told that my ‘regulation’ had been in force for only 21 days and that it had already expired.”
Madrazo denounces that after that incident he approached Marthadela Tamayo to give the activist his computer and some documents. At that moment an immigration official took Tamayo’s passport out of her hands and after “a show of rudeness and provocations” told her that she could not travel either.
Another similar case is that of Dora Leonor Mesa, director of the Cuban Association for the Teaching of Early Childhood Education, who was told that she also was barred from traveling, while lawyer José Ernesto Estrada, a resident of Pinar del Río, was prevented by State Security from leaving his province to travel to the airport. “This act prevents our seven-minute exposure in front of the UN,” denounced Madrazo.
Last February, four members of the Free Press Association were interrogated by State Security after sending a report on press freedom in Cuba to the United Nations Human Rights Council.
José Antonio Fornaris, president of the independent organization, believes these pressures to be “an attack on the press” in the midst of a national context in which “aggressions against journalists” have increased in recent months.
A month later, Acelia Carvajal, member of the Inclusive Culture Network, was not able to visit the Swiss headquarters of the United Nations, because she was also “regulated.” The activist was going to participate in a presentation on the situation of people with disabilities on the Island.
Although Migratory Reform was enacted in January 2013 and significantly eased the procedures to travel outside the Island — among other measures by eliminating the previous “exit permit” — over the years Raúl Castro’s government has been adding to the list of opponents that can not leave the country.
In the beginning, to prevent them from traveling, State Security used the arbitrary arrests of dissidents, hours before their planes took off or intercepted the vehicles in which they were traveling to the airport and held then until the flights had left. In the last year, however, it has become more common to wait to inform people that they are “regulated” until they arrive at the immigration window in the airport.
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