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