14ymedio, Havana, 9 April 2018 — The official Cuban delegation that landed this Sunday in Lima, Peru, to participate in the events parallel to the VIII Summit of the Americas, is composed of almost a hundred individuals who will carry out an intense public agenda. In contrast to this pro-government group, independent activists on the Island have been prohibited from traveling.
Under the slogan “Don’t Mess With Cuba,” representatives of several organizations that include the National Union of Cuban Jurists (UNJC), the Hermanos Saíz Association and the Federation of University Students (FEU) departed from Havana’s José Martí International Airport this weekend.
Their arrival on Peruvian soil was widely covered by the Island’s official media, which stresses that these groups make up the “true civil society” and they “will not accept provocations” by “mercenaries” or figures with “terrorist links” that “try to usurp” the name of Cuba.
Travel bans against activists, dissidents and independent journalists have been increasingly applied in recent days, although the national press has not offered any information about this. All those affected have received a single response from immigration without further explanation: they are “regulated.”
On Saturday, the activists Juan Antonio Madrazo Luna and Marthadela Tamayo González, both members of the Citizens Committee for Racial Integration (CIR), were denied the freedom to leave the country, even though they had been invited to participate in the Universal Periodic Review session in Geneva, Switzerland, a United Nations effort that reviews the status of human rights in all member countries.
The independent journalists Ileana Álvarez and Pedro Manuel González, as well as the musician Gorki Águila and the playwright Adonis Milán, were also faced with a similar situation a few days ago. None of them was given any explanation for their being forced to remain in Cuba, but everyone suspects that the authorities feared they were intending travel to participate in the events in Peru.
The strategy to prevent independent civil society from participating in the meetings in Peru differs on this occasion from that used in the previous Summit of the Americas, held in Panama in 2015. On that occasion a representation of activists was able to arrive at the event, but once in Panama was subect to several acts of repudiation — ranging from physical attacks to being shouted down and prevented from speaking — carried out by the government’s official “independent groups.”
This April, the Plaza of the Revolution seems to have opted to reduce to a minimum the presence in Peru of any dissidents currently living on the Island, while simultaneously launching an intense media campaign against the exile groups that are planning to participate in the civil society forums that will take place between April 10 and 12.
The national media have not confirmed whether Raúl Castro will travel to Lima to be part of the Summit, the second to which the Cuban government has been invited. The event is being held just one week before the announced transfer of power in Cuba, with a new president scheduled to be appointed on 19 April.
In the pro-government delegation, some faces stand out, such as Iroel Sánchez, a hard-line political commissar who runs the blog La Pupila Insomne (The Insomniac Pupil). He was president of the Cuban Book Institute and coordinator of EcuRed, an official version of a Wikipedia-like site for Cuba that can be consulted online and made available in the Island’s Young Computer Clubs.
Sánchez is known for his positions against political “centrism” and his criticism of the independent press. In his opinion, Peru is a battlefield in which “two visions are going to face off.” On one side are the “integrationist processes such as CELAC” and on the other is “the hegemonic vision of the United States” over the region.
Another one of the prominent names is the one of Yamila González Ferrer, vice-president of the National Union of Cuban Jurists. The lawyer first gained visibility during the Hemispheric Dialogue held in Havana in March, when she said that “Cuban civil society will not share any space with mercenary elements and organizations.”
At the Summit of the Americas in Panama, which was attended by Raúl Castro, the then adviser to the president of the Councils of State and of Ministers, Abel Prieto, who led several of the shock groups that insulted the representatives of independent groups, stood out. A short time later he was appointed Minister of Culture, a position he had held previously.
Something similar happened with the psychologist Susely Morfa who starred in several altercations against dissidents and issued fiery statements before the microphones of the international press convened in Panama. After her performance she was promoted to the general secretariat of the Young Communists Union (UJC) and became deputy to the National Assembly of People’s Power and a member of the Council of State.
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